Imagine. You’re sitting on a bus, listening to music, staring sleepily out at the Mexican countryside. Suddenly, the bus screeches to a halt, and there follows a lot of shouting and some random gunshots. Seconds later, gun-wielding gangsters board the bus and demand the passengers get off.
The terrified travelers are divided into groups. The elderly are promptly executed, shot in the head in full view of the onlookers. Next, select women are pried from the arms of their children and one another and dragged kicking and screaming behind the bus. Everyone knows their fate. The old are gone, the women and children are dead or paralyzed with shock. Attention turns to the able-bodied males.
The men are herded into a group and surrounded by smirking, laughing cartel members. Each man is given a weapon: a rusty old knife, a machete, a framer’s hammer; the unlucky are handed a stick or rock. Now armed, the bewildered men are told to fight. Not the monsters from the cartel—one another.
Their hands tremble with fear. They hesitate to kill an innocent man, someone they were chatting with only minutes earlier. But the men quickly realize that the only way to survive is to kill. Soon these normal men—husbands and fathers, farmers, bricklayers and factory workers—become callous gladiators. Unskilled in the act of murder, their arms flail wildly. Chunks of human flesh fly, the dust turns deep red, and hemorrhaging bodies begin to collapse. Thirty minutes later, all that remains is a handful of blood-soaked, exhausted, hollow-eyed men. The victims are now victors.
The criminals, members of Mexico’s deadliest cartel, Los Zetas, whoop and holler and sing Mexican folk songs as they pile the corpses in the ditch beside the road. They’re elated. They’ve grown a little richer, satiated their lusts, and now they’ve stolen some new recruits. In the coming days, each male captive will be given a mission: infiltrate enemy cartel territory, assassinate rival cartel members, go to war with the Mexican Army, or get saddled with drugs and dispatched across the border into America. No matter the assignment, each will meet the same end: death.
Tierra de Horror
The above scenario is not fictional. It happened, and was recounted to U.S. authorities last year by a drug trafficker. As difficult as it might be to imagine, horrific acts like this are occurring regularly. Not in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Zimbabwe, but right across America’s southern border, in a nation adored by Americans for its cheap beer and enticing beach resorts. This is Mexico’s ugly side: extreme barbarity, kidnappings, rape, torture, deep-rooted corruption, and a total breakdown of civilization.
It’s the Mexico most Americans rarely see and seldom think about—even though America is causing it!
Over the past six years, more than 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico. In 2006, there were 2,119 cartel-related murders. In 2010, it was 15,273. The 2011 total is expected to add up to somewhere around 17,000. Between the cartel-versus-cartel bloodbaths and the cartels-versus-Mexican military battles, Stratfor says, “Some parts of Mexico can credibly be described as a war zone” (March 5).
The violence exists in every corner of Mexico and runs the gamut of sadistic. Murder victims who are shot once or twice and die quickly are considered lucky. Some of the favored forms of murder among the cartels include decapitation (after which the victims’ heads are often paraded in public spaces as a warning), disfigurement and dismemberment (including cutting open the victim’s chest and ripping out his heart), and burying the victim alive head-first.
Some cartels kill so many victims that they have a department devoted to corpse removal. For the Tijuana Cartel, dealing with dead bodies was the job of Santiago Meza López, until he was arrested in 2009. Known as “The Stewmaker,” López was famous for the thoroughness with which he performed his job. He’d fill a 55-gallon drum with water, dump in two sacks of caustic soda, bring it to a boil over an open fire and then dump in dead bodies one after another. Within eight hours the only remains left were teeth and bones. He disposed of hundreds of bodies this way.
Victims of these horror stories include local, state and federal government employees, law enforcement officers, uncooperative businessmen and informants and witnesses—not to mention drug dealers and cartel rivals. Beyond the intentional killings, thousands of innocent Mexicans in towns and cities across the nation have been caught in the crossfire, wounded and killed. The cartels are fearless and have no regard for authority. They start gun battles in broad daylight in downtown areas of cities, or in neighborhoods filled with elderly and children. Drug-related violence is so common, many schools have drills in which children are taught to dive to the floor in order to dodge flying bullets.
