The Narco News Bulletin
August 15, 2018 | Issue #56
narconews.com - Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America
The visit to Mexico, today and yesterday, by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been high on symbolism but light on substance. Clinton's declarations that the United States shares the blame for drug war violence in Mexico carry indubitably a long overdue admittance from Washington. The statement is both true and filled with half truths: the problem really isn't, as US officials state, the "insatiable demand" for illicit drugs north of the border, nor the availability of guns that flow south (and the tinkering reforms underway in both policy areas won't make a dent in either of those "illegal flows," which is the new policy wonk euphemism for contraband).
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Felipe Calderon
One can pore over every single press report in Spanish and English about Clinton's visit and find precious little "news" (if the word still means the revelation of something "new"). The Secretary announces "Plan Mexico" (the "Merida Initiative") funds to the Mexican state for helicopters and such as if it anybody would be surprised by what Congress has budgeted in the past two years (Narco News has reported these developments at each step, here and here and here and many times more.)
But there is one possible piece of news that has leaked out: Mexican government officials have, as unnamed sources, told the country's leading newspapers and magazines that Clinton floated a trial balloon in her meetings with her Mexican counterparts: that the next US Ambassador to Mexico is likely to be Carlos Pasqual, vice president of the Brookings Institute in Washington.
Pascual, 50, emigrated to the US as a child with his family from Cuba. His Brookings bio reads:
Carlos Pascual is Vice President & Director of the Foreign Policy Studies Program (FPS) at the Brookings Institution. Mr. Pascual joined Brookings in 2006 after a 23 year career in the United States Department of State, National Security Council (NSC), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)...
Before joining Brookings, Mr. Pascual served as Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the U.S. Department of State, where he led and organized U.S. government planning to help stabilize and reconstruct societies in transition from conflict or civil strife. Prior to that, he was Coordinator for U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia (2003), where he oversaw regional and country assistance strategies to promote market-oriented and democratic states. From October 2000 until August 2003, Mr. Pascual served as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. From July 1998 to January 2000, Mr. Pascual served as Special Assistant to the President and NSC Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and from 1995 to 1998 as Director for the same region. From 1983 to 1995, Mr. Pascual worked for USAID in Sudan, South Africa, and Mozambique and as Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia.
The "Shock Doctor": Carlos Pascual
So, despite all the rhetorical claims by Clinton and US officials that the regime of illegitimate president Felipe Calderon (who grabbed the Mexican presidency in 2006 through a massive electoral fraud that demonstrably stole or stuffed 1.5 million votes from or to the ballot boxes) has everything under control ("I don't believe there is any ungovernable area in Mexico," Clinton insisted to Mexican reporters yesterday) the appointment of Pacual, if it comes to pass, would indicate otherwise.
Author Naomi Klein, in 2005, tagged Pascual as a key architect of "shock doctrine" policies:
On August 5, 2004, the White House created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, headed by former US Ambassador to Ukraine, Carlos Pascual. Its mandate is to draw up elaborate "post conflict" plans for up to twenty-five countries that are not, as of yet, in conflict. According to Pascual, it will also be able to coordinate three full-scale reconstruction operations in different countries "at the same time," each lasting "five to seven years."...
In close cooperation with the National Intelligence Council, Pascual's office keeps "high risk" countries on a "watch list" and assembles rapid-response teams ready to engage in prewar planning and to "mobilize and deploy quickly" after a conflict has gone down. The teams are made up of private companies, nongovernmental organizations and members of think tanks-some, Pascual told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in October, will have "pre-completed" contracts to rebuild countries that are not yet broken. Doing this paperwork in advance could "cut off three to six months in your response time."
The plans Pascual's teams have been drawing up in his little-known office in the State Department are about changing "the very social fabric of a nation," he told CSIS. The office's mandate is not to rebuild any old states, you see, but to create "democratic and market-oriented" ones. So, for instance (and he was just pulling this example out of his hat, no doubt), his fast-acting reconstructors might help sell off "state-owned enterprises that created a nonviable economy." Sometimes rebuilding, he explained, means "tearing apart the old."
As Brookings' own publicity trumpets, Pascual "focuses on post-conflict stabilization, international security policy, nonproliferation and economic development with particular focus on Europe, Russia and Ukraine."
On the Air Force jet ride south, Secretary Clinton told reporters: "Clearly what we've been doing has not worked. It is unfair for our incapacity to have effective policies to be creating a situation where people are holding the Mexican government and people responsible. That's not right."
Such rhetoric will purchase a short-term honeymoon period for the Obama administration in Mexican public opinion, given the ravings of administrations past that used drug war myths to demonize Mexico and Mexicans as somehow responsible for the multi-billion dollar cocaine trade in the United States. Most Mexicans still express relief and also shock that the US citizenry would elect an African-American son of an immigrant to the highest office. Most North Americans, poorly informed by the commercial media, probably are not aware that the coca plant from which the drug is processed doesn't grow anywhere on Mexican soil. Through a coincidence of geography, "pobre México" is merely the straw between the South American source and the gringo's nose.
At the same moment, Mexican public opinion is weary of the show. An apt headline from Monterrey - Clinton's second stop today after Mexico City - captures the nuance: "Hillary Excuses, Napolitano Accuses."
What officials on both sides of the border won't admit is that their stated policy prescriptions - more anti-drug and anti-gun enforcement coupled with more money for addiction rehab and treatment in the North - won't change anything in the equation that today finds much of Mexican territory in the modern-day equivalent of Al Capone's Chicago of the era of alcohol prohibition. Such band-aid policies never have.
