Turf Wars

RSS Feed for this category

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 16,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and almost 1,000 so far in 2010. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Saturday, January 30

In Ciudad Juárez, police discovered two severed heads near bodies which were wrapped in blankets. In total, 15 people were killed during a 24-hour period. In one incident, gunmen opened fire on a family in a truck, killing one man and one woman and wounding a 5-month old child. In another incident, a man was killed and a pregnant woman was wounded after being attacked by gunmen.

In Michoacán, six headless bodies were found, and a group of at least 12 gunmen ambushed a police convoy, killing five officers.

Sunday, January 31

In one of the most high-profile incidents in Mexico's drug war, at least 16 people, most of them teenagers, were killed when gunmen stormed a house party in Ciudad Juárez. While accounts of the incident vary, it appears that between 15 and 25 gunmen blocked off a street and entered the house, herded the youngsters into a back room and opened fire. Mexican authorities have taken one man into custody in connection with the incident. The suspect, Jose Dolores Arroyo Chavarria, has said that he acted as a lookout for the gunmen, who were apparently enforcers for the Juárez Cartel. They had apparently received information that rival drug traffickers were to be in attendance at the party, and were ordered to kill everyone there. Parents of the victims have denied that anyone attending the party was involved in criminal activity. Chavarria was taken into custody after troops apparently interrupted the planned assassination of a rival. Another suspected drug trafficker, who is said to have overseen the killings, was killed in a shootout with Mexican soldiers.

Monday, February 1

In the port city of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacán, a group of at least 20 armed men attacked several law enforcement facilities with gunfire and grenades. One police officer and two civilians were killed, and two police officers and six civilians were wounded. The gunmen were later chased through the streets of the city, and several exchanges of gunfire were reported. At least four police patrol cars were destroyed in the attacks.

In total, 45 people were killed in prohibition-related violence across the country. Sixteen were killed in Chihuahua, 11 in Coahuila, 5 in Sinaloa, 7 in Michoacán, two each in Sonora and Guerrero, one in Durango, and one in the state of Mexico.

Tuesday, February 2

Eight people were killed during a gun battle in the city of Torreon, Coahuila. Seven of the dead were suspected cartel gunmen and one was a federal police officer. The firefight occurred after federal police went to a shopping mall where a kidnapping attempt was reported. When they arrived they were met with gunfire. The officers then chased the suspects onto a highway, where the bulk of the shooting occurred. One suspect, three police officers, and two kidnapping victims were wounded in the incident. It appears the gunmen were members of the Zetas organization, which is thought to control drug trafficking in Coahuila.

In the state of Michoacán, members of the La Familia organization put up a dozen banners urging citizens to form a "resistance front" against the Zetas. The signs, which were put up in the capital of Morelia and in the town of Apatzingan, were quickly taken down by the authorities.

Wednesday, February 3

In La Paz, Baja California, two police officers were killed and another was wounded after gunmen opened fire on a house. In a 12-hour period, eight people were killed in Sinaloa, a corpse showing signs of torture was found in San Luis Potosi, and a decapitated body was found on a ranch near Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.

Body Count for the Week: 378

Body Count for the Year: 980

Body Count for 2009: 7,724

Body Count since Calderon took office (December, 2006): 17,185

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 16,000 people, with a death toll of over 7,000 so far in 2009. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Friday, January 22

At the Otay Mesa border crossing near San Diego Border Patrol officers seized 708 pounds of marijuana hidden under a truckload of white sea bass. A 34-year old Mexican national was taken into custody.

In Sinaloa, police discovered the body of a man who had been tortured and strangled. The letter "H" had been carved into his chest with a knife. It is unknown to what or whom this refers. Police believe this may be related to an incident which occurred last week, in which three dead bodies were arranged to form the letter "H". At least five other drug-related homicides occurred in other parts of Sinaloa, and one in Queretaro.

In Durango, a federal police official was shot dead and another was wounded after being ambushed by gunmen. Four people were killed in Ciudad Juarez, and one police officer was wounded after attempting to stop an assault.