The violence is all the worse because of the cartels’ weapons: tons of high-powered ak-47s, ar-15s and .50 caliber rifles. Oftentimes even the lowliest gangster has access to assault rifles, high-tech telescopes, infrared goggles, grenades, grenade launchers and high-caliber ammunition. According to stats released by both the U.S. and Mexican governments, 80 to 90 percent of the weapons used by Mexico’s drug cartels come from the U.S. Providing cartels with weapons is a multimillion-dollar racket, and U.S. residents are purchasing state-of-the-art weapons and selling them to the cartels, which then smuggle them into Mexico.
Mexico a Failed State
This is a grave situation that is bringing destruction, suffering and death to Mexicans everywhere—and maybe the nation itself. By definition, a successful sovereign government must be able to maintain control over its territory, and preserve the general peace in states and towns and cities. In Mexico, enormous chunks of territory are basically controlled by drug cartels, while countless local and federal government departments have either been infiltrated by cartel members, or are on the payroll of one or more cartels. In some regions and cities, Mexican authorities flat-out lack the loyal manpower, judicial control or simply the courage to administer justice and uphold the rule of law.
Take Mexico’s justice system. It is so out of hand that even if a cartel member is actually arrested, brought before a judge not on the payroll of the cartel, sentenced by a judge who doesn’t fear reprisal, and put in jail, he still has no reason to stop. Why? Because as Pedro Arellani, an expert on Mexico’s prisons, explained, “The authorities no longer control the prisons—the drug lords do.”
Last February, inmates at a state prison in Apodaca rioted and broke free. It turns out the riot was initiated by members of the Los Zetas cartel. During the melee, Zetas inmates killed more than 40 members of a rival cartel before escaping. When authorities investigated the prison break, they found that the prison guards had been bought off by the drug cartel. In a 2009 prison break, security cameras caught 53 prisoners belonging to Los Zetas literally strolling from prison as the guards stood by and watched.
In July 2010, it was discovered that guards at a prison in Durango were allowing cartel members to leave jail temporarily so they could carry out hit jobs commissioned by their employers. After murdering their victim, inmates would return to the sanctuary of their cell. For cartel members, Mexico’s prisons are more like hotels than jails. Should they end up in jail, cartel members, especially high-ranking leaders, are allowed to wear designer clothing, given access to cell phones and the Internet, and enjoy perks such as fine food, alcohol, flat-screen televisions, and regular visits from wives, girlfriends and prostitutes.
Ted Galen Carpenter suggests that “Mexico’s notoriously corrupt prison system … is now totally out of control. Whichever drug cartel is ascendant in any given region appears to exercise far more power than the Mexican government in those institutions” (National Interest, March 5; emphasis added throughout). If you belong to a cartel, the threat of jail time isn’t even the slightest incentive to give up criminal activity.
Mexico’s prisons aren’t punishment, they are sanctuaries.
What do you call a nation in which drug cartels have infiltrated the justice system and run the prisons, the very institutions created to suppress criminal activity?
A failed state.
Coming to América
If you live in America, there’s a chance you’ve heard a little about Mexico’s drug wars. But what you probably haven’t heard much about is the fact that Mexico’s cartels—including Los Zetas, which hijacked the busload of innocent Mexicans—are deeply entrenched in the United States.
It’s not your fault if you don’t know. The U.S. government and mainstream media have been astonishingly silent about this issue. This is an angle to this story perhaps as significant as the cartel violence and infiltration itself.
In 2008, the U.S. Justice Department warned that “Mexican dtos [drug trafficking organizations] are the most pervasive organizational threat to the United States. They are active in every region of the country and dominate the illicit drug trade in every area ….”
