Mexico Under Siege

CANNABIS CULTURE – Investigative Journalist Peter Gorman finds the United States largely to blame for the bloody Mexican drug war.

The sun is shining on the low rolling hills covered in Texas short grass and dotted with cattle along the southern end of I-35, the road that stretches from Duluth, Minnesota to Laredo, Texas. Little interrupts the bucolic scene for Journalist Peter Gorman travels to Mexico to explore the drug war for Cannabis Culture, and finds United States policies largely to blame for the violence and suffering. (Reuters Photo)Journalist Peter Gorman travels to Mexico to explore the drug war for Cannabis Culture, and finds United States policies largely to blame for the violence and suffering. (Reuters Photo)miles in any direction except for electric towers strung together like alien giants on a forced march across the vast plains. Towns that are little more than gas-stops appear along the side of the highway now and then.

Driving down 1-35 it’s difficult to imagine that just across the bridge over the Rio Grande from Laredo, on the Mexican side of the border in Nuevo Laredo, gunfights broke out almost daily just two years ago. Even now, entering Mexico at Laredo is intimidating. Not for the border crossing – in which cars are photographed leaving the US and a $3 fee is asked for, but nothing else is checked on either side of the border – but because the town is still tense with the memory of those recent battles. Stores are boarded up; the walls of many houses and government buildings are pock marked with bullet holes; some homes have four-inch thick, high concrete walls still standing in front of their stone fences to prevent grenade and assault weapon attacks.

Nuevo Laredo has no police chief. It hasn’t had one for two years, since the last chief quit after three months, citing fear of assassination. His predecessor was shot and killed in broad daylight after seven hours on the job. The killing was done because the chief promised to crack down on drug violence, which claimed 170 people killed and dozens of others simply missing in Nuevo Laredo in 2005 alone. And several assassinations were also carried out on the US side of the border.

“It’s a war zone,” Rick Flores, the sheriff of Webb County – the county where Laredo is located – told ABC News at the time. “We’ve got level three body armor. They’ve got level four. We’ve got cell phones. They’ve got satellite cell phones that we can’t tap into. We’re being outgunned,” Flores added. “And that’s the reason why we’re concerned on this side.”

Things didn’t calm down till the middle of 2006. Nuevo Laredo is mostly quiet again. The drug trade hasn’t stopped, and with I-35 being the number one drug smuggling route out of Mexico to all points north, it hasn’t even slowed down. But locals say that the war between the Zetas – at the time the enforcers for the Gulf Cartel which traditionally controlled Nuevo Laredo – and members of the Beltran Leyva Cartel – initially part of the Sinaloa Cartel that was moving into Nuevo Laredo – called a truce that both sides can live with.

“It’s much better that they stopped the gun battles,” said a man at an OXXO grocery store in Nuevo Laredo recently. “Now everybody can get back to making money with the drugs instead of dying over them.”

And money is to be made. Between July and November alone, 35 agents with the Mexican Prosecutor’s Office were arrested for corruption. According to Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, each was being paid between $150,000 and $450,000 monthly by the cartels. In late October 2008, two high-ranking officials with the Mexican Assistant Attorney General’s Office on Organized Crime were arrested for supplying the Beltran Leyva Cartel with information on possible drug seizures. Each was being paid $400,000 per month. An Interpol agent working with the DEA at the US Embassy in Mexico City who was caught supplying the same cartel with inside information on November 1st is thought to have been earning $30,000 monthly. US agents think that $10 million in drugs cross over the bridges from Nuevo Laredo to Laredo and I-35 every day. If that number’s accurate, that would be more than $3.5 billion annually, enough to pay for a lot of corruption.