Saturday, January 23

In Chihuahua, a gunfight ensued after a Cessna aircraft flown by drug traffickers was forced to land by a police helicopter. After being forced to land, several men who were in the Cessna opened fire on the helicopter, wounding the pilot, who managed to safely land the helicopter. The men who were on board the Cessna managed to escape. 200 kilograms of marijuana were found in the Cessna, and the pilot and passengers on board the police helicopter were later rescued by elements of the Mexican Army. The incident took place in a remote area of the state where there are no roads, and which is known for the cultivation of marijuana and poppy plants.

In other incidents, 12 people were killed in Chihuahua, seven of them in Ciudad Juarez. Eight people were killed in Baja California, and another eight were killed in Sinaloa. A minor was killed in Durango.

Monday, January 25

In the town of Doctor Arroyo, in Nuevo Leon, six people were killed in a gun battle between soldiers and suspected cartel gunmen. Two of the dead were soldiers, and the other four were gunmen. The firefight began when an army patrol came under fire. Three of the gunmen were killed inside a home and the fourth was killed in a vehicle. Additionally, in Veracruz, the body of a court official that had been missing was found dead. A note was left with the corpse, which is indicative of a drug-related murder.

Tuesday, January 26

In Tijuana, four men were killed in various incidents in different parts of the city. In the first incident, 41-year old Cipriano Medina was shot dead by gunmen wielding assault rifles. At least 33 spent shell-casings were found on the scene. In another incident, two men, aged 22 and 30, were gunned down with automatic weapons. At least 90 people have been murdered in Tijuana so far this year.

Total Body Count for the Week: 162

Total Body Count for the Year: 602

Total Body Count for 2009: 7,724

Total Body Count since Calderon took office (December, 2006): 16,807

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Europe: Copenhagen City Council Wants Cannabis Stores, But Proposal Faces Bumpy Ride in Parliament

The city council in the Danish capital city of Copenhagen voted overwhelmingly January 14 to ask the Justice Ministry for permission to implement a three-year trial program in which state-licensed marijuana outlets would sell small amounts of marijuana to city residents. But whether the proposal will go anywhere in Denmark's parliament dominated by Conservatives remains to be seen.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/christiania-entrance.jpg
entrance to Christiania, Copenhagen (courtesy Wikimedia)
The proposal was presented to the council by the Socialists. It won on a vote of 41-12.

For decades, pot (or, more likely, hash) smokers in Copenhagen were able to buy their supplies openly in the city's "hippie enclave" of Christiania. But crackdowns by conservative administrations have brought an end to the halcyon days of Pusher Street, and black market cannabis sales and attendant gang problems have now spread in the city.

"It is a huge majority in Copenhagen who votes for this. We feel that the marijuana policy we have had in place for 30 to 40 years is not working," Socialist council member Lars Rasmussen Aslan told the Danish web site Politiken.

"We have to accept that the present strategy is not working," said Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen in remarks reported by the Copenhagen Post. "It's time to think about alternative models. And when the goal is to decriminalize the hash market, it's worth trying our idea."

Jensen, a former justice minister, said his goal was to reduce tensions between rival drug-selling gangs and reduce youth exposure to gangs. Although such a move would not eliminate gang problems, Jensen said, it would help. "Fewer young people would come in contact with the gang environment, and maybe it would keep people from moving over into harder drugs."

But one Conservative politician said the council's actions would lead to nothing. "The whole thing's a waste of time, because a city council doesn't have any influence on drug laws in Denmark," said Rasmus Jarlov, a Conservative member of both the city council and the national parliament. "This issue will be decided in parliament, where there's a broad majority against it. So I don't think we ought to be using our time on issues where we have no say," he said.

The proposal now goes to Justice Minister Brian Mikkelson. No word yet on when any action on it might occur.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 16,000 people, with a death toll of over 7,000 so far in 2009. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Saturday, January 2

Near Mexico City, two bodies were found killed execution-style in San Pablo de las Salinas. One of the dead was wrapped in a blanket and had signs of torture. The other body was that of a woman in a plastic bag who had apparently been strangled to death. In 2009, the greater Mexico City area was the scene of some 300 drug-related homicides.

In the first 36 hours of 2010, eight people were killed in various incidents across Ciudad Juarez. Four of these deaths occurred just minutes after midnight on New Year's Eve when gunmen killed a family in the south of the city, including a four-year old girl. In another incident, a business owner was killed after being attacked by men wielding automatic weapons.

