Guns, drugs, and La Barbie: Why America is responsible for Mexican drug cartels
Drug lords like La Barbie threaten Mexico's security with American-bought firearms, and finance their violent empires with American drug money.
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What’s more, we help them launder their money. From 2003 to 2008, Wachovia Corp. alone laundered at least $110 million, according to the Justice Department. Wachovia admitted to “serious and systematic” violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and agreed to pay $160 million to resolve the criminal case against them. American Express Bank International and Western Union have also recently agreed to huge settlements with the government for laundering Mexican drug proceeds.Skip to next paragraph
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Buying guns in the US
While the cartels pay fewer taxes then their fellow Fortune 100 companies, their security overhead is more expensive. They cross the border for those purposes, too, where we welcome them with (open) arms. In Mexico, civilians need approval from the military to purchase firearms and cannot own high-powered pistols or large-caliber rifles. In the US, however, gun dealers can sell multiple military-style rifles to citizens without even reporting the sales.
The cartels hire people without criminal records to buy a handful of weapons at a time, from licensed dealers – there are 6,600 along the border alone – or private individuals at gun shows, and then drive them across the border. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and Explosives estimates that 90 percent of the traced firearms recovered in Mexico originated in the US.
Flush with American money and guns, the cartels have wreaked havoc in Mexico, especially in the northern states along the 2,000-mile border. Since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderón declared war on the cartels and deployed more than 45,000 troops, at least 23,000 people have been killed in drug-related battles.
The cartels’ violence features, among other tactics, beheading police officers, branding victims, shooting up newspaper offices after they post articles on corruption, intimidating voters, and assassinating leading law enforcement officials, elected leaders, journalists, and political candidates. The fear is so great that in some towns political parties cannot find anyone to run for mayor.
Intimidation and corruption
The parade of horribles is long. The list of Mexican officials either charged with drug conspiracy or placed in the cartels’ crosshairs indicates the level of internal corruption and terror the cartels can generate.
Rondolfo Torre, the leading gubernatorial candidate in the border state of Tamaulipas, was gunned down about a month after Gregoria Sanchez, mayor of Cancun and candidate for Quintana Roo governor, was arrested for protecting the Beltran Levya and Zetas drug organizations. Meanwhile, former Quintana Roo Gov. Mario Villanueva was extradited earlier this summer to the US on charges of conspiring to import hundreds of tons of cocaine. Over in the western state of Sinaloa, agents of Mexico’s Federal Investigative Agency are believed to work as Sinaloa cartel enforcers. And the Attorney General’s Office reported in December 2005 that one-fifth of its officers were under investigation.