That was four years ago.
Today, Mexican drug cartels have established a foothold in every U.S. state. They are active in more than one thousand American cities.
In a 2009 interview with a local cnn station in Atlanta, William Newell, the special agent in charge of the Phoenix branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (atf), explained the ultimate ambition of the cartels. This warning, from an official stationed on the front lines of the drug war, ought to have deeply alarmed the U.S. government and made prime-time national news. The goal of the cartels, Newell warned, “is to come to the United States and take over.”
Why aren’t Americans being told about this by the White House and the media?
The way these cartels take over “is very violent,” Newell said. “We’re seeing signs of people being tortured and brutally beaten all across the U.S.,not just along the southwest border.” In August 2008, five bodies were discovered in an apartment in an affluent neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama. The victims had been tortured before being murdered by cartel members. Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Gregory Borland worked the case and told reporters the violence was at a “level we’ve never seen before.”
“People make themselves feel better by saying, that’s not really a part of my world,” Borland said. “[O]ne of my jobs is to say, ‘No, it is a part of your world.’”
The number of cartel-related deaths inside America isn’t high—yet. But this isn’t a crisis of numbers—it’s about the presence of exceptionally violent drug cartels inside America and their goal to “take over.” They aren’t hanging people from bridges or decapitating Americans by the hundreds, but all of Mexico’s largest cartels—the Sinaloa Federation, Los Zetas, La Familia Michoacana, the Gulf Cartel, the Juarez Cartel, the Tijuana Cartel—are operating in America’s major cities, from Phoenix to New York City, Boise to Anchorage.
Large cities such as Dallas, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Miami, New York, El Paso, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio and San Diego are drug hubs. Cartels transport bulk loads of cocaine, marijuana and meth to warehouses in these cities where they re-process, re-package and dispatch the drugs to smaller markets. “The same folks who are rolling heads in the streets of Ciudad Juarez are operating in Atlanta,” warned Jack Killorin, the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In America, “they are just better behaved.”
In Cartel, Sylvia Longmire gives an eye-opening glimpse into this crisis: “[F]or [Americans] living in or near a decent-sized metropolitan area, chances are pretty high that their hometown is infested with drugs being managed by one of the Mexican cartels.” If you live in a decent-size American city, chances are you’re sharing roads and stores and restaurants with Los Zetas and the other cartels!
In many cities, the cartels have teamed up with local gangs and criminal organizations. The gangs provide the cartels with storage and transportation, and the cartels supply the gangs with a wholesale supply of drugs. These are deadly relationships. In an interview with Lou Dobbs, Stratfor intelligence expert Fred Burton warned, “Street violence in Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago, New York City or Washington, d.c., is directly attributable to the violence that’s taking place in Mexico. Meaning, the cartels are working with criminal gangs inside the United States,and they’re carrying out these violent murders and crimes on the streets of America.”
That’s quite a headline: “Mexican Drug Cartels Operating on America’s Streets.”
So why haven’t we seen it from the White House, or the New York Times or Fox News?
So far, cartel-related violence tends to be worse in regions and cities close to the southern border. Some areas of U.S. territory along the border are actually controlled by the cartels. In these areas, cartel gunmen are stationed on hills and ridges, monitoring the border with high-tech binoculars and shooting dead any illegals who dare to cross onto U.S. soil without cartel approval.
Is this America’s strategy for dealing with illegal immigration—subcontracting border control to the drug cartels?
This also raises the question of American sovereignty. Can a nation that cedes control of its border and territory to an outside power really be considered sovereign?
Right now, it’s in the best interest of cartels operating in the U.S. to lie low. With so much money at stake, they try to avoid local and federal authorities, resorting to violence only when absolutely necessary. But how long can we expect it to remain like this?
Think about the deadly concoction festering in hundreds of U.S. cities: growing unemployment, especially among the youth; gang violence and organized crime; racial tension; rising food prices; political animosity and ideological division. Now, add to that mix some of the most vicious organizations on the planet.
