Monday, August 10, 2009

Border security and the drug war: Corruption mounts, resources stretched

Here are several interesting items I noticed this morning related to the drug war and the politics of border enforcement:

AP: Border corruption on the rise
The Associated Press says law-enforcement corruption on the US side is increasing. Said Mexican President Felipe Calderon:
"To get drugs into the United States the one you need to corrupt is the American authority, the American customs, the American police — not the Mexican. And that's a subject, by the way, which hasn't been addressed with sincerity," the Mexican president said. "I'm waging my battle against corruption among Mexican authorities and we're risking everything to clean our house, but I think there also needs to be a good cleaning on the other side of the border."
MexiData on Juarez enforcers
Sylvia Longmire at MexiData has an informative piece on Los Linces, the secretive enforcement group associated with the Juarez Cartel that's dominated by ex-Mexican military. Los Linces play a role for the Juarez Cartel similar to that played by the better-known Los Zetas for the Gulf Cartel, and the article provides a good overview of the other main enforcement groups and their relationship to the cartels. Not much information is publicly available about Los Linces, says Longmire, but IMO if US authorities know more than she does they should be making that information public to protect journalists and put pressure on their employers at the Juarez Cartel.

Border security contributes to state trooper shortage
Brandi Grissom at the El Paso Times has an extended preview of a high-level border security conferece in El Paso today and tomorrow which will include the new US drug czar and Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano, fresh off a weekend visit to Mexico with President Obama. Her story includes this juicy tidbit:

The [Texas] Department of Public Safety has also faced heat for its use of border-security money. A state audit last spring showed the department had allocated millions in resources, including a helicopter and about 100 cars, that were meant for the border to other areas of the state.

Another audit, released last week, said that demands to put more state troopers in the border region were exacerbating a critical personnel shortage in the department.

The case for legalization
Finally, via Drug War Rant (congrats, Pete, on your new site), in the London Financial Times, the author of a new book on cocaine trafficking recently made a strong case for outright drug legalization, arguing that:

Proper reform means legitimising production and supply, precisely so it can be controlled. Would it unleash a drug epidemic worse than the one we now have? Well, it would be an unusual child of the 1960s who did not mark the moment with a celebratory joint. But the novelty would soon wear off. And from then on, the places where it is easiest to obtain drugs would no longer be the inside of jails and inner-city school playgrounds. ...

We should abandon the fantasy of a drug-free world and start taking responsibility for regulation. If you really want to control who grows coca, who produces cocaine, who sells it and for how much, who can take it, and how much they pay for it, create a framework that is logical, accountable and adjustable.

Still not convinced? Consider the declining popularity of tobacco smoking. High taxation, credible education programmes and effective treatment programmes work – a legal ban on smoking would not. Why should cocaine be treated any differently?


Anonymous said...

It really is a shame that a foreign president can make a statement of 'the other side of the border is just as corrupt', and it totally be true. Sad that it has come to this, that people that we trust with our security can be so easily bought and sold along the border. Although I realize that higher wages could have prevented some of it, the understanding of human nature and our greed tells me that you could pay someone 100K a year to watch and still you would have those that wanted 150K..

RAS said...

Those advocating legalizing drugs should study prohibition. Repealing it certainly didn't reduce the number of addicts and according to the documentary on TV didn't significantly reduce the number of illegal stills because the state and fed governments jumped on booze for tax revenue. How can the state that is the most anti-smoking be pro marijuana? Are Californians supreme hypcrites or just really stupid? If cocaine is more available and more affordable won't the really poor (addicts so dysfunctional they can't hold a job) use it to make crack to resell or to make the coke go further?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Ending Prohibition "didn't significantly reduce the number of illegal stills"? BS!

How many people today buy their alcohol from illegal rum runners? When Bud and Miller have market share instead of organized crime gangs, IMO that's an improvement over the Al Capones of the world controlling the market.

I'll agree with you the number of addicts won't go down just because of ending prohibition. More would be required to change that number (though prohibition hasn't solved it, either). However, the number of SMOKERS, for example, has declined because of public policy sans prohibition and I don't see why the model on booze, drugs, or other addictive substances would be any different.

Anonymous said...

The world would be a far better place if all the money spent on the Drug War - by both governments and cartels - would be directed toward research to improve the treatment of mental illness.

Addiction statistics might actually go down!

Anonymous said...

"It really is a shame that a foreign president can make a statement of 'the other side of the border is just as corrupt', and it totally be true."

Are we really just as corrupt? What percentage on this side is corrupt 8:39? Majority or minority?

Oh, I forgot, we are arrogant too!

Do we owe an apology, h... no!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'd say it was a "minority" on both sides, 2:52, but it only takes one corrupt officer to thwart the efforts of dozens of honest ones. As Calderon said, in Mexico they're at least TRYING to address the problem but too many in the US would bury their head in the sand.

elbert said...

If we can't keep cell phones out of prison where everyone is either an officer or an inmate then it is impossible to keep drugs out of a free socieity. Impossible.

Anonymous said...

anon 2:52. IMO I believe that we are just as corrupt. Where you have whole Sheriff departments HELPING the drug cartels , border agents running criminal background checks, multiple federal agencies in on the take, and a government that will penalize the individual, but allow the corporation to get away with simial things.. Yes, we are just as corrupt on many fronts.

Anonymous said...

When you have shut down and arrested entire police departments for illegal activities such has occurred on the Mexico side, then I will concede that corruption is the same here. Until then, this accusation from Mexico is ludicrous and without any merit. In reading between the lines of this release, I feel like it is a suggestion from Mexico to tolerate a small amount of corruption more so than what we prosecute already. They learn from us and our CJ system or go see how China does it. Our LE, judges, etc. are not for sale. Go somewhere else and tout this concept because we are all full up on horse shit here.

Anonymous said...

It is terrific to see an informed discussion on this thread about the real potential for legalization with regulation (i.e., the same approach used with alcohol and tobacco) to remove the criminal element from the drug problem.

Nearly every adverse thing associated with drugs is driven by the legal status of the substance -- everything from overdoses, disease transmission, and high use rates.

There simply are no benefits to the war on drugs -- there are only costs (wasted resources, destroyed lives from hidden and untreated dependency, destroyed lives by enforcement of drug laws, deaths of law enforcement officers striving to win and unwinnable war, official corruption, the creation of drug gangs and cartels, economic support to terrorist groups, systemic violence created by the black market created by prohibition, etc.

The list of harms caused by the War on Drugs could go on... If we want a lower drug use society we first have to get the drugs out of the hands of criminals by making access to regulated drug products legal. Everywhere this has happened drug use rates have declined over time even if experimentation increased initially.

It is time to rethink this issue and give up on beliefs that don't work (i.e. prohibition) and try something else just as we did in 1933 when the narcotic oops alcohol was legalized and regulated.

Recommend Arthur Benavie's new book "Drugs - America's Holy War".

Seve Verdad said...

Drug prohibition has caused more human suffering than any drug ever invented by God or man. Over the last several years, hundreds of thousands have been dispossessed, orphaned, and slaughtered in North America alone in the drug war. Corruption is a natural byproduct of prohibition and is defined by the pro-prohibition stands on both the cartel and law enforcement (DEA, BOP, et al) sides of the equation. Each requires prohibition to stay in business.