If you had been in Culiacan, Mexico late last week, you would have found yourself in a war zone as Mexican police fought back against the Sinaloa cartel.
The fighting erupted after Mexican police arrested the son of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who was the de facto head of one of the cartel’s subgroups. The Cartel de Sinaloa (CDS) raised absolute hell in Culiacan, and the resulting violence led to the deaths of nearly 30 people – cartel and police officer alike.
The chaos was a bloody reminder of the cartels’ power in Mexico. They can and will wage absolute war to protect their own and their business interests. But, as the Associated Press points out in a piece out today, this wasn’t some operation done to clean up Mexico.
It was a display of muscle — helicopter gunships, hundreds of troops and armored vehicles — at the initiation of a possible extradition process rather than a significant step in a homegrown Mexican effort to dismantle one of the country’s most powerful criminal organizations. Perhaps coincidentally, it came just days before U.S President Joe Biden makes the first visit by a U.S. leader in almost a decade.
López Obrador has made clear throughout the first four years of his six-year term that pursuing drug capos is not his priority. When military forces cornered the younger Guzmán in Culiacan in 2019, the president ordered him freed to avoid loss of life after gunmen started shooting up the city.
The only other big capture under his administration was the grabbing of a geriatric Rafael Caro Quintero last July — just days after López Obrador met with Biden in the White House. At that point, Caro Quintero carried more symbolic significance for ordering a DEA agent’s murder decades ago than real weight in today’s drug world.
This is a pretty significant acknowledgment that should be terrifying, especially for folks living on or close to the border – the Mexican government has no real interest in taking on the cartels. They just want to do the bare minimum to make the U.S. happy and little else. There are all sorts of reasons for this – ranging from fear to corruption within the Mexican government, but the bottom line is that the Mexican government has very little authority where the cartels are concerned.
One of the sources for the AP story pretty much nails it from the start.
“Mexico wants to do at least the bare minimum in terms of counter-drug efforts,” said Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former chief of international operations who spent 13 years of his career in Mexico. “I don’t think that this is a sign that there’s going to be closer cooperation, bilateral collaboration, if you will, between the United States and Mexico.”
While capturing a criminal is a win for justice and rule of law, Vigil said, the impact on what he sees as a “permanent campaign against drugs” is nil. “Really what we need to do here in the United States is we need to do a better job in terms of reducing demand.”
Mexico is becoming more and more a failed state. Its government has no power, drug cartels run the show, and if our southern border is anything to go by, people are looking to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible and by any means necessary – including by paying those same cartels to get them out.
With a failed state below us, we also should be tightening the border, but Joe Biden has taken an extremely hands-off approach to the border while his administration has insisted there really isn’t a problem. As my colleague Nick Arama mentioned earlier, the President’s upcoming visit to the border is little more than a show that Border Patrol knows is all for a photo op and not really meant to shed light on what’s actually going on.
What’s worse, they have no plan. Even if they decide there is a problem at the border, they have no idea what to do to fix it. They’ve been haphazardly shipping illegal immigrants all over the country – it’s okay when they do it, but God help Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis if they do it again – and detaining, releasing, and never following up on the ones they happen to stumble across.
That’s not to mention the hundreds of thousands of getaways federal agents couldn’t get throughout 2022 alone.
Now, when Vigil makes the claim that “Really what we need to do here in the United States is we need to do a better job in terms of reducing demand,” he’s not wrong, but there is another aspect that repeatedly gets missed – we’ve had decades to fight the battle at the border, and we did nothing.
Back in December, I wrote about the failure of the U.S. to recognize and confront the fentanyl threat in its infancy. From Bush to Biden, the last four administrations have done seemingly everything necessary to let it become a full-blown crisis. So, while the government of Mexico collapses in the wake of the powerful cartels, the U.S. has done nothing to prevent them from establishing a fentanyl market in the U.S. That, combined with Biden’s insistence that the border isn’t a problem, has allowed a huge influx of illegal immigrants and, more important, an insane amount of drugs to flood our streets.
And yet, while they complain about how racist Title 42 is, they are perfectly fine expanding it in order to keep out Haitians and Cubans. There’s something seriously wrong with that, yet they don’t seem to recognize the issue.
A failed state to the south and an incompetent one in D.C. It’s no wonder no one sees an end to the crisis.