Nor will they likely acknowledge that the drastic increase in drug war related murders and assassinations in Mexico - an estimated 2,700 in 2007 that spiked to 5,612 in 2008 - were primarily caused by government policy. It is precisely "Plan Mexico" and Calderon's implementation of it - sending federal troops to fight the drug war in border and transport states - that has sparked the orgy of turf wars between traffickers and corrupted police agencies that has wrought the dramatic loss of human life. Secretary Napolitano estimates that 550 of those murders were of law enforcement agents. What the US Department of Homeland Security is less eager to admit is that many if not most of the slain officers were assassinated because, corrupted by buckets of drug money, they had chosen sides on behalf of one criminal organization against another.
It used to be a fairly accepted yarn that Mexico City - the megalopolis of 12 million people with another 13 million surrounding it - was the "danger capital" of the country. Yet in just two years, it has become, comparative to border and other regions, among the safest and calmest oases in Mexico. The reason: Under the Mexican Constitution, the Armed Forces are barred from carrying out law enforcement in the nation's Federal District. Calderon's US-sponsored drug-war siege everywhere else in the country (not only in Tijuana and Juárez, but also in Yucatán, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Michoacan, Veracruz and other south and central states) is precisely what has caused unprecedented violence and chaos.
The headlines blare, day in day out, with more arrests of supposedly key narco-traffickers and "kingpins," with decapitated heads of police officers strewn on dance hall floors, and bloody TV and tabloid images of similar graphic carnage. Every time one drug gang is "taken out" of commission, a rival gang pops up in its place. Legendary trafficker Chapo Guzman - who waltzed out of Mexican prison in 2001 and is alleged to be running one of the larger families of organized crime as a fugitive - is now on the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest men.
The media is willingly caught up in a simulacrum in which criminal organizations are called "cartels" and they supposedly run the illicit drug trade. It's a false narrative. The term "cartel" applies more appropriately to an organization like OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting States) because it controls the supply and therefore the price of the product. That can't be said for organized crime south of the Border. The Mexican "cartels" are more like mid-level managers of the drug war: they compete to control drug routes and transportation, enforce their turf (against each other and against police and military) with weapons of war, and handle the bribing and intimidation of officials from top to bottom in all three branches of government. But 80 percent of the profits go to the bankers and respectable men of high finance who launder the illicit proceeds, and are not touched - not even with the petal of a rose - by the "Plan Mexico" folly.
Calderon, for his part, is taking full advantage of the image laundering that Washington is giving him with this media blitz. Secretary Clinton entered the presidential palace of Los Pinos yesterday at 1:06 p.m., met with the president for about an hour, and afterward Calderon spun the meeting as a vehicle for his demands to the US government. According to the daily Milenio in Mexico City:
"President Felipe Calderon Hinojusa urged the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to improve the border infrastructure to ease the crossing for people and the exchange of legal products.
"The federal executive also asked the chief of US foreign policy to detain 'effectively' gun and drug traffic.
"'The urgency of improving the border infrastructure for the crossing of people and the exchange of legal goods more efficiently at the same time as effectively stopping gun and drug traffic were the themes of the meeting,' said the official government statement..."
In the young US administration's effort to "look busy" on the Mexican drug war front, it has entered into a devil's bargain with a fundamentally corrupt head of state under whose regime the Mexican Republic has become less safe for its rank-and-file citizens, more repressive toward its nonviolent social movements, more profitable for its violent criminals (the US State Department surely knows the data from its own report - that as "Plan Mexico" escalated in 2008 with the Mexican military's incursion throughout national territory, and the murder rate correspondingly doubled, Mexican law enforcement seized only half the volume of illicit drugs as it had in 2007; it was a great year to be a drug trafficker) and, thanks to electoral fraud, less democratic. The documentation of this decay in the societal fabric appears on these pages week in, week out.
So, good luck to the next US Ambassador to Mexico. If it is to be Carlos Pascual, he will find himself in a new kind of quagmire: from managing "post-conflict stabilization" to entering a present-tense conflict of unprecedented violence that - despite the official rhetoric that keeps painting lipstick on this pig - is in a free-fall and growing more harmful by the day.
Secretary Clinton, this morning at 8:15 a.m., entered the Basilica of Guadalupe, where she knelt and prayed, remaining for 35 minutes in total.
A few hours later, during his live online "Open for Questions" show, President Obama mocked what he admitted was "a popular question" among those submitted by the public on the legalization of marijuana: "I don't know what it says about the online audience," he cracked to laughter from his White House audience, "The answer is 'no. I dont think that is a good strategy to grow our economy." He neglected, once again, to answer the more nuanced questions offered by members of the public about attainable drug policy reforms for which public opinion has already moved to support.
And yesterday, just one week after Attorney General Holder told reporters that US policy had evolved to cease raids of medical marijuana clinics in states like California where they are legal, the DEA raided another clinic. The drug war thus takes another and newer victim - the President's campaign promises to stop the raids - and with it the value of his word.
On the long road of prohibitionist drug policy, US impositions of that policy on Mexico and the rest of the world are the fuel that feeds the very problems they claim to combat. But Mexico is the speed bump upon which the policy crashes. Until Washington addresses the underlying cause, which is the policy-created artificially high price of prohibited mood-altering drugs, there will be no end in sight, no matter how many cabinet level officials hold photo ops south of the border or kneel in its grand cathedrals to pray.