Two thousand miles to the southwest of Washington DC, far from the petty bickering and trivial feuds, an entire country lies in near-chaos. Men are forced into criminal acts, while their families are taken as collateral. City streets become arenas for guerilla gang warfare, and the police are either bribed, killed or beaten into resignation. Back in DC, for every bang of the gavel against responsible drug policy, the country of Mexico is sentenced to a few more years of this living hell.
Most Americans are aware that Mexico is in a hostile condition, but many are not aware of the true extent. Since the inception of their drug war in late 2006 there have been over 40,000 deaths in the country. Annual death tolls have been steadily rising, reaching 15,273 in 2010, up from 9,635 in 2009. Over 1200 of the slayings have been police or feds, and tragically, 1000 children.
It may be unbelievable to some that such vast atrocities could be occurring so close to home, with relatively little notoriety in the American news. The media certainly stands to gain from reporting on such events, but curiously, little is seen inside or outside the Mexican borders. Cartels provide a simple option for journalists in Mexico: report what they demand, or be killed. Seven reporters have been killed so far this year, and over 30 since 2006, forcing some reporters to seek refuge to the north.
So much propaganda has been released from the cartels through the media, that reporters have created a sort of guild, with members vowing not to glorify the gangs. 35 media conglomerates that own over 500 newspapers, radio stations and television networks have signed the agreement. Only a handful of agencies, bound by integrity to freedom of speech, have refused to sign.
Journalists are not the biggest targets of cartel members. As one might expect, that status belongs to law enforcement. The Mexican military, acting with police in counter-cartel activities, have lost 200 men. Federal agents, soldiers and local police alike wear masks to prevent being identified. Their entire family is at risk of torture and death, if the secret were compromised. On August 4th, an entire police force resigned. In this 13,000 person town, the heavy cartel presence has grown too intimidating. Six officers had been killed in the three months prior, including the police chief.
Nothing can prevent against direct fire taken while intervening with cartels. In mid-July another 10 police lives were taken during an ambush staged in the perilous region of Sinaloa. The Mexican Chihuahua state, whose gang territory is run by the Sinaloa cartel, is a major producer of poppy and marijuana. The Mexican police force struggles against corruption and infiltration by the cartels into the government. The American DEA also struggles with the cartel, which a major importer of cocaine.
Cartel members are armed to the teeth with some of the fiercest weapons dirty money can buy. Provided from sources in Central America, the gangs can acquire anything from handguns to heavy weapons like assault rifles, grenades to rocket launchers, and bullet-proof vests to makeshift tanks.
It is not always unpracticed gang-bangers behind the trigger of these guns, either. One of the most dangerous, and most prominent, gangs is known as Los Zetas. The Los Zetas kingpin hired former Mexican Special Forces members as mercenaries. Paid generous sums of money, these counter-cartel trained soldiers pose dangerous threats to rival gangs and law enforcement. The vicious gang has even been stealing ranches in Texas, and performing operations in other parts of the Southern US.
The cartels have such a vast amount of resources available, millions of dollars worth of products and labor can be put at risk, without much concern. Even with heavy American interdiction forces patrolling national parks, cartels still run vast grow operations inside US borders. In July, officers worked for two weeks performing raids across Northern California’s extensive national parks. They seized 460,000 plants, arrested over a hundred people, and acquired a colorful array of weapons, cars and cash. This same operation has been going on all across California for years now, with no sign of remission.
In Mexico, the cannabis farms are even more brazen. A grow operation was found late July covering an expanse of 150 acres, with 40 metric tons of processed marijuana. Just a few weeks earlier, a record grow of 300 acres was found in mid-July, with dozens of tons of plants, worth millions of dollars. Cartels clearly have no regard for expenses, likely because they can just steal the land, and utilize what is nearly slave-labor.
It is hard to imagine how a situation so chaotic and seemingly irredeemable could come to be. With such a complex network of cash, drug smuggling, grow operations, weapons trafficking and ruthless killing, it’s obvious a single act isn’t responsible. However the complex roots are traceable, and they lead right back onto our doorstep.
Disclaimer: These opinions and statements made in these posts are solely the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinion of 420 Petition and its parent company.