Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

We own cartel violence as much as Mexico

Post by Brian O'Neill on April 9, 2011 at 11:02 am with 16 Comments »
May 9, 2011 9:21 am

As the body count in Mexico’s cartel war surpasses 34,000, those of us in the U.S. watch with horror and fascination. Then we change the channel, turn the page or scroll to the next story. Our country seems to have the overriding sense that this convulsively violent crime wave is Mexico’s dirty problem.

But the truth about the cartel wildfire is that the U.S. is both the kindling, the logs and the match.

The origin of this problem is our insatiable thirst for narcotics such as meth, heroin, marijuana and cocaine, which our addicts order up in more varieties than Starbucks has lattes. To the great misfortune of Mexicans, whose average income is 1/3 that of our own (according to the CIA website), some of their most ruthless citizens have seized on Mexico’s proximity to the U.S., as well as its prime positioning on the corridor between the U.S. and South American drug fields, in order to conduct an extremely profitable business.

For this (illegal) business model to thrive, one needs guns. A lot of guns. Because of stringent anti-gun laws, Mexicans have often crossed the border for firearms. The ubiquitous presence of guns for sale, in stores, gun swaps or online from private individuals, has fueled a weapons trafficking business in the reverse direction of narcotics.  In many cases, Americans have been the conduit for an endless flow of gun purchases. Only a small percentage are seized at the border. Not surprisingly, weapons recovered from cartel killings are commonly traced to the U.S.

Those weapons have also been turned on Americans. The recent homicide of a Homeland Security agent in Mexico was carried out with a weapon reported to be purchased in the U.S. In addition, cartel hit men have shown up in American cities and rural areas, and in some cases their targets have been U.S. law enforcement.Cartel guns, regardless of their point of purchase, never seem to rest. Recent reports of mass killings and mass graves seem to have more in common with the recent history of Rwanda and Serbia than is the case with “normal” drug-related violence. The reports that show up on my desk, often with extremely graphic and disturbing photos, are nothing short of evil.

Finally there is the corruption, a seemingly inbred fact of life for Mexico’s police and, to a lesser extent, its military.  Money is the typical catalyst, but images of dead cops who failed to go with the program must also weigh heavily on the minds of police officers and soldiers alike. Since the cartel has also infiltrated their ranks, honest cops must balance the lives of their families against their oath to protect the public. That’s a rotten choice, and one that rarely exists north of the border.

In the shadow of blatant corruption are heroic government officials, military commanders, and police officers that have not only remained on the job in the face of threats, but have continued to mount a public effort against the cartels. A growing percentage of these Mexican leaders have been gunned down for their efforts, but many continue to face the cartels head on.

Finally, we face the fact corruption is not simply a Mexican failing. A recent NBC report by Mark Potter provided information on a growing number of U.S. law enforcement officials, mostly Border Patrol officers, who have been arrested for taking cartel bribes. While this fact certainly sheds light on the dismal number of weapons and narcotics seized at the U.S.-Mexican border, it also should highlight the need to address the cartels–both its business product and its attendant violence–as a mutual crisis.

Before we collectively dismiss cartel violence as Mexico’s problem and turn the page, we must recognize and eliminate our “holier than thou” attitude.  This sentiment does nothing in the way of a solution, does not address our underlying complicity, and serves only to give Americans permission to dismiss the cartel violence as the problems of a corrupt country.

It’s our problem too.

Leave a comment Comments → 16
  1. ratujack says:

    Simple…..legalize drugs but tax and control as we do liquor. Crime will dis-appear. No more cartels. SIMPLE. It is here anyway. Take out the crime part.

  2. I agree completely with both Mr O’Neill’s blog post & ratujack’s response. Taken together they outline the problem 100%

    I also don’t see the problem going away unless we get full legalization.

  3. dankuykendall says:

    I think the answer is right above me. Put them out of business by competition, and raise revenue at the same time.

  4. Here is vote #4 for legalization.
    If stupid people want to kill themselves with drugs, let them.
    Law enforcement and treatment programs are shell games to create welfare acts for lawyers, judges, jail builders and social workers.
    I do not nor have I ever used illegal drugs and I am tired of paying increasing taxes to wage an unwinable war against drug users.
    Let a free and legal market prevail.
    End of crime story.

  5. There is no demand for Mexican weed up here. We don’t need it or want it. We have our own that is far better.

  6. gogoDawgs says:

    It is amazing that a new blogger and local police officer can be so utterly incorrect in his assertion that American firearms are entering Mexico. Is the author ignorant of ‘project gunrunner’ by the ATF and the Obama administrations allowing of firearms to ‘walk’ into Mexico?

    ” In many cases, Americans have been the conduit for an endless flow of gun purchases.”

    This quote shows blatant ignorance on the subject and the author knows it, I suggest some more research, a retraction of the serial misinformation surrounding guns entering Mexico and some serious soul searching on why you are writing this blog.

    You can start here:

  7. Guns traced back to US stores? I guess the writer hasn’t heard of project gunwalker, has he? Remember good old Hillary Clinton spouting that nonsense 90% of firearms used by the cartels are traced directly back to US sales? In addition to the fact that her statistic was complete bullcrap, come to find out the BATFE has been ALLOWING sales at gun stores to PAD the numbers higher because they KNEW that statistic was bullcrap. In addition, they allowed thousands of firearms to cross into mexico in the hopes to have them show up in trace data to help bolster their anti-gun agenda. Unfortunately for the BATFE, at least one AK-47 that was allowed to be sold was used in the death of a US border agent a few months ago. Mission accomplished? And just how many innocent Mexican citizens have become victims of the BATFE’s political game?