Several hundred miles west of Nuevo Laredo, in Juarez, just across the US border and El Paso, Texas, dueling cartels haven’t yet come to a truce. “What we have are factions of the old Juarez Cartel that are followers of Amado Carillo Fuentes fighting it out with followers of Joaquin Guzman Loera, known as El Chapo, head of the Sinaloa Cartel,” said Diana Washington Valdez, a reporter with the El Paso Times. “And it is hell there. Our paper won’t even let us go across into Juarez for stories anymore because they have no way to protect us. The US Army at Fort Bliss here warned their troops to stay out of Juarez. There have been about 1,200 people killed over there this year and we’re expecting it to hit 1,500, by the time 2009 rolls around.” According to news reports, one of those killed in early October was an American living in Juarez who had posted a sign asking the cartels not to leave any dead bodies in front of his house.

The killings in Juarez have been stunning not only for their numbers but for their brutality. Almost daily newspaper headlines announce decapitations, people burned alive, torture killings and mass murders. In early November a headless body was hung from an overpass over Juarez’ main road. Similar death tolls are being rung up all along the US-Mexican border, including Tijuana where the Arellano-Felix Cartel, headed by Fernando Sanchez Arellano – known as “The Engineer” – is being challenged by several other cartels. At the time of this article’s writing, more than 3,500 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico in 2008, and that figure may top 4,000 before the year is out.

Filipe Calderon, Mexico’s president, came into power in 2006 vowing to eliminate the drug scourge and its attendant violence. George Bush’s administration has handed over hundreds of millions to allegedly help with his quest. Since Calderon took office, the violence has increased. And not just the death toll, but robberies, extortion and kidnappings as well. Thousands of Mexicans have paid over $4,000 US dollars to have tracking chips embedded under their skin – and an additional $2,400 annual chip-monitoring fee – so that they can be located if kidnapped.

In short, much of the border region and Mexico’s interior is a war zone. When the question is posed as to who is to blame for it all, the pat answer by most media and the governments of both Mexico and the US is those who are greedy enough to kill for the money and power generated by the sale of drugs, in other words, the cartels. But the real question isn’t who’s to blame. It’s who or what is responsible for creating a situation in which drug cartels can earn so much that they can corrupt prosecutors with hundreds of thousands of dollars per month.

The answer to that question begins and ends with United States’ policies. Whether purposeful or coincidental, the US federal government created the market, supplied the arms and trained the killers. And US citizens buy most of the product. Drug prohibition is where it begins, and modern drug prohibition begins in the US, from where it was exported all over the world. But prohibition – whether gambling, prostitution, alcohol, cigarettes or drugs – automatically creates a black market because people like their vices, and won’t live without them. And since black market items are illegal and come with penalties, prices on the black market are always considerably higher than they would otherwise be. Which means there’s money to be made in the successful selling of black market items. That money and the turf on which it’s made needs protection, which is where muscle and guns come into the equation. And the primary enforcing cartel groups, the muscle, are the Zetas and the Kaibiles, who were initially trained by the US government as Special Forces for the Mexican and Guatemalan militaries, respectively. The guns they use almost all trace their way back to US manufacturers.

The current rash of violence in Mexico, as well as the violence that erupted in Nuevo Laredo a few years ago, can be traced to the US’s insistence that Mexico go after cartel leaders. It was and is an effort to generate news headlines and make it appear as though the cartels would be destroyed with their capos gone. Instead, as that strategy has always done, capturing leaders of criminal organizations simply opens the door to factionalism and a fight for control of the organizations. That scenario has played out endlessly with mafias all over the world. So long as one person or group has control of the black market in a given area, things run smoothly. Cutting off the head doesn’t kill the black market; it just creates a scramble to fill that vacuum. In Colombia, when the Medellin and Cali cartel leaders were eliminated in the late 1980s and early 1990s, violence in that country escalated to brutal heights. But interestingly, the victor in those internecine wars turned out not to be any of the Colombian cartel lieutenants, but the country of Mexico.