In other parts of Mexico, the bodies of two young men were found in a rural part of Guerrero, one in Ciudad Renacimiento, two in Sinaloa, including one with a message attached threatening thieves. In Durango, 11 people were killed, including one who was shot dead in the hospital after being wounded earlier in the day. In Tijuana, the year began with the killing of six people across the city. Two dismembered bodies were found in Michoacan, and one man was executed in Torreon, Coahuila.

Sunday, January 3

In Oaxaca, the brother of an indigenous radio broadcaster who was assassinated in 2008 was shot dead in the municipality of San Juan Copala. 15 other people were killed in violence in five Mexican states. Seven of the dead were found in Sinaloa. In Coahuila, the bodies of two federal agents who had been kidnapped and killed in Durango were found in the bed of a pickup truck.

In Ciudad Juarez, two brothers in a drug rehab facility were forcibly removed by gunmen and shot outside. One of them was killed instantly and the other seriously wounded. In another part of the city, two federal agents were involved in a firefight outside a hotel in which they were staying. One of them was killed and another wounded.

Additionally, one man was killed after being ambushed by gunmen in Tijuana and two people were found dead near Mexico City.

Monday, January 4

In the state of Sinaloa, four people were shot dead in several incidents. Among the dead was a man found with a note pinned to his back on the side of a highway.

In Tijuana, the decapitated body of a woman was found at the entrance to a cemetery. In another incident in the city, a police agent in charge of auto theft investigations was killed after being ambushed by gunmen in Mesa de Otay. A civilian traveling with him in the passenger seat was also killed. Although the motive is unclear, auto theft is often related to drug trafficking as stolen cars are used to move narcotics across the US border. Four other people were shot dead with automatic weapons in several other incidents in Tijuana.

In Parras, Chihuahua, the son of the mayor was shot dead. Four people were killed in Ciudad Juarez. Five people were killed in Sinaloa. In one incident, a man in Culiacan reportedly was shot 120 times. In Veracruz, two women were killed when a group of armed men stormed a bus. Two people were killed in Durango, and two decapitated bodies were found in Michoacan.

Soldiers arrested Carlos Beltran Leyva, the brother of cartel boss Arturo, who was killed by naval special forces in December. Carlos was arrested after being caught driving with a fake ID. Weapons and cocaine were found in the car as well.

Tuesday, January 5

In a 24-hour period, 29 people were killed in Chihuahua, including two state police officers. The two policemen were killed by a group of six gunmen as they left a body shop. In addition to the two police officers, 13 other people were killed in the city. Among the dead was a female activist who had brought attention to human rights abuses by the army and the police in Ciudad Juarez. 14 other people were killed in other parts of the state.

Total Body Count for 2009: 7,724

Total Body Count so far for 2010: 137

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

A Magical Day in Mexico

This is what passes for good news in the Mexican drug war:

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) -- ''Not one person murdered yesterday,'' Ciudad Juarez's leading newspaper proclaimed in a banner headline. It was big news in this border city, ground zero in the drug war -- the first time in 10 months that a day had passed without a killing.

The next day, 9 people were shot. Does anyone still believe that the drug war reduces violence? If so, I've got a condo in Ciudad Juarez I'd love to sell you.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 5,000 so far in 2009. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/mexicandrugpatrol.jpg
anti-drug patrol by Mexican soldiers
Friday, November 27

Twenty-three people were killed in drug-related violence in the state of Chihuahua. Eight of these killings occurred in the capital city of Chihuahua, and 12 occurred in Ciudad Juárez. In Chihuahua, four men and a teenager were killed when the vehicle in which they were traveling was ambushed by a group of gunmen. In another part of the city, an eight-year old boy was killed after being hit by a stray bullet. Among the dead in Ciudad Juárez was a woman who was badly burned after an explosive device went off in the brothel in which she was thought to work.

Saturday, November 28

An army officer and six gunmen were killed in two separate gun battles in Zacatecas and Michoacan. In Zacatecas, the army repelled an attack by gunmen, killing five and capturing eight. They also seized five vehicles, weapons, clothing and food. In Michoacan, an army officer was killed after a military convoy was ambushed by gunmen in a hillside community. Two other people were killed in drug-related violence in Michoacan, six in Ciudad Juárez, and one in the greater Mexico City area.