    The vast majority of illegal arms in Mexico come from CENTRAL America, not the US. But let’s not let FACTS get in the way of a good story, right?

    If you want to know more, simply google “project gunwalker”, “project gunrunner” or “project fast and furious” to get all of the gory details. It’s a travesty and injustice that goes all the way to at least the Department of Justice, the State Department, and the US Attorney General. Shame on the blog writer for advancing such a stupid lie to the american public.

  8. Brian O'Neill says:

    Gandalf and gogoDawg- Thanks for your well thought out replies, but I’m afraid I don’t buy your version.

    I work with ATF agents and am somewhat aware of the investigation to which your “Project Gunwalker” alludes. I agree that it was probably a stupid idea to use the “Buy-Walk” method normally used to investigate narcotics (this refers to the process of allowing the dealer to walk away with cash in order to trace the problem to the source). Allowing alleged killers to walk away with the means to do major violence doesn’t sound good no matter how you frame it.

    But simply put, the guns that crossed the border during this investigation were a drop in the bucket. There are tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of firearms that have and will likely continue to cross our southern border into Mexico. The gun-runners are too good at it, and clearly some Border Patrol officers are complicit in this criminal act.

    If you’re looking to refute the reality of the narco-gun stream then you need to find a much bigger smoking gun.

  9. Brian O'Neill says:

    I’m sorry, but the cop side of me can’t help but think “Felony” when I see a syringe with dope in it. Let’s agree that legalizing drugs could become a reality while we’re alive, but it’s going to take a lot to get there. And to be honest, I think it is very naive to consider such a societal change to be anything but a simple solution to the problem of cartels, gangs and drug violence. It will be anything but.

    Still, the status quo is looking pretty rough.

  10. gowenray says:

    Couldn’t agree more Brian. Those thrill seeking social misfits of our society who commit the crimes or minipulate the unwary for the cash, (wouldn’t plastic purchase be a nice evidence trail for tracking the drug dependent?). to purchase illegal drugs are both the kindling and the match.
    What an absolutely silly argument tthat gun supplies are not a US problem, but rather a further south american problem. I suppose those folks would argue that abuse of American produced prescription drugs only happen in somebody else’s neighborhood and aren’t their problem either?
    The point being? We can’t seem to get a handle on control and regulation of the legally produced drugs. So how in hell do they expect legalization of illegal drugs would solve the problem? Oh, and by the way, we’ve got the same problem on control and regulation of legally manufactured firearms in this country.

  11. Whatever1214 says:

    What’s with this “we” and “our” crap? There is no such thing as collectivist guilt unless you are still a sophomore taking your first journalism class.

    I spent 10 years in law enforcement and can assure you I am not responsible for some dirt bag that decides to hold up a convenience store anymore than you are.

    People make choices.

  12. Sorry, but by some of the BATFE’s own agents who are whistleblowing this whole gunwalker scandal allege the reasoning for the sales (padding stats). I didn’t make it up. Knowing this administrations rabid anti-gun stance, pardon me if I will be suspicious of any agenda they might have. Not to mention the BATFE’s own track record for being, shall we say, a bit on the wrong side of the law on occasion? Isn’t the motto of the ATF “always think forfeiture”?

  13. There is an old saying that goes: if we will not learn from history, we will be bound to repeat it.

    Have you ever heard of the XVIII ammendment? What did the 18 ammendment do (beside ban liquer sales)? It allowed a lot of petty crooks to become extremely wealth. It caused a lot of people to die because of gang wars…do I need to go on. Fortunately, the US came out of it’s self righteous funk and repealed this worse than useless ammendment….didn’t cause an increase in crime did repealing it.

    Well, we are repeating the same thing all over again with the equally stuped “war on drugs”. When there is a market, legal or illegal, someone will supply the market. If it is illegal, the costs go up, but if the market still exists it will be supplied.

    The same goes for the Mexican firearms problem. People that do not honor the law do not care what the law is…If they obtain their firearms from the ATF or Ortega, doesn’t matter, they will obtain them, legally or illegally.

    If you do not think the ATF is involved you haven’t been following what is going on in Congress have you. Senior ATF officials do not buck the system that supplies their funds for no reason.

  14. blakeshouse says:

    yet those socialist/ neo marxists with the power refuse to close the border down tight. Idiots are idiots on either side when it comes to govt ineptitude

  15. harleyrider1 says:

    I would like to know “why” all the third-world countries blame America for everything. But then I can’t understand why some Americans do either.

    There might be Americans involved in crime outside the U.S.A., but really – does that make it the fault of every man, woman, and child, i.e. America?

    If this country is so bad, why would you choose to live here? Why would you not live in a country where you believe your country is not killing innocent people?

    Phony and an Idiot.

  16. Brian O'Neill says:

    Harleyrider1–I’m afraid I’m not sure if you’re replying to my column or to one of the comments. The only thing that’s clear is that you think that anyone who finds fault with America is an idiot and should leave. American citizens have a right to freedom of expression–one of the great freedoms of this great country–and some of us choose to address the failings in our system to make our country even better.

    If you don’t think our country has room for improvement, then I have to wonder–have you seen Congress?

    Enough said.

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