Amado Carillo Fuentes, aka “The Lord of the Skies”, saw Colombia’s cartels in disarray and determined that Mexico would no longer be the transit point for Colombian cocaine as it was when those cartels ruled ruthlessly. No, Fuentes decided that Colombia would simply sell its cocaine to him and he’d run the lucrative distribution lines. And as other Mexican players, who were moving marijuana they grew and cocaine for the Colombians, watched Fuentes’ almost instant rise from middleman to drug lord as head of the Juarez Cartel, they did the same, spawning several major cocaine cartels. Their ability to pay for corruption was unparalleled in Mexico’s modern history. Whole police forces and army units were fired for being on the take. In the major scandal of the era, in December, 1996, the US Drug Czar, General Barry McCaffrey, met with Mexico’s Drug Czar, General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, whom McCaffrey described as “a guy of absolute, unquestioned integrity.” Two months later, Rebollo was arrested for and subsequently convicted of working with the Juarez cartel. Thousands in the military were purged.

The corruption certainly didn’t stop. Municipal police carried out much of the violence in Nuevo Laredo, including gun battles against Federal officers. Eventually more than half of Nuevo Laredo’s 700-man police force was fired for corruption. In June 2007, Calderon purged 284 federal police commanders from all 31 Mexican states and the federal district. All that did was raise the cost of monthly payments to corrupt federal agents and prosecutors.

But the responsibility of the US for the drug war violence in Mexico goes much deeper than just our exported policy of prohibition and our demand for black market drugs. To protect the black market, guns are needed. And as Mexico does not manufacture weapons, all of the guns and weaponry used in the drug war violence come from the US. The worst offender-states are Texas, which has a 2,000-mile border with Mexico, and Arizona and New Mexico, two of the other US states that border Mexico. All three states permit almost anyone to purchase and own as many pistols, machine pistols, rifles and assault rifles as they like at any given time with no waiting time to purchase the arms and no record of the sale going anywhere past the gun dealer from which it was purchased. In Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, only an instant background check is done.

According to Stephen Fischer, Public Information Officer for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS, a division of the FBI) purchasing a gun anywhere in the US requires a notification to NICS. “When someone wants to buy a gun or a long gun – a rifle – they have to fill out a form at the gun store or with the gun dealer,” he said. “The dealer then calls an 800 number that connects them to a call center contracted by the FBI. That person enters the information on the form into a computer and they get either a red light or a green light. A green light means the transaction is approved and the purchaser can buy the gun. If a red light comes up the information will get transferred to the FBI and we’ll make a decision whether the transaction can go through or not.”

What would cause a red light? “Maybe the person’s moved and forgot to get a driver’s license with their new address, or a woman’s gotten a divorce and not done the paperwork to get her name changed. And being an illegal alien or a felon would bring up that red light as well.” But Fischer notes that the form does not include the number of weapons being purchased, “So in theory a person could buy 100 or more at a time if they want.” He also notes that NICS keeps information on any form that’s been ‘green lighted’ for a maximum of 24 hours, “after which it’s purged from the computer system.” Red-lighted forms are kept until the FBI determines the cause of the red light.

Lynn Chilson, a Texas gun owner and former NASA engineer, says the only thing he sees wrong with the system is that “if people want to buy 100 in a day, well, maybe something should be in place even in Texas that would call that sale into question. I mean, how many AK-47’s does a person need to have fun target shooting?” Chilson himself prefers the Uzi, and his, bought over the counter at a gun store, is a semi-automatic, as fully automatic machine guns and pistols need a permit. “But you go to any gun show and it doesn’t take long to find someone who’ll offer to take your semi-automatic and turn it into a fully automatic weapon.” Mexican authorities have repeatedly called on the US to put more provisions in place to prevent the sale of guns that make their way to Mexico at a rate of over 2,000 a day. But gun restrictions are very difficult to put in place in the US, particularly in places like Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

“Texas is probably the biggest supplier of guns that make their way into Mexico,” said Tom Crowley, Special Agent and Public Information Officer for the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). “That’s both because of that long border they share and the number of gun dealers in the state.” BATF’s job is to handle the investigation of illegal gun and arms sales, as well as to trace guns that have been used in criminal activity. “Now let’s say I’m a Mexican cartel member or illegal gun dealer and I want to get my hands on some weapons. I’ll get a friend to purchase the guns I want and have him deliver them to me in Mexico. That’s called a straw, or straw man purchase, and it’s illegal, but it’s done. And until one of those weapons is recovered at a crime scene, no one is going to know about it. Of course, that’s where BATF comes in: If the Mexican government provides us with that gun – and they’ve been more and more cooperative – we can trace it back to the manufacturer. They’ll tell us to which gun dealer it was shipped, and that gun dealer had better have kept that paperwork that was originally filed. And with that, we’ll be coming after you, to ask what the heck a gun you purchased is doing in Mexico in the hands of someone in a cartel gun battle.”

