The Drug War in Mexico as chronicled by Newsweek is starting to cross the US border.

Late one night in January, an ambulance escorted by five unmarked squad cars pulled up to Thomason Hospital in El Paso, Texas. Out leaped more than a dozen armed federal agents to protect the patient–Fernando Lozano Sandoval, a commander with the Chihuahua State Investigations Agency. He’d been pumped full of bullets just across the Mexican border in Ciudad Juarez by gunmen believed to have been hired by a drug cartel. Lozano Sandoval’s sole hope of survival was the medical team at Thomason, the only level-one trauma center for nearly 300 miles. U.S. authorities took no chances; in Mexico, assassins regularly raid hospitals to finish off their prey. Throughout Lozano Sandoval’s three-week treatment at Thomason (which proved successful), the Americans funneled visitors through metal detectors, posted guards outside the commander’s room and deployed SWAT teams armed with assault rifles around the hospital’s perimeter. Officers “were ready for war if it should go that route,” says El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen.

Well isn’t that something. US paramilitary police are having to guard Mexican nationals in America. Some one should call Houston and tell them we have a problem. In fact if some one would carry the message to DC it might be even more helpful.

Beyond those cases, 43 additional patients wounded in Juarez have been treated at Thomason this year, including a 1-year-old girl who was pinned against a wall by a truck involved in a drug-related shooting. All the patients have been dual citizens of Mexico and the United States or have had the proper documentation to enter the country, says a Thomason spokeswoman. Yet legal issues are beside the point for many El Pasoans. A recent posting in an online forum on border violence summed up the fear of many: “It is only a matter of time before the Mexican drug dealers send assassination squads over to Thomason hospital.” The traffickers already occasionally kidnap Mexicans who have fled north to escape threats of violence in Juarez.

So the drug war violence in Northern Mexico is already crossing the border into the US and the people living along that border expect things to get worse. It is no surprise to me. I was predicting it 20 years ago.
Mr. Obama has promised to take on the Taliban in Afghanistan. I don’t think he was expecting to handle a similar situation just a few feet across our southern border. Is he in for a shock.

“It’s almost beyond belief.” Juarez looks a lot like a failed state, with no government entity capable of imposing order and a profusion of powerful organizations that kill and plunder at will. It’s as if the United States faced another lawless Waziristan–except this one happens to be right at the nation’s doorstep.

In the past months I was predicting that it might take as long as five years for the Drug Cartel Wars to cross over into the US of A. Obviously I was misinformed. It is happening already.

The cartels operate largely with impunity. Police who defy them are eliminated, as in the case of Oscar Campoya, a municipal cop who was shot dead by assassins in March as he left a local precinct. Despite the presence of several witnesses, including fellow officers, there have been no arrests (only 2 percent of violent murders in Mexico are solved, according to government figures). Mario Campoya, the victim’s brother, says Oscar had been pressured relentlessly by other members of the force to cooperate with the drug gangs, but had refused.

There is a saying in those parts plata o plomo – silver or lead. Roughly translated it means take our money and follow our orders or we will kill you. Of course one has to be careful. Cooperate with the wrong gang and a rival gang will kill you. Pretty soon no one wants to be a policeman. Even with pay enhancements from one gang or another it is not enough. In fact that is already happening. Mexico has had to move its army into some Northern Mexico border towns to keep law and order because the police forces were to all intents and purposes non-existent. Of course this has had the usual results. The army is now being corrupted.

Going back to Prohibition, Juarez has helped sate the ravenous American appetite for contraband. These days, the West Texas corridor is a key shipping and distribution center for drugs destined for various markets across the United States. According to a recent report by the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), 6 cartels, 129 midlevel organizations and 606 local groups engage in drug-trafficking activities in the binational region. As part of an elaborate, highly compartmentalized operation, some outfits specialize in transportation, others in enforcement and still others in retail sales. Guided by spotters on the Mexican side equipped with binoculars and cell phones, many shipments cross the bridges into El Paso alongside legitimate commerce. Once in the city, the goods are deposited in stash houses before being sent elsewhere.
Given the permeability of the border, it’s not hard to imagine violence seeping over as well. American officials insist that’s highly unlikely. The cartels “cannot operate here with impunity,” says ICE’s Kozak. “One reason we don’t see that type of violence here is that it would never be tolerated.” El Paso is crawling with federal law-enforcement agents–including representatives of ICE, the FBI, Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration–and all are monitoring events to the south like hawks.

