Mexico Attempts to Stem the Tide
by Charles Lemos, Tue May 26, 2009 at 10:19:54 PM EDT
Mexico is quietly and valiantly attempting to stem the growing influence of the drug trade. Today in the rugged state of Michoacan, federal authorities in an unprecedented anti-corruption sweep detained 10 mayors and 18 other officials for allegedly protecting one of Mexico's most violent drug cartels, the La Familia Michoacana cartel, one of three Mexican organizations that the White House recently included on its list of suspected international drug trafficking outfits. In this, the sweep suggests a close cooperation with the American authorities.
According to the New York Times, the mayors who were detained largely hailed from towns in a mountainous region where there have been numerous beheadings. Among those detained was the mayor of Uruapan, where La Familia gunmen dumped five human heads on a bar dance floor in 2006, the Attorney General's Office said in a statement.
In the past decade, Michoacan has become a haven for the production methamphetamine with federal agents recently discovering 22 methamphetamine laboratories. Mexican traffickers have become the main suppliers of methamphetamine to the United States with production largely in Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Michoacan. Eighty percent of the methamphetamine consumed in the United States comes from Mexico.
From the New York Times:
The detentions of elected officials show how Mexican cartels have infiltrated the country's political structure and how far-reaching their control is in rural Mexico, said Victor Clark, an expert on trafficking based in the drug-plagued northern border city of Tijuana.
It also marks a first for the federal government, which has arrested scores of corrupt police officers in the past but has never gone after such a large group of mayors.
"This is a huge blow to the cartel. These ties are indispensable for the operation of these organizations," said Clark, director of the Binational Center for Human Rights in Tijuana. "But until now the government has never dared to touch the political classes tied to drug trafficking. For me this is an important step."
High-ranking state police officials and two municipal police chiefs were among those detained Tuesday, including state police academy director Mario Bautista and the state governor's adviser, Citlalli Fernandez, who also is the former public safety secretary, the Attorney General's Office said.
From a governance perspective, the drug trade is a cancer that infects a healthy society and corrupts it with devastating effects. This is another reason why Latin American leaders have been urging the United States to consider legalization of certain classes of narcotics as an alternative to the current failed policy that is focused on eradication and interdiction. But it should be noted that the global methamphetamine trade is a different matter. Here the problem is more the will to effectively regulate the production of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine which is in effect non-existent at the moment.
In 2006, the United Nations passed a resolution to help foster international cooperation in controlling the precursor chemicals (ephedrine and pseudoephedrine) used to produce methamphetamine. The US-sponsored resolution, encouraged stronger oversight and regulation of precursor chemicals used in the production of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine aiming to curb loopholes in the regulation of their global trade. Production is largely centered in India and China and to a lesser extent in Germany. Production of these precursor chemicals is a highly specialized process with relatively few manufacturing facilities. It is, however, a very profitable business and therein lies part of the problem.
While exporting countries are required to report detailed information on the amount and destination of precursor chemicals, the global trade in these precursor chemicals has increasingly been subject to diversion. That is shipments are exported from the country of production to an intermediate destination and then rerouted in order to circumvent restrictions. In recent years, Argentina has emerged as major destination of precursor chemicals. Other countries that have become major transit points in the global trade of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine include Nicaragua, Myanmar, and North Korea. Given the regimes that govern these countries, it is unlikely that the US has much leverage in stemming the trade.
Ultimately, however, combating the global trade in methamphetamine means that countries that are the largest methamphetamine producers must take a more active role in controlling precursor chemicals.