Useless Expense and Failed StrategyBy the staff reporters at El Diario de Juarez
El Diario. 6-17-12. Once again the futility of President Calderon's war against drugs was made evident; not even the deployment of federal and military forces, which coincided in Juarez with a bloody dispute among cartels and turned Juarez into the most violent city in Mexico, impacted the market nor put a stop to the drug trade to the United States.
On the contrary, according to the latest intelligence report from that country's Department of Justice, after 2011 the illegal shipment of cocaine, black tar heroin and metamphetamines increased and there's a greater availability of drugs in West Texas. The document, drafted by the NDIC, establishes that the spike in the flow of drugs coincides with the displacement by the cartel led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman of the organization led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, although this last still maintains control over a part of the corridor that goes through Juarez.
The final balance in this dispute that has gone on for four years is about 11,000 homicides. Despite the fact that the figures are lower after 2011, this number has no parallel in any other area.
It fell on the people of Juarez to suffer a war that not only brought death and disintegration to thousands of families, but also devastated the economic and social structures that sustained the city's development. After that overly long critical juncture in which Juarez became an emblem of the binational war against drug trafficking and in which the city came under fire from cartels that diversified their criminal activities, breaking lives and property, it hurts the citizens who survived the violence to learn that the sacrifice was for nothing.
It is repugnant, too, to confirm again and again that the strategy imposed by the United States and followed blindly by Mexico to attack drug trafficking is a farse because its financial structures remain untouched, and the demand by drug consumers intact. Little or nothing is done to inhibit consumption or the investment of drug proceeds.
It appears that the only objective that authorities from the neighboring country have is that of guaranteeing that things remain unchanged so that there is no lack of drugs for U.S. consumers, regardless of the trail of blood left by their trip through Mexico.
Another facet of this farse in the crusade against drugs is that only Mexicans are stigmatized as mafiosos while in the United States the cartel leaders who are citizens of that country remain faceless.
The prosecution in Texas for money laundering against Jose Trevino -- the brother of Miguel Angel Trevino, second in command of the Zetas -- and his sister Zulema, both United States citizens, illustrates one of a number of activities that the narco can use to launder money. The individuals that have been detained are accused of laundering money through the purchase of quarter horses and stables in racetracks such as the one in Ruidoso, New Mexico. The activities and acquisitions of the Trevinos had raised suspicisions for some time in the horse racing industry, but U.S. authorities are only now taking action in an operation that according to Mexicos' Attorney General, Marisela Flores, began with the arrest of a Zeta cell by the Mexican Army.
And although the detainees are U.S. citizens, the operation is aimed at Mexican businessmen linked with the Zeta Cartel. Pancho Colorado, a Pemex contractor from Veracruz, has also been accused of being a front for Manuel and Oscar Trevino, which is why he decided last Thursday to surrender in Houston, Texas, to face the charges that the United States Department of Justice has brought against him.
But Anglo names and last names generally do not show up in large scale operations. A case which is emblematic of the permissive policy that the U.S. government follows in money laundering cases brings us to the Bank of Wachovia, whose executives, without running any great risk, laundered millions of dollars from drug trafficking. According to news stories, between 2004 and 2007, Wachovia handled $378.4 billion dollars that they transferred Mexican currency exchange businesses, without the bank's owners and executives worrying much about the source of these funds.
When the U.S. authorities detected the irregularities, they merely imposed a fine of $160 million, that is to say, less than 2% of its earnings in 2009. In effect, the punishment became an incentive for bankers and all sorts of businessmen to continue laundering money in violation of the law.
So long as practices like money laundering by banks are not prevented or punished in the U.S., the pressure to expand operations against trafficking on this side of the border, which has contributed to the escalation of violence instead of diminshing it, will continue to be insulting. The strategy of the war should not be limited to causing casualties among the traffickers, which generally results in fragmentation of the cartels and more violence; what is urgently needed is a serious, legal battle against big enterprises (banks, currency exchange businesses, casinos, real estate, construction companies, among others) that are in the business of injecting drug money into the marketplace.
That's one part of the equation; the other part has to do with rescuing the economies devastated by the war. There, Juarez is once again an example of what can happen when, in the fight against crime, purely police measures are given priority over other basic investments. Empty commercial buildings (22% of commercial space vacant), closed down shopping centers, houses left vacant and destroyed, entire housing developments abandoned, empty lots full of trash or junk, torn up streets and sidewalks, and, generally, deficient and diminshed urban facilities, all reflect a city ruined by the economic recession brought on by violence and crime.
This crisis, in every sense of the word, did nothing but magnify the underdevelopment of the urban and social infrastructure. The needs are obvious, with evidence of recovery that can barely be perceived after four years of hardship.
Given this devastation, one feels even more indignation that a useless war against drugs should have monopolized the greater part of the federal government's budget. While the deficit was growing here (according to Juarez social and business sources, at least $5 billion dollars is needed to rebuild the city), public funds were used to maintain a strong public safety employee payroll and federal and military operations all around the country, without any effect in the war against drug trafficking. Neither have the statistics on violence -- which has spiked to its highest levels, ever, in states like Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Jalisco or Veracruz-- nor the consumption of illegal drugs or their price on the market shown any evidence that the strategy has been productive.
Internal consumption (of drugs) is growing, drugs are still reaching the United States, the market grows, the the price has not even gone up. Drug trafficking has not stopped and, at the end of the day, the result does not translate into a decrease in cartel presence, but merely in a reassignment of the drug corridors, internal reconfigurations, splits and new alliances.
Fundamentally, nothing changes, and the distribution and money laundering web is guaranteed. The butchery of the war against drugs has only justified the multimillion budgets of public agencies on both sides of the border, but it doesn't seem to matter to anybody that in the midst of all this useless paraphernalia an entire city has bled to death.