Even that system is flawed, Crowley admits, both because of people obliterating the serial numbers to protect the straw purchaser and because of the “Gun Show Loophole.” The gun show loophole allows anyone to bring their own guns to a gun show – regular events held in large coliseums in the Dallas-Fort Worth area – and sell them. No NICS check, often no names exchanged. If the gun later turns up to have been used in a multiple murder in Juarez and gets traced back to the legitimate owner, he’ll just say he sold it at a gun show to a stranger. And that’s the end of the case.

Celerino Castillo, author of Powderburns and the former DEA agent who blew the whistle on the US-backed Contra’s trading cocaine for arms during the Nicaraguan civil war in the mid-1980s, says that the problem isn’t limited to legal gun sales that are then resold to the cartels.

“The majority of the weapons being used by the cartels these days are US military weapons and explosives,” Castillo explained. ‘They’ve got M-16s, hand grenades, grenade launchers. Even in Texas you can’t buy those. Those are US military weapons. Last year an 18-wheeler full of M-16s was stopped headed to Matamoros, a border town controlled by the Gulf Cartel. So our US military is either supplying the Mexican military with that weaponry and corrupt elements in the Mexican military are selling it to the cartels, or someone in the US military is supplying them. Either way, those are US military guns being used in very violent cartel rivalries. So the responsibility still lies with the US, whether it’s military or gun shop owners. Without the guns, there would be less violence.”

And US responsibility for that violence goes even deeper, said Castillo. In response to the rise of the Juarez and other Mexican cocaine cartels during the 1980s, the US began to train Special Forces for the Mexican government, so that they’d be better able to deal with those cartels, in theory. “But a lot of those special forces broke away from the Mexican military in the 1990s, and became the Zetas” says Castillo, who worked undercover with the DEA for 12 years, mostly in Central and South America, including Mexico. “They began working as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, which controlled Mexico’s Caribbean coast and several inland border cities.” The Zetas were ruthless, he said, and fearless. “They were some of the best trained Special Forces anywhere. Well now it’s gotten to the point where they pretty much control the cartels.”

When stories first broke about the Zetas working for the cartels, the Mexican government denied them. But recent reports finally admit that there is a “paramilitary arm in the Mexican military,” says Castillo. “And don’t forget the Kaibiles, the Special Forces unit we originally trained in Guatemala. The Kaibiles started working for the cartels but they are now working for the Zetas, and they’re the ones responsible for the beheadings. That’s their trademark.” Training for the Kaibiles – apparently no longer done by the US government – includes biting the head off a live chicken, probably the point of origin for their particular brand of brutality. (In one case last year, several human heads were tossed onto a dance floor in Michoacán. More recently, in October 2008, four heads in an ice chest were sent to the Juarez police headquarters.)

The Zetas have now realigned with the Mexican army as well, Castillo says, a marriage that is infesting the military, particularly the 32,000 troops Calderon sent into nine Mexican states since taking office, specifically to stamp out the cartels. “And so the military is sort of running the whole show down there,” said Castillo. “You’ve got thousands of military put all over the country, a lot of them corrupt, a lot of them also working as paramilitaries. They’re operating under the guise of stamping out drugs when they’re actually moving them and stamping out rivals for the drug trade.”

Sending Mexican troops into several areas of the country to try to regain some semblance of control by the government has backfired badly. Rather than government control, in many areas the military has wreaked havoc with the citizenry, prompting calls to Calderon to remove them.

