A Deadly Dealing with Drugs

Narcotics and drugs have figured in our world’s history from time immemorial, as a curative, rejuvenator and the like.

It is believed that ganja or hashish and other narcotic drugs were favourites of Lord Shiva. The world’s oldest medical text, the Pen Ts’ao says that ma-fen, the flowers of the female marijuana plant, contain the greatest amount of yin energy and was prescribed in cases of menstrual fatigue, rheumatism, malaria etc, but when taken over a long period of time, could enable one to communicate with spirits.

But today, an abuse of drugs has caused many countries to have serious setbacks on their path to development. Mexico remains one of them.

The United Mexican States commonly known as Mexico, is a federal constitutional republic in North America comprising thirty-one states and a federal district; the capital, Mexico City, is one of the world’s most populated metropolis’. Mexico is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the North Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico.

Drug trafficking and narco-related activities remain a major concern for Mexico. With drug cartels establishing a foothold in almost every border town, the country has been witnessing a blood bath, in recent years, in wars between the cartels and the law enforcement authorities.

Over the years, the drug cartels, especially the thriving ones at the Gulf cartel based near the border with Texas and an alliance of drug lords from the Pacific state of Sinaloa, have been involved in mutual clashes for routes and territories, further escalating the death toll.

The $23 billion estimated drug-trafficking industry, primarily caters to the border towns of the Unites States and from there, is dispatched to the rest of the country. Slowly rising up in ‘status’ to become another Columbia in the drug-trade, Mexico is in dire straits, with its political situation greatly affected due to the narcotics business. Deaths have been estimated at 2600 over the past two years and figures reach to 1500 already this year. Mutilation by beheading and other similar methods is practiced and the safety-of both the common man and the coin-movers at the top, continues to be endangered.

Mexican police have made several huge drug hauls and high level captures in recent months, including finds of $206 million in cash hidden in the house of a chemical smuggler, 23.5 tonnes of cocaine hidden in a shipment of plastic floor covering, apart from extraditing Osiel Cardenas, the notorious leader of the powerful Gulf cartel, to the United States last year. Sadly, these have engendered further violent moves from the side of the powerful cartels, which have resorted to well-coordinated murders and kidnappings. The murder in Mexico City this month of Edgar Millan, a senior federal police chief in charge of drug investigations is just one such disturbing story.

America’s leading political satirist P.J. O’Rourke once said that,

“Drugs have taught an entire generation of American kids the metric system.”

This really seems to be the case, as the help for operation of these drug cartels comes from the other side of the Mexican border. Drug and power obsessed Americans are willingly trained in clandestine camps as hitmen and women. Rosalio Reta, an 18 year old American, one of the 15-recently captured cartel hit men and serving 40 years in a US jail for killing 30 people in narco-related clashes, was trained in one such camp.

Duncan Kennedy, on the trail of Mexico’s drugs gangs for the BBC, further comments that, “The cartels’ brazen activities extend to dangling full-size banners from road bridges urging people to join them. These audacious advertising posters even include a phone number for potential recruits to call.”

It is truly an appalling state of affairs when, even after the launch of Operation Gunrunner (a joint intelligence-gathering enterprise between The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Mexican government), it is still estimated that the cartels have more arms and ammunition than the Mexican police!

In such situations, when key players in the cartel, like Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, still evade law enforcement agencies, it turns out as a shot in the arm for the groups and fuels their sense of invincibility.

The president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, ever since assuming office in 2005, has been vigorously trying to curb the drug-trafficking and deaths by deploying some 25,000 troops to attack the drug lords and their groups. But more and more death reports nevertheless flow in.

With the Merida Initiative, supported by President George Bush, the US shall hopefully help in reversing the situation, with both its expected monetary aid package of $1.4 billion, and the provisional support of helicopters, planes, computer systems and police dogs. However the strings attached to the whole project is raising some eyebrows and hampering a progress in the war against drugs.

Legalizing drugs may well be the way out, and help monitor the movement of narcotics; and this way, substantially, shall reduce other nefarious activities and sound the death-knell to the drug mafia.

But all said and done, what the satirist P. J. O’Rourke observes, once again, on this issue, seems true,

“Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.”

Sandhya Ramachandaran

[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/boodoo/37996009/]