Sunday, November 29

At the Calexico, CA border crossing, authorities seized more than 6,000 pounds of marijuana hidden in a shipment of door knobs. Dogs alerted officers to the truck in which more than 458 wrapped packages of marijuana were found. A 30-year old Mexican national was taken into custody.

In Tijuana, three men were shot and killed by suspected cartel gunmen wielding AK-47s. The killings came just hours after a firefight between soldiers and drug traffickers at a gas station left one soldier wounded in the foot. In another part of Baja California, six men were arrested on suspicion of being tied to a known drug trafficker, Raydel Lopez Uriarte, aka "El Muletas" ("crutches").

Seven people were killed in Chihuahua, six of whom were killed in Ciudad Juárez. One of the murders occurred just feet from soldiers that were guarding the city's main plaza, where national security officials were meeting to analyze drug-related violence. In Chiapas, an anti-mining organizer was killed by a gunman on a motorcycle. Mariano Abarca was head of the Mexican Network of Communities Affected by Mining.

In Reynosa, police rescued a US citizen who had been kidnapped a week earlier in McAllen, Texas. Raul Alvarado, 36, was forced into a vehicle at gunpoint and taken to a safehouse in Reynosa, where he was bound and beaten. His abductors demanded a ransom of $30,000 and two luxury cars. It is unclear if any ransom was paid. There has been an increase in kidnappings on the US side of the border, most of them linked to illegal activity.

Tuesday, December 1

In Mexico City, a protected state witness was gunned down in a Starbucks. Edgar Enrique Bayardo, a former federal policeman, was killed by two gunmen wearing dark suits. His bodyguard was seriously injured in the attack, and a customer at a nearby table was also wounded. Bayardo was arrested last year on suspicion of being employed by the Sinaloa Cartel. Bayardo, whose lavish lifestyle raised suspicion, was made a state witness under the protection of the attorney general's office. He had apparently been followed by gunmen for several days, and it is unclear why he was not better protected or out in public.

Wednesday, December 2

In the Ciudad Juárez area, nine suspected assassins were arrested in an operation carried out by the army. The men are all suspected of working for El Chapo Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel and its enforcement arm, La Linea.

Total Body Count for the Week: 144
Total Body Count for the Year: 6,882

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update--December 2

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr. Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 5,000 so far in 2009. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war: Friday, November 27 Twenty-three people were killed in drug-related violence in the state of Chihuahua. Eight of these killings occurred in the capital city of Chihuahua, and 12 occurred in Ciudad Juarez. In Chihuahua, four men and a teenager were killed when the vehicle in which they were traveling was ambushed by a group of gunmen. In another part of the city, an eight-year old boy was killed after being hit by a stray bullet. Among the dead in Ciudad Juarez was a woman who was badly burned after an explosive device went off in the brothel in which she was thought to work. Saturday, November 28 An army officer and six gunmen were killed in two separate gun battles in Zacatecas and Michoacan. In Zacatecas, the army repelled an attack by gunmen, killing five and capturing eight. They also seized five vehicles, weapons, clothing and food. In Michoacan, an army officer was killed after a military convoy was ambushed by gunmen in a hillside community. Two other people were killed in drug-related violence in Michoacan, six in Ciudad Juarez, and one in the greater Mexico City area. Sunday, November 29 At the Calexico, CA border crossing, authorities seized more than 6,000 pounds of marijuana hidden in a shipment of door knobs. Dogs alerted officers to the truck in which more than 458 wrapped packages of marijuana were found. A 30-year old Mexican national was taken into custody. In Tijuana, three men were shot and killed by suspected cartel gunmen wielding AK-47s. The killings came just hours after a firefight between soldiers and drug traffickers at a gas station left one soldier wounded in the foot. In another part of Baja California, six men were arrested on suspicion of being tied to a known drug trafficker, Raydel Lopez Uriarte, aka “El Muletas” (“crutches”). Seven people were killed in Chihuahua , six of whom were killed in Ciudad Juarez. One of the murders occurred just feet from soldiers that were guarding the city’s main plaza, where national security officials were meeting to analyze drug-related violence. In Chiapas, an anti-mining organizer was killed by a gunman on a motorcycle. Mariano Abarca was head of the Mexican Network of Communities Affected by Mining. In Reynosa, police rescued a US citizen that had been kidnapped a week earlier in McAllen, Texas. Raul Alvarado, 36, was forced into a vehicle at gunpoint and taken to a safehouse in Reynosa, where he was bound and beaten. His abductors demanded a ransom of $30,000 and two luxury cars. It is unclear is any ransom was paid. There has been an increase in kidnappings on the US side of the border, most of them linked to illegal activity. Tuesday, December 1 In Mexico City, a protected state witness was gunned down in a Starbucks. Edgar Enrique Bayardo, a former federal policeman, was killed by two gunmen wearing dark suits. His bodyguard was seriously injured in the attack, and a customer at a nearby table was also wounded. Bayardo was arrested last year on suspicion of being employed by the Sinaloa Cartel. Bayardo, whose lavish lifestyle raised suspicion, was made a state witness under the protection of the attorney general’s office. He had apparently been followed by gunmen for several days, and it is unclear why he was not better protected or out in public. Wednesday, December 2 In the Ciudad Juarez area, nine suspected assassins were arrested in an operation carried out by the army. The men are all suspected of working for El Chapo Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel and it’s enforcement arm, La Linea. Total Body Count for the Week: 144 Total Body Count for the Year: 6,882

