Bullets from the Drug War
|31-Mar-2009||Posted by Sonia Hamilton under Spanish|
I was in Mexico and Guatemala 15 months ago, and I was travelling on and off the ‘tourist track’. On the track because I sometimes did things like stay in hostels, catch a train up the Copper Canyon (wow), etc. Off the track because I was doing volunteer work, speak Spanish, and I like fisgoneando.
What really surprised me was the depth of the drug war. Of course I was aware of it from previous visits to Central and South America, but it’s really entered other dimensions now. In Mexico the cartels are better armed and informed than the police, and regularly use heavy machine guns and RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades) when fighting the police. The army has been brought in several times because the various police forces (there are a lot of them in Mexico) aren’t just corrupt, they’re owned by the cartels. Unfortunately the cartels have so much money that they sometimes hire whole units of the Army, and some specialist/commando style units have even switched sides. For example los Zetas (the Zeds), a counter-terrorist unit trained by the Americans at the notorious School of the Americas, who later switched sides and have now formed their own cartel. Or even more feared – if that’s possible – Los Kaibiles, ex-special forces soldiers from Guatemala.
Further south in Colombia, the 50-year-long three sided civil war “keeps on continuing”. Ideological differences were long ago cast aside for the lucrative profits to be derived from narcotics, hence the term narcoguerilla used to describe the guerrillas on the left (the FARC-EP and the ELN) and the “self defence units” on the right (the AUC). To the east Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez continues meddling in Colombia’s affairs and sheltering the guerrillas, as does Ecuador to the south (resulting in Colombian forces supported by the US bombing FARC camps in Ecuador last year).
So, where is this all leading? Post peak-oil author Dmitry Orlov has blogged an interesting summary of where he thinks the “Drug War” will head. In a nutshell, as US policing efforts reduce due to budgetary cutbacks stemming from the melt-down of the US economy (for example California is releasing large numbers of prisoners due to their budgetary problems), the drug war will head north out of the Mexican border areas into the US proper. War as in the war seen nightly on the streets of Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, not the political war as in “the war on drugs”.
A Mexican saying:
¡Pobre Mexico! Tan lejos de Dios; y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos. (“Poor Mexico, so far from God, and so close to the United States”).