Bill Weinberg, an award-winning journalist who specializes in Latin American and drug war issues, said “You’ve got to understand that the military and the cartels overlap, so the military isn’t necessarily worse than the cartels, they are the cartels. Then you have the police, who in some places, like Reynosa – across the border from McAllen – have been completely co-opted. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission issued a report in July 2008 dealing with four particularly grave cases of recent military abuses in Michoacán, Sinaloa, Sonora and Tamaulipas. All of those cases involved torture of civilians – some of it very brutal – and homes ransacked. This included electric shock and rape, among other things. In Michoacán, soldiers at a roadblock shot up a car and killed some kids.” The Human Rights Commission called on the National Secretary of Defense to punish those who violate human rights. “Up until now those recommendations have been ignored,” says Weinberg, “so the abuses keep occurring.”

The violence associated with the cartel wars is beginning to tumble across the Rio Grande and into the US. In April 2007, Gabriel Cardona, then 18, pleaded guilty to five murders carried out in or near Laredo, Texas at the behest of then-Gulf Cartel leader Miguel Trevino Morales. The youngster was part of a group of teens who acted as cartel hit men on the US side of the border. Among Cardona’s hits was the kidnapping and murder of a former Laredo police officer. Rosario Reta, an associate of Cardona’s, was recently convicted of a separate murder in Laredo in 2006.

US officials have suggested that the Zetitas, or Little Zetas, are recruited from street gangs in Laredo and trained by the Zetas. Cardona and Reta both allegedly began working for the Gulf Cartel by delivering weapons from Laredo to Nuevo Laredo, and were subsequently singled out for hit man training. Javier Sambrano, the El Paso police department’s public information officer, says there is no such influence in the city across the border from Juarez. “There has been no spillover [of the violence]at all. Those individuals on the Mexican side of the border committing those atrocities have no incentive to come here and commit those sorts of crimes. Now I’m not saying we have not had any murders that, when we solved them, we discovered a drug link. We have had a few of those but we have solved them, which is further discouragement to people imagining they could come here and commit them.”

That might be good public relations for the city of El Paso, says El Paso Times reporter Diana Washington Valdez, but it’s nonsense. “Some of the violence is spilling over the border no matter what the official line is. It’s just happening.” She points to an El Paso gang called the Azteca’s who have recently been found operating in Juarez as hit men for the Juarez cartel. The gang initially started in an El Paso prison to protect prisoners of Mexican decent, but have been suspected of cartel ties for years, particularly in connection with drug distribution and weapons smuggling. “We’ve long suspected the tie between the cartel and the Aztecas from El Paso, but now that some of them are on trial we’ve got it in testimony being given in Federal court.”

It’s thought that, similar to the Gulf Cartel’s recruiting of teens in Laredo, the Aztecas are recruited for hit man work in Juarez. In November, children on their way to school found the body of a man tied to window bars, his feet dangling just above the ground. He was wearing a pig’s mask. A sign affixed to the building’s roof above his head said: “This is going to happen to all Aztecas.” Another sign of the spillover, says Valdez, are the number of persons who’ve been shot in Mexico but brought for treatment in the US. “The Thomason Hospital here in El Paso has received more than 30 people this year who have been shot in Juarez. They get shot there and brought here because if those people were targets, the gangs will go into the hospitals and make sure they’re dead. Some of them are Americans, but a lot of them are Mexicans. We think the US Feds are allowing it because they want a chance to interview them. On the other hand, a lot of people here in El Paso are worried that they might be followed into Thomason Hospital and killed.” As if to emphasize what she said, two days later a man was followed into a hospital in Juarez and killed by gunmen.

And of course, the spillover can be seen in the corruption Homeland Security agents and other law enforcement officers on the US side of the border. On October 14, FBI agents arrested a South Texas sheriff and charged him with “conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana” among several other offences. Starr County Sheriff Reymundo Guerra, who potentially faces life imprisonment, follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, Sheriff Eugenio Falcon, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in 1998. Among several other law enforcement officers caught dealing with the cartels, in 2005, former Cameron County, Texas Sheriff Conrado Cantu was sentenced to 24 years for running a criminal enterprise out of his office.