The Difference Between Drug War Violence and "Drug-Related" Violence

This article in the New Hampshire Union Leader gets it right:


Testimony: Drug war behind street shooting

MANCHESTER – Lennoxx Tibbs was shot to death as a result of a drug sellers' turf war, according to police testimony yesterday at probable cause hearings in Manchester District Court for the man accused of shooting Tibbs and the man accused of accompanying him…

Meanwhile, the Herald & Record in Illinois gets it wrong:

Three charged in drug-related shooting

DECATUR - Three Decatur men allegedly involved in a drug deal Thursday that ended in a shooting have been charged in Macon County Circuit Court with five Class X felonies and an assortment of drug charges...

There's been a longstanding and misleading tendency in the press to invoke the term "drug-related" to describe unfortunate events that didn’t even involve drug use, and that's why the Union Leader headline above is such a rare and refreshing example of responsible reporting on drug trade violence.

When you hear the term "alcohol-related," you can be damn sure we're talking about someone doing something reckless & dangerous after getting wasted on booze. Thus, we must also insist that the term "drug-related" be used exclusively to describe incidents arising from the effects of drug consumption, and never the ubiquitous harmful results of drug prohibition itself.

Just imagine if the media properly attributed every episode of horrific drug war violence to prohibition rather than just drugs. That critical distinction is truly the fulcrum from which an individual's view of our drug policy swings in one direction or the other. The instant one learns to identify and distinguish between the harms of drugs and the harms of the laws against them, it becomes vastly more challenging to justify and uphold our present policies.  

So please, the next time you see the term "drug-related" used to described harmful outcomes caused by prohibition, send the reporter a note suggesting that a term like "drug war violence" be used instead. It's just a fact that the drug war kills infinitely more people than all illegal drugs combined, and we should demand media reporting that places the blame squarely where it belongs.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juarez," by Howard Campbell (2009, University of Texas Press, 310 pp., $24.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer Editor

Howard Campbell's "Drug War Zone" couldn't be more timely. Ciudad Juárez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, is awash in blood as the competing Juárez and Sinaloa cartels wage a deadly war over who will control the city's lucrative drug trafficking franchise. More than 2,000 people have been killed in Juárez this year in the drug wars, making the early days of Juárez Cartel dominance, when the annual narco-death toll was around 200 a year, seem downright bucolic by comparison.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/drugwarzone.jpg
The violence in Mexico, of which Juárez is the current epicenter, has been setting off alarm bells in Washington, and the US has responded with thousands more law enforcement agents on the border and more than a billion dollars in aid to the Mexican government. In other words, what we've been doing hasn't worked, so let's do even more of it, even more intensely.

We've all seen the horrific headlines; we've all seen the grim and garish displays of exemplary violence; we've read the statistics about the immense size of the illegal drug business in Mexico and the insatiable appetites of drug consumers in El Norte ("the north," e.g. the US). What we haven't had -- up until now -- is a portrayal of the El Paso-Juárez drug trade and drug culture that gets beneath the headlines, the politicians' platitudes, and law enforcement's self-justifying pronouncements. With "Drug War Zone," Campbell provides just that.