Ah. The infamous: “it can’t happen here”.
Except it looks like it has already happened here in Las Vegas.

In an early morning news conference Police captain Vince Cannito said, “Cole (Puffinburger) has been found, he is safe and in our custody,” he continued “It’s just a blessing that this child has been found and he’s in extremely good condition.”
The six year old boy was abducted by alleged drug dealers posing as police officers on October 15, 2008. Three armed men tied up Cole’s mother and her fiancee, ransacked their home and then took Cole after they didn’t find money in the home.

Fortunately the outcome in that case was a good one. We may not always be so fortunate.
Now it is the so called social conservatives in cahoots with “progressives” who have pushed this drug war on us. But really they are not conservatives at all. They are radicals. Before 1914 and the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act there were no national laws against drugs in America. And of course in 1937 we got the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.
Well back to the Newsweek article.

…the United States is less insulated than some might think. According to the NDIC report, the increased bloodshed in Juarez “could spill into the [West Texas] region,” since it raises the threat that drug-trafficking organizations will “confront law-enforcement officers in the United States who seek to disrupt these DTOs’ smuggling operations.” (The report cites several armed encounters that took place on the American side in 2006.) The cartels’ tentacles already reach deep into El Paso. Local banks are full of drug money, says Claudio Morales, who heads special operations at the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. “We’re one of the poorest regions along the border, yet El Paso has some of the largest cash transactions” in the country. Many cartel henchmen are known to have moved their families to the Texas city to insulate them from the carnage back home–though that still leaves the families vulnerable to kidnappers. Kids whose relatives have been killed in the violence are showing up at the Children’s Grief Center of El Paso. “We have a lot of kids that are really traumatized,” says executive director Laura Olague. “There’s a lot of secrecy, or fear, that whoever killed their parents or loved ones would come look for them.”

It does seem like law and order is working in America to keep the violence down. And the gangs have an incentive to minimize the violence in America unless it is home grown. But the Mexican gangs do have their methods.

For now, drug organizations prefer to abduct their quarry in the United States and spirit them across the border before harming or killing them. Kozak says that in the past year, a half-dozen kidnappings tied to narcotraffickers have taken place in El Paso. One of them involved Miguel Rueda, a convicted smuggler who failed to pay a drug debt. According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. district court, Rueda was told to meet a former accomplice, Ricardo Calleros-Godinez, at a gas station in El Paso in February. After picking up Rueda, Calleros-Godinez allegedly pulled a gun on him, duct-taped his eyes, mouth, hands and legs, and drove him to a house in Juarez. Four or five days later, Rueda reportedly settled the debt through a transfer of family land and was freed. (He’s now in Texas state prison serving a sentence on cocaine charges.)
The criminal group that perhaps best illustrates the porousness of the border is the Barrio Azteca gang. Founded in the 1980s in state prison in El Paso, the organization now counts thousands of members in Mexico and the United States and is believed to be affiliated with the Juarez cartel. Authorities say the gang has a penchant for brutality and engages in everything from extortion to trafficking to assassination. The Barrio Aztecas are “the wild card in all this,” says Samuel Camargo, a supervisory special agent with the FBI in El Paso. “That probably has the most potential for violence here”–and it’s an American creation. In January, the U.S. Attorney’s Office brought racketeering charges against more than a dozen of the gang’s members, and a trial began in early November.

So for all you who are in favor of keeping drugs illegal (they didn’t used to be), how is it working out for you? We could end all this in short order by passing a few Federal Laws and letting States go their own way with respect to dealing with drugs. One only need consider that before the radicals got hold of the US Government in 1914 there were no national anti-drug laws.

“The Latin American drug cartels have stretched their tentacles much deeper into our lives than most people believe. It’s possible they are calling the shots at all levels of government.” – William Colby, former CIA Director, 1995

Do you suppose Colby was trying to tell us something?
Cross Posted at Power and Control