Cartel fingers in the US were seen recently as far north as New York when 175 people thought to have ties to the Gulf Cartel were arrested in several states in late September 2008, including 22 in north Texas. The raids netted $1 million in cash, 400 pounds of methamphetamine and 300 kilograms of cocaine. In response to their losses, Gulf Cartel leaders in Reynosa, a Mexican town across the border from McAllen, Texas, have threatened retaliation, according to an FBI intelligence report released in late October 2008. The report suggests that the Gulf cartel is calling on US gang associates to “confront US law enforcement agencies to zealously protect their criminal interests.” Local Gulf Cartel capo Jaime Gonzalez Duran has allegedly ordered dozens of reinforcements to Reynosa. “These replacements are believed to be armed with assault rifles, bulletproof vests and grenades, and are occupying safe houses throughout the McAllen area,” noted the report.

To help with recruitment, the Gulf Cartel has been plastering signs all over Reynosa and at times in Nuevo Laredo and elsewhere, asking soldiers and police officers to desert their posts and join the Zetas. One banner that was up in Nuevo Laredo on a walking bridge connecting the US and Mexico recently read (in translation): “The Zetas operations group wants you, soldier or ex-soldier. We offer you a good salary, food and attention for your family. Don’t suffer hunger and abuse any more.” The banner listed a cell phone number that was disconnected shortly after Mexican authorities took down the sign. Another sign recently seen in the city of Tampico asked soldiers and ex-soldiers to “Join the ranks of the Gulf Cartel. We offer benefits, life insurance, a house for your family and children. Stop living in the slums and riding the bus. A new car or truck, your choice.”

Though not nearly as glamorous as corrupt law enforcement or the threat of a war between the cartel and US border agents, the spillover of the bloodshed in places like Tijuana and Juarez can be seen in other ways as well. Record numbers of Mexicans have fled to Canada in 2008, asking for political asylum because their own country cannot keep the streets safe. According to an October 20, 2008 Globe and Mail article, there are “currently 9,070 Mexican refugee claimants waiting to have their cases heard” by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. More than 3,500 refugee cases had already been heard during 2008, bringing the total requesting asylum to over 12,500. In the years from 2000 to 2007 there were a total of about 17,500 requests, a good indication that the violence in Mexico has escalated drastically in the last year.

“You’ve got to understand that these guys are hitting night clubs, burning tourist clubs, kidnapping people, targeting payroll trucks,” says Valdez. “People who are not involved at all with the cartels are getting caught in the crossfire. That’s what makes it all so dangerous. If you happen to be walking near a target, you are simply not considered. If you’re in a club they’re going to burn down… well, that’s just that. So I’m not surprised that people are fleeing to Canada. Whoever can flee, does. Here in El Paso we’ve got a lot of people coming over to stay with relatives, but we’ve also got a lot of people just wandering around the bus station with nowhere to go, just to avoid being in Juarez.”

And it’s only going to get worse, says Celerino Castillo. “The US continues to train Special Forces in Mexico. And Blackwater is being contracted by the Mexican government right now to train specialized soldiers in the Mexican army and to also act as a private security force. But you know they’re going to be all over everything, doing a little busting of people, doing a little dirty work for people… what they do.”

Blackwater USA is a private security firm made up primarily of former US Special Forces. The company, along with DynCorp and several others, has been used extensively by the US Department of Defense in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as elsewhere around the globe. Blackwater came under intense media scrutiny in September, 2007 when several of its contractors opened fire on unarmed civilians in Iraq, killing 17. Nonetheless, with former CIA higher-ups in its ranks, the company remains a golden-child to the US. And it will soon have a large presence on the US-Mexican border once it completes and opens an 824-acre training complex in Potrero, California, just 45 miles from the Mexican border. They have already secured a contract from the US government to train Border Patrol agents, and there is speculation that once their presence is established there they will vie for contracts to work border security alongside US government agents.