It’s another horrific crisis waiting to explode.
It’s likely to be okay as long as the cartels inside the U.S. are left to ply their trade. But what happens when they want to expand, or the gangs get testy, or another cartel pushes in on their territory—or state or federal authorities decide to crack down? In Mexico, the violence began to intensify in 2006, when President Felipe Calderón decided to confront the cartels. Over the past six years, Calderón has employed tens of thousands of soldiers to combat the cartels. But instead of solving the problem, Calderón’s commendable attempt at justice has resulted in more chaos, more murders, more kidnappings, and more mass graves.
Imagine the anarchy and violence if the U.S. government decided to take on the cartels.
Then again, imagine the inevitable violence if America continues to cede its southern border, inner cities and leafy neighborhoods to Mexico’s drug lords.
Americans Get High, Mexicans Die
Meet Billy. He’s an American college student who likes to get together with his buddies and smoke a little weed, or on occasion, snort a little cocaine. Billy doesn’t go “overboard.” He never sells drugs, or steals cars, or robs the elderly to support his hobby. In his mind—and the minds of many Americans—his drug use is simple, cheap fun, and mostly harmless.
Truth is, Billy is an ignorant, selfish fool whose actions are killing people. Neither Billy nor the millions of Americans like him give any thought to the poor Mexican farmers forced at gunpoint to grow marijuana or poppy crops. Or the barbaric cartels that supply him with this dope. Or the wreckage these cartels are causing in Mexico: collapsed businesses, abandoned towns and cities, countless mothers who fear letting their children play in the front yard. Or the tens of thousands who have been killed, kidnapped or wounded in drug-related violence. Or the brave U.S. border agents doing battle with drug cartels.
Obsessed with his own gratification, Billy the American doesn’t realize he’s the cause of so many of Mexico’s dire problems.
This crisis exists because there are tens of millions of Billys in the U.S. About 119 million Americans have used an illicit substance at least once. That’s 47 percent of Americans over the age of 13. In its 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services discovered that roughly 22 million Americans over the age of 12 were regular drug users, meaning they’d consumed an illicit drug in the previous month.
Nearly 9 percent of Americans use illicit drugs regularly.
The study found that 17 million people abuse marijuana, an increase of about 7 percent since 2007. The survey also found that drug use among teens and college-age students is increasing. About 22 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds use drugs, along with 10 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds. Whether it’s folks like Billy looking to get high only occasionally or hardcore Skid Row addicts craving their daily fix, America’s appetite for drugs like marijuana, cocaine and meth is almost beyond imagination.
For Mexico’s drug cartels, this is one colossal opportunity.
In 2006, the National Drug Intelligence Center estimated that the cartels take anywhere from $8 to $35 billion per year from American customers. With billions of dollars up for grabs, there’s nothing these cartels won’t do: take over prime agricultural regions; import massive armories of high-powered U.S. weapons; battle rival cartels; war against the Mexican army; bribe or murder thousands of Mexican government employees; destroy entire towns and cities; claim parts of an international border; even set up camp right inside every major American city. They’re prepared to wreck a sovereign nation of 112 million people.
All so Americans can get high
Ending the Drug War
It can be easy to look at Mexico’s drug trade and its corollary problems and be utterly overwhelmed and discouraged. Today, many experts generally agree with Sylvia Longmire, an expert on the subject, who believes Mexico’s drug war “cannot be won.” It “must be viewed as a conflict that can only be managed,” she writes.
Pragmatic. Understandable. Hopeless.
She and others are advocating a strategy that will only ever deal with the effects of the problem, and never address the cause. Granted, solving the cause of Mexico’s drug wars—quenching America’s appetite for illicit drugs—is a Mt. Everest-sized challenge. But it is the only permanent solution.
