|Tijuana drug drone|
Tunnels, catapults, drones, and manned semi-submersibles. Breast implants, fake carrots, and puppies…..
These are just a few examples of smuggling tactics used by Mexican and Central American organized crime groups to move illegal drugs and people across borders and past law enforcement. But they also exemplify the kinds of innovative behavior and problem-solving prowess that in other, legal contexts, such as Silicon Valley, often result in groundbreaking businesses. However, reductionist and neocolonial theories of Mexican cartels have for too long hamstrung efforts to properly understand these complex entities and capture the vast potential therein, according to Dr. Rodrigo Nieto-Gomez. We, in essence, have failed to study these organizations within the right framework.
r Rodrigo Nieto-Gomez is a research professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, studying "criminal entrepreneurship" in drug cartels, who beat Amazon to using drones for delivery by years, use modified potato guns to shoot cocaine and marijuana bundles over border fences, and represent the "true libertarian, Ayn Rand capitalism."
In a wide-ranging interview with Motherboard, Nieto-Gomez speculates on the future of drug smuggling (flying and submarine drones), and describes the Silicon Valley-like relationship between a Mexican investor class and the smuggler-innovators, who sell a share in future returns in exchange for capital to fund high-risk/high-tech R&D efforts to beat police interdiction.
Don’t you think if people really knew the odds of being captured or killed while working as a drug dealer they might reassess their career choice? But what are the odds of becoming the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk? They are tiny. But they fuel the dreams of 90 something percent of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley that will probably fail. It’s ambition. These are low probability high reward kinds of environments. And that is highly ambitious behavior that you want to encourage. Those are the people that see a problem and don’t get deterred. They change everything.
One of the biggest missed opportunities on the War on Drugs is that we haven’t identified a way of filtering out these high-risk tolerant people that we are losing to organized crime. We aren’t providing any alternatives for them to take the exit and leverage some of the skill sets they acquired in a way that would be both high-risk and high-reward and also legal.
Motherboard: What are you currently working on?
Nieto-Gomez: My key research agenda right now is based on analyzing criminal entrepreneurship. When you see what it takes to smuggle drugs from Mexico to the US, those are the kinds of skill sets we go and admire at a maker’s faire in San Mateo [California]. You take a compressor and mix it with a potato gun and you start shooting cocaine or marijuana ... over the border. It’s freaking amazing. It’s completely unhindered by regulation. If you want to see what true libertarian, Ayn Rand capitalism looks like, don’t look at the US, but Mexico, and specifically the drug cartels.
Organized crime, and organized crime in Mexico especially, is often portrayed as a top-down enterprise. What have you found through your research regarding these “cartels” or organizations?
It’s not the one that Mario Puzo sold to us in The Godfather, with the puppeteer’s hand controlling every puppet. I don’t think that’s a good representation of organized crime and I don’t think it ever was.
What we see in Mexico is more akin to Silicon Valley, and the relationship with venture capitalists and startups. You’re good at what you do so I’ll fund you. I’ll give you access to the narcotics, you sell them for me, and you make some money. Out of that money you hire somebody else to help. You start to create your small little enterprise. If one day one part of the operation is captured or killed it’s just one start-up. The different organizations in Mexico will have hundreds of operations like that operating at the same time and in the same chain.
Note by Borderland Beat:
Newly FAA approved The Sky Runner promises to be a valuable new tool for the military and incredible toy for big guys, but it got my mind stirring of ways the machine could be used in the narco world. It is a manned all-terrain vehicle that is also an aircraft. It has a short takeoff and landing requirement, low flying at max 10k ft, cruise speed 45mph, and ground speed max at 75 mph. It can transport passengers or cargo. First thought was the rugged Sierras mountain range. Price is 119k USD. ATVs are already heavily used in the Sierras, but this one can transport and fly. I wondered what your thought are, especially those who are more familiar with aircraft than I am…..
Below is military version