He's the right guy in the right place at the right time. A professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Texas-El Paso who has two decades in the area, Campbell is able to do his fieldwork when he walks out his front door and has been able to develop relationships with all sorts of people involved in the drug trade and its repression, from low-level street dealers in Juárez to middle class dabblers in dealing in El Paso, from El Paso barrio boys to Mexican smugglers, from journalists to Juárez cops, from relatives of cartel victims to highly-placed US drug fight bureaucrats.

Using an extended interview format, Campbell lets his informants paint a detailed picture of the social realities of the El Paso-Juárez "drug war zone." The overall portrait that emerges is of a desert metropolis (about a half million people on the US side, a million and a half across the river), distant both geographically and culturally from either Washington or Mexico City, with a long tradition of smuggling and a dense binational social network where families and relationships span two nations. This intricately imbricated web of social relations and historical factors -- the rise of a US drug culture, NAFTA and globalization -- have given rise to a border narco-culture deeply embedded in the social fabric of both cities.

(One thing that strikes me as I ponder Campbell's work, with its description of binational barrio gangs working for the Juárez Cartel, and narcos working both sides of the border, is how surprising it is that the violence plaguing Mexico has not crossed the border in any measurable degree. It's almost as if the warring factions have an unwritten agreement that the killings stay south of the Rio Grande. I'd wager they don't want to incite even more attention from the gringos.)

Campbell compares the so-called cartels to terrorists like Al Qaeda. With their terroristic violence, their use of both high tech (YouTube postings) and low tech (bodies hanging from bridges, warning banners adorning buildings) communications strategies, their existence as non-state actors acting both in conflict and complicity with various state elements, the comparison holds some water. Ultimately, going to battle against the tens of thousands of people employed by the cartels in the name of an abstraction called "the war on drugs" is likely to be as fruitless and self-defeating as going to battle against Pashtun tribesmen in the name of an abstraction called "the war on terror."

But that doesn't mean US drug war efforts are going to stop, or that the true believers in law enforcement are going to stop believing -- at least most of them. One of the virtues of "Drug War Zone" is that it studies not only the border narco-culture, but also the border policing culture. Again, Campbell lets his informants speak for him, and those interviews are fascinating and informative.

Having seen its result close-up and firsthand, Campbell has been a critic of drug prohibition. He still is, although he doesn't devote a lot of space to it in the book. Perhaps, like (and through) his informants, he lets prohibition speak for itself. The last interview in the book may echo Campbell's sentiments. It's with former Customs and Border Patrol agent Terry Nelson. In the view of his former colleagues, Nelson has gone over to the dark side. He's a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

If you're interested in the border or drug culture or the drug economy or drug prohibition, you need to read "Drug War Zone." This is a major contribution to the literature.

The Weekly Standard Cheers on Mexican Drug War Bloodshed

Jaime Daremblum at The Weekly Standard uses math to prove that Mexico's drug war is getting results:

But despite the continuing violence--in a particularly vicious attack on September 2, 18 people were killed execution style at a Juárez drug-rehabilitation center--Calderón's efforts have not been in vain. A new report from the U.S. State Department observes that "more than 43,000 individuals connected with the major cartels were arrested between December 2006 and February 2009," including senior members of the cartels. Mexican authorities confiscated 4,220 weapons in 2006 and 9,500 a year later; all told, they have seized "more than 27,000 since the beginning of 2008." Since January 2007, they have also confiscated some 65 metric tons of cocaine, nearly 1,250 kilos of methamphetamine, and roughly 4.2 million kilos of marijuana. These achievements are not insignificant.

He's right. These achievements are significant indeed. They got 7,500 people killed last year.

Don't you understand that the exact activities you're rooting for are the reason people are dying? What is so complicated about this? It's a simple formula: more drug war = more death. It's perfectly incoherent to root for arrests and drug seizures, while simultaneously expressing hope that the violence will subside. It doesn't work that way. Anyone struggling with this concept should just pull up a chair and watch what happens next.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School

StopTheDrugWar Video Archive