This week, the brutal murders of the LeBaron family in Mexico caused a wave of editorial comment on the need for the United States to hold the Mexican government accountable.
On November 8th, the Dallas Morning News and The Federalist’s Tristan Justice, Sumantra Maitra, and John Daniel Davidson provided useful analysis of deteriorating conditions in Mexico and possible solutions. None of the major writers, however, identified the key reason that cartels in our hemisphere operate with almost complete impunity: a deep stream of cash from American narcotics consumers.
Since criminal cartels do not publish annual reports, how can American financial support for the cartels be measured? A telling variable associated with the narcotics trade is the cross-border flow of U.S. dollars in bulk from American narcotics buyers to narcotics sellers in Latin America. In a 2010 exchange of emails with the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), for example, an NDIC analyst explained to me that:
“The most current estimate regarding the actual amount of bulk cash smuggled across the Southwest Border was developed by NDIC through detailed analysis of repatriation data. In April 2008, NDIC reported that at least $17.2 billion in U.S. banknotes were transported to Mexico over a 2 year period from 2003 through 2004. … In 2005, the estimate was $13.6-48.4 billion and the estimate for 2008 was $18-39 billion.”
What happens to those billions in U.S. banknotes each year when they reach cartel narcotics producers in Mexico, Central America, or Colombia? Dollars handed over by American users to cartels and their narco-terrorist collaborators have had catastrophic effects on our southern neighbors.
Since the 1970s, American users and their dollars have underwritten cartel subversion of public authority — judges, police, armed forces, and even presidents — in Latin America and the Caribbean. Dollar earnings from American users have enabled cartel black market purchases of massive arsenals, including the .50 caliber machine gun seen recently on the streets of Culiacan, Mexico. Dollar earnings from American users have also helped cartels create unendurable pressure on Latin Americans in all walks of life to abandon their homes and countries.
In fact, our nation appears to be more concerned about the slaughter of horses than the part played by American narcotics consumers in bankrolling the cartel slaughter of Latin American people. There is no effort to stigmatize American narcotics users for their part in the havoc. Instead, U.S. officials like Senator Josh Hawley and others blame Mexico. Today there is no serious effort among our leaders at any level to acquaint our people with the critical role played by American narcotics users in financing cartel terrorism in Latin America — or even in their own communities. This indicates indifference and a lack of moral courage. American leaders should tell it like it is – to Americans, and they should do it without flinching.
Rather than stigmatizing American narcotics users, we anoint too many of them as patients, and even victims. We do not call them by their real names: lawbreakers who finance terrorist cartels. Our nation winks (and often yawns) at narcotics abuse rather than punishing it. Marijuana legalization, official leniency with narcotics offenders, and demonization of law enforcement all play their roles as well.
On the whole, since the 1960’s our nation has displayed a willful blindness to the shocking domestic and international consequences of its own narcotics consumption. In the 1980s, First Lady Nancy Reagan was mocked by the Generation of 1968 for her “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. At least she was trying, but relatively few appear to be trying seriously today.
In the Middle East, governments have been sanctioned for harboring organizations which raise funds for terrorists. Compare such energetic measures with the deafening silence about American narcotics users who provide multi-billion dollar stipends each year to terrorist cartels in Latin America.
American narcotics users do not deserve victim status. They deserve to be stigmatized for bankrolling organizations which kill and lay waste in many corners of our hemisphere. At every level of government in the United States, our leaders must take a harder line against users. It is vital to begin now, because we lost much ground during three decades of indifference.
We will never control the Mexican Government. A better strategy is to control ourselves.