There is also speculation that with George Bush having recently signed the Mexico Plan – also known as the Merida Initiative – promising an immediate $400 million to Calderon to help fight drugs in Mexico (with an additional $1.1 billion in the next two years), Blackwater may be utilized to train Mexican soldiers in Special Forces techniques. The Plan includes an unspecified amount of money for contracts to US private security companies. Additionally, the September 14, 2007 issue of the Army Times reported that the US Department of Defense had just given Blackwater a sizeable chunk of a $15 billion grant that mandates the company “to deploy surveillance techniques, train foreign security forces, and provide logistical and operational support” for drug war initiatives.

Harrowing as the thought of the US government funding a huge unaccountable mercenary force of former US Special Forces in Mexico might be, it might already be happening. Blackwater already employs 1,200 Chileans, ex-members of Dictator Augusto Pinochet’s military, some of whom are thought to be working in Mexico. In an October 23, 2007 article on Blackwater having a presence on either side of the border, California’s Democratic Rep. Bob Filner was quoted as saying, “You have to be very wary of mercenary soldiers in a democracy, which is more fragile than people think. You don’t want armies around who will sell out to the highest bidder.”

And if Blackwater isn’t currently in Mexico, at least one US-based security firm is. In early July 2008, just one day after President Bush signed the Mexico Plan, the local paper El Heraldo de Leon released two separate videos of a torture training session involving the police force of Leon, Guanajuato. The tapes showed graphic images of torture techniques practiced on police volunteers, such as having one’s head forced into a pit of rats and feces, and being dragged through one’s own vomit after being beaten. Kristin Bricker, an investigative reporter with, subsequently uncovered evidence that the torture-teachers were from Risks Incorporated, a Miami-based private security outfit that specializes in, among other things, teaching psychological torture techniques.

“There is no question that the US is involved in every aspect of the drug war in Mexico,” Castillo says. “Even if Calderon had the opportunity, he wouldn’t end it. America is too addicted to drug money from every aspect of the drug war – whether it’s our military, or weapons manufacturers, or the prison system, and so forth – to ever let him stop the drug trade in Mexico. And Mexico’s economy depends too heavily on drug money to keep it floating. Listen; the United States military has satellite photos of all the cocaine labs in Peru and Colombia, photos of every opium poppy and cannabis plant being grown in Mexico, yet they never took out those labs or burned that marijuana. They didn’t do it when I was with the DEA, and they’re not doing it now. That should tell you where American interest lies. The US simply needs the drug money too badly to stop the war on drugs in Mexico, or anywhere else.”

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  1. Anonymous on

    I suggest you read the book “More guns, less crime” I’ve forgotten the author and there are more recent studies on the issue, but if you doubt the effectiveness of an armed citizenry, study the differences in crimes per capita and types of crimes in areas that have de facto or actual gun bans to those that allow the people to be armed if they so choose.

  2. Adimus on

    So normally i dislike assumptions but given how you said that I’m quite confident that you’re american. Arming the other side of a conflict should never be considered as equivalent to another solution that would stop the problem without the violence. guns are not the answer. end prohibition and there will be no reason for the cartels to shot people. they shot people for their business so no more business no more shooting. people are not going to stop smoking pot and as long as people want to smoke it someone is gonna want to sell it to them. how bout the government can sell us pot and show the cartels the proper way to conduct business (since business is what the american gov is always concerned about anyway).

  3. acebluesman on

    Very informative article and a great read.

  4. Anonymous on

    At the very least, marijuana legalization should be considered first. Giving citizens guns doesn’t solve much, that’s just even more violence.

  5. Ozlanthos on

    I have always said that if someone wanted to know what the US would look like without the 2nd Amendment that they should try living in Mexico for a year! Blaming the US for Mexico’s gun-ban (which keeps the mexican citizens unarmed to resist or reciprocate violence dealt by the drug-cartels…or cops) is almost as fruitless as blaming marijuana customers for the illegality of marijuana in the US (which causes the increased demand and the higher PROFITS to be made by dealing it). Make marijuana legal in the US, or guns legal to own by Mexican citizens, and THE “PROBLEM” GOES AWAY!!!!!