America has tried to cure itself of its addiction to illicit drugs for years. It has tossed billions of dollars at the problem. It has created all sorts of new agencies to discourage drug use. It has trained a small army of doctors, nurses and counselors to specialize in drug abuse. It has produced countless anti-drug ads and handed out millions of pamphlets in schools and universities.
Yet Americans still love their drugs.
Why? First, every attempt at stopping drug use is undermined by a culture that glamorizes drugs. The government can prattle on all it wants, but the message coming from the true authorities in American life—Hollywood stars, tv personalities, pop music icons—is that recreational drug use is hot and hip. Drug use is rampant in high schools and colleges because many parents and teachers and professors—themselves ex-hippies and recreational drug users—accept and embrace it as a rite of passage for the teenager and college student.
The government can throw trillions of dollars at the problem, but America’s desire for drugs will never be quenched as long as its culture considers drug use trendy and sophisticated!
Most importantly, America’s cultural acceptance of illicit drugs is a function of its overall rejection of absolute law and morality.
The laws and values that once formed the foundation of American justice and morality—laws rooted in the Bible and embraced by most Americans—are now considered irrelevant and passé. In modern America, there’s no absolute authority on morality, no broadly accepted body of laws to govern human conduct. No person or government or Higher Being is thought to have the authority to define right and wrong in human behavior. Modern America is an amoral, government-hating, lawless society.
When it comes to morality, to right and wrong, Americans believe that each individual has the inalienable right to form his own opinion. He can define right and wrong. Self-mastery, restraint, moral uprightness, integrity, lawfulness—values that would prevent drug use—have been pushed aside or destroyed. These fundamentally Christian virtues have been replaced with new-age “values” of permissiveness, tolerance and instant self-gratification.
For most Americans, recreational drug use simply isn’t morally or spiritually wrong.
America’s appetite for drugs is the result of a spiritual sickness. This sickness is detailed in the first chapter of Isaiah, among many other prophecies. God likens Israel (the prophetic term for America) to an ox or donkey. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord has spoken. Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand” (Isaiah 1:2-3; Revised Standard Version). Modern America is dumber than an ox, which at least knows that it must rely on its master for nourishment and protection.
There was a time America recognized the existence of God and embraced many of the principles and laws outlined in the Bible. As a result, many had purpose and a certain clarity in their lives. Most people didn’t need illicit drugs! They had a moral compass that directed them away from such activity.
That time is over. America has rejected God’s laws and the morality that once underpinned American culture, families and institutions. The result of this rejection of God and His law is obvious. “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. … The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds” (verses 4-6; rsv).
America’s exile from God has left it morally and spiritually sick!
Lacking guidance and nourishment from a Supreme Authority, modern America is aimlessly seeking happiness by groveling in its vices, including drug use. Because you’ve left me, God continues in Isaiah, “Your country lies desolate, your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence aliens devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by aliens” (verse 7). “Aliens” means strangers, foreigners.
God warned 2,500 years ago that foreigners—like Mexico’s drug cartels—would prey on America if it forsook Him!
As you watch the travesties prophesied in Isaiah 1 unfold, don’t forget why they are happening. The most important part of Isaiah 1 is verses 2 and 3, which explain why America is sick and suffering these horrible plagues. The reason this nation is morally, spiritually and even physically sick is that it is cut off from God!
To those willing to accept this reality, the cure is simple. God gives it in Joel 2: “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (verses 12-13).
That’s it! That is the solution to America’s drug addiction, and to Mexico’s drug wars. That is how we can stop Mexico’s collapse, how we can eradicate the cartels from American cities, how we can stop the torture, the rape, the beheading, the mass murder. That’s how we can ensure busloads of people are no longer terrorized by sadistic thugs.
If we would only turn to God, to His laws and truth, to His pure, wholesome, happy lifestyle—and away from fleeting drug-induced moments of euphoria—then the chaos and anarchy and violence would end. In Mexico, in the United States—and across the world!