Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Corruption, 'cartel' violence rampant in Mexico as drug policy debated in El Paso

Here are several stories related to Mexico and the drug war that recently caught my eye. First, check out this coverage from the El Paso Times of a conference on the drug war currently going on in Sun City:Meanwile, the Mexican army has found more evidence of widespread corruption in Nuevo Leon state among police and the press, reports AP:

Four people were arrested and $5 million in U.S. and Mexican currency was seized during the raid Monday in the industrial city of Monterrey, according to an army statement. Soldiers, acting on an anonymous tip, also seized drugs, money counting machines, cell phones and five vehicles.

Monterrey and the surrounding state of Nuevo Leon, which borders Texas, have been a focus of the federal government's crackdown on police corruption.

The cash and seized items were displayed at military barracks north of the city, with dozens of white envelopes containing some of the cash arranged in rows on a table.

Envelopes at the front of the rows had yellow post-it notes with the names of police precincts in Monterrey and other municipal forces in Nuevo Leon state. One was labeled "press."

In what could be viewed as a disturbing, watershed event, an American who was apparently involved in the drug trade was kidnapped on the US side and gruesomely murdered in Juarez, AP reports:
A body found with its severed arms crossed and placed on its chest in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was identified by authorities Wednesday as a Texas man kidnapped from his home.

Sergio Saucedo, 30, was kidnapped from his Horizon City house outside El Paso last Thursday. His mutilated body was found Tuesday in the Mexican border city across the Rio Grande, said El Paso County Sheriff's spokesman Jesse Tovar.

"It's apparent that the spillover has occurred," Tovar said of the drug violence plaguing Juarez and much of Mexico. ...

Saucedo's body was found dumped in the street late Tuesday with his severed arms placed on top of a cardboard sign on his chest, said Arturo Sandoval, spokesman for a regional prosecutor's office in Juarez. He said the killers stuffed plastic bags into Saucedo's mouth and taped his eyes.

The sign was immediately removed and authorities have not revealed what it said. Drug cartels often leave messages with victims they kill.

Ciudad Juarez is Mexico's deadliest city with more than 1,300 drug-related killings this year.

The Christian Science Monitor today offered up an interesting piece describing how many Latin American countries are increasingly breaking with US policy on the war on drugs and following their own path toward decriminalization.

Finally, as somebody who majored in economics in college I found interesting this analysis from the New York Times critiquing the use of the term "drug cartel." While the difference is purely semantic, it's certainly the case that these aren't "cartels" in the same economic sense as OPEC or other cartels whose aims are to control prices. These are criminal gangs, or perhaps "organized crime syndicates," but from a purely technical perspective, they're not "cartels." I'm not sure why such linguistic distinctions matter but I agree it's a non-precise use of the economic terminology.

UPDATE: See more coverage of the El Paso conference from Newspaper Tree.


Anonymous said...

The border sheriffs seem to think everything is okay.

Amerloc said...

re: the NYT article

If you're coming at it from an econ angle, and I'm coming at it from an "English/language" angle, and we come to the same conclusion that maybe the point is valid, then maybe, just maybe, the media should at least start to think about recasting the term?

RAS said...

Semantics are everything in motivating the public one way or the other. If the 'Whitewater affair' had been the '50 million dollar bank fraud' who would have been elected in 96? Who is a better expert on semantics than reporters?

dirty harry said...

On 9/23/2009 07:32:00 PM RAS said...
"Who is a better expert on semantics than reporters?"


Anonymous said...

Let's not get stuck on the semantics tree and miss the entire forest.  The War on Drugs is an exceptionally destructive policy that fails on all policy objectives, creates black markets, funds "drug cartels", promotes corruptions of the justice and border security systems and creates the crime and violence around the drugs prohibited.  In short, the War on Drugs is far more destructive than the drugs.Simply stated, drug control is a health and education issue.  It cannot and will not be controlled by criminal justice policy or a "War on Drugs".  When will we stop shooting ourselves in the foot on this issue? 

Gritsforbreakfast said...

FWIW, maybe it's not technically accurate but there is an historical justification for popular usage of the term "cartel" - it's a throwback to the Colombian cocaine cartels (first Medellin and later Cali) which actually were large enough to manipulate pricing. So I don't necessarily think there's anything intentionally misleading about how the term is used, it's just that the big smuggling organizations evolved with producers and distributors becoming more diverse after the term was popularized.

Anonymous said...

Hi Grits. Screw the El Paso Times. Better coverage of the drug policy conference here: