I mentioned yesterday that both criminality and affluence tend to run in families. In Mexico, George Friedman from the corporate intelligence company Stratfor says they often run in the same families, and will for several generations thanks to the lucrative drug trade:
The current efforts by the Mexican government might impede the various gangs, but they won’t break the cartel system. The supply chain along the border is simply too diffuse and too plastic. It shifts too easily under pressure. The border can’t be sealed, and the level of economic activity shields smuggling too well. Farmers in Mexico can’t be persuaded to stop growing illegal drugs for the same reason that Bolivians and Afghans can’t. Market demand is too high and alternatives too bleak. The Mexican supply chain is too robust — and too profitable — to break easily.
The likely course is a multigenerational pattern of instability along the border. More important, there will be a substantial transfer of wealth from the United States to Mexico in return for an intrinsically low-cost consumable product — drugs. This will be one of the sources of capital that will build the Mexican economy, which today is 14th largest in the world. The accumulation of drug money is and will continue finding its way into the Mexican economy, creating a pool of investment capital. The children and grandchildren of the Zetas will be running banks, running for president, building art museums and telling amusing anecdotes about how grandpa made his money running blow into Nuevo Laredo.
It will also destabilize the U.S. Southwest while grandpa makes his pile. As is frequently the case, it is a problem for which there are no good solutions, or for which the solution is one without real support.
Interestingly, Friedman seems to think that legalizing drugs would be the most effective solution to limiting cartel power, to "allow easy access to the drug market for other producers, flooding the market, reducing the cost and eliminating the economic incentive and technical advantage of the cartel." But that's a "political impossibility" in the US, he says. Still, the notion that the Zetas' grandkids will consider it quaint that grandpa was running blow to Texas implies that Friedman sees drug legalization as a perhaps inevitable long-term solution.
See related recent Grits posts:
- What do we know about US-side cartel infrastructure?
- More documentation, obfuscation about drug cartel violence on the border and the response by US law enforcement
- Following the money in search of American drug bosses
- Los Zetas subcommander convicted in McAllen; details emerge about Gulf Cartel operations
- New Ex-Im Bank guidelines won't prevent loans to drug cartels
- As Mexico fights a "hot" war against cartels, US not holding up its end
- US made fewer cocaine seizures in 2007
- Might open-sourced criminal intelligence protect journalists and strike a blow against multinational drug cartels?