2008 was different in another way. People weren't just murdered: they were brutalized. Tortured. Maimed. Dismembered. One at a time. 1,623 times in all.
Not only were young and middle-aged men dying--the presumed profile of the cartel workforce--so were women, pregnant mothers, the elderly and young children.
This spike in violence was linked to two wars that had just been announced. The first was President Felipe Calderon's war against the cartels. The second was Chapo Guzman's war against the Juarez cartel for control of the valuable transit route leading from Juarez into the U.S. drug market, valued between $63 and $81 billion. These two narratives made it easy to dismiss the awful bloodshed as nothing more than settled scores amongst cartels.
Thinking about what city council could do to help. I asked whether we should more aggressively address the issues related to demand and prohibition. I listened to the answers, and then offered an amendment, to encourage "an honest, open, national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics."
It was an artless, and even inaccurate amendment to a larger resolution (I only learned later that marijuana is not a narcotic, even though it was precisely that drug that I felt people would be most open to debating), but it got the point across.
The resolution passed unanimously. Later in the day, Mayor John Cook surprised us by vetoing the resolution, he cited a concern that we'd be "laughed out of Austin and D.C." when we went begging for our allotment of state and federal funds.
The El Paso region's role in the drug trade is mostly limited to warehouse and distribution to other larger, more profitable American markets. This is similar to El Paso's role in the maquilla sector, where goods are manufactured in Juarez then shipped to El Paso for distribution to U.S. markets. The relatively low value of the retail drug trade in El Paso might be one reason that the murder rate here is so low compared to other, more lucrative destination markets. The average murder rate for [U.S. destination] cities was 16 murders per 100,000 in 2010; in El Paso it was 0.8 per 100,000.
The United States government is much more bullish about the revenues made Mexican drug cartels, estimating that Mexican cartels bring home between $15 billion to $30 billion annually from illicit drug sales. At one point, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy estimated that more than 60 percent of the cartels' revenue--$8.6 billion out of $13.8 billion in 2006--came from U.S. marijuana sales. They retracted those estimates in 2010, but continue to assert that marijuana is the top revenue generator for Mexican drug cartels.
Our federal drug-war budget has ballooned from Nixon's $371 million request to $15.6 billion dollars within 40 years. State and local governments spend an additional $33.1 billion annually towards drug enforcement.
The reality is just the opposite. The U.S. really ratcheted up the war against cocaine in the 1980s. These efforts were largely successful in shutting down the Florida peninsula as a trade route for cocaine into the United States.
According to the logic behind law enforcement supply-side strategies, cocaine should now be incredibly expensive. there have been increases in the price of cocaine from 2007 to 2011 that law enforcement in the U.S. and Mexico point to as a sign of their winning the battle against Mexican cartels, but the prices are nowhere close to the all-time high in the early 80s. Not only is cocaine much less expensive since its heyday in the 1980s, it is also purer. ˙˙
These arrestees are now permanently scarred and marked in the systems of justice, employment, and social standing. Their chance of becoming productive members of society is now diminished. And the alternatives of crime and illicit activity become more obvious.
As governments at all levels desperately search for services to cut and revenues to raise, a rational policy of regulation and taxation of marijuana sales could provide much needed help. Think of the number of local police officers, federal agents, judges, court personnel, prison guards and parole officers involved in attempting to uphold this prohibition against marijuana. Regulating and controlling the market would reduce the police power of the government for what is widely recognized as a trifling crime, allow it to focus resources on greater need, and generate additional tax revenue.
If you buy dope in a coffee shop in Amsterdam,˙where marijuana is decriminalized, you can only add a coffee or a hot chocolate to your order. In the U.S., your choices often include an array of toxic recreational drugs. It is no wonder that in the Netherlands the lifetime prevalence of cocaine use is 2 percent while in the U.S. it is 16 percent. The Dutch have effectively closed the gateway from marijuana to other drugs.
Regulate marijuana and you remove other more pernicious options from the 42 percent of Americans who try marijuana in their lifetime.
Like its legal counterpart, the Juarez corridor is a prized staging area for the North American black market.
From slaves bound for the underground U.S. sex trade to migrant farmworkers and maids headed for U.S. fields and subdivisions, Juarez is a logical point of entry for all manner of illicit commerce.
At first drive through, El Paso can feel like a richer, if more staid, suburb of Juarez, and Juarez can feel like a more exciting, if poorer suburb, of El Paso.
But the cities have each other. El Paso is over 500 miles from the Texas state capital and light-years from Washington D.C.; Juarez is the same distance, for all practical purposes, from Mexico's centers of power and population. So far away from the interest and focus of the state or feds, isolated from other major cities by hundreds of miles of barren desert plateau, the conjoined communities have long relied on each other in the development of their commerce, families and culture.
The above quotations are from Dealing Death and Drugs|
The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan
by Beto O'Rourke.
Click here for other excerpts from Dealing Death and Drugs
The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan
by Beto O'Rourke.
Click here for other excerpts by Beto O`Rourke.
Click here for a profile of Beto O`Rourke.
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