The El Paso, Texas/Juárez, Mexico metropolitan area has a long history of violence.
I should know. For it was out in the west Texas town of El Paso that I was gunned down by several cowboys. They were avenging my shooting of a dashing young stranger in nearby Rose’s Cantina. Wild as the west Texas wind he was, he challenged me for the love of wicked Feleena, an evil Mexican maiden whose eyes were as black as night.
Prior to that, the area was a battleground for several competing civilizations. The Spanish took the place from Pueblo Native Americans. After Mexico became independent, an expansion-crazed United States swooped in. The U.S.-imposed Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo forced Mexico to surrender all land north of the Rio Grande River. For 160 years, the Rio Grande has been an international border dividing the El Paso/Juárez metroplex into two.
El Paso is much safer today than it was back when I was a singing gunfighter. In 2007, El Paso was the second-safest large city in the U.S. after Honolulu. It’s not a fair comparison, though. Honolulu has Dog the Bounty Hunter.
But just south of the border, down Mexico way, El Paso’s conjoined-twin-city Juárez is experiencing an astonishing surge in violence.
Last year, 1,800 people were murdered in Juárez. Fox News says regular folk in Juárez are more than three times as likely to be murdered as regular folk in Baghdad. If Fox says it, it’s got to be true.
So why has Juárez turned into Hellamundo-on-the-Rio Grande, a Problemo Gigante on our southern flank?
The answer is drugs. Or, if you prefer all-caps, DRUGS!
Northern Mexico is a narco war zone. Ruthless Mexican drug gangs are competing for smuggling routes into the U.S. Millions of innocent civilians, police officers and soldiers in Mexico are in the crossfire.
These drug gangs are notorious for killing anyone who publicly criticizes them, so before I write anything else, I just want to say that the Andisheh Nouraee who shows up in the White Pages with an address in Decatur, Ga., is a totally different Andisheh Nouraee than the one who writes this column. Please don’t kill him. I beg you.
So far, the overwhelming majority of drug-smuggling-related violence is on the Mexican side. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The border entering the U.S. is the tightest bottleneck on the drug supply route between the U.S. and Mexico. The violence has surged after the border got tighter following 9/11.
U.S. coverage of the violence in Mexico has, predictably, focused on the fear that the violence may soon “spill over” the border into the U.S.
For the most part, that hasn’t happened. Though there have been many high-profile instances of Mexican drug gangs causing problems in regional drug-shipping hubs like Phoenix and Atlanta, there’s no evidence yet to indicate a Mexican-cartel-led surge in violent crime in the U.S.
Instead of worrying about how Mexico’s mess might affect us, we would be better off owning up to how our policies are contributing to the horrible violence in Mexico.
The illegal drug trade would not be as lucrative, or nearly as deadly, if American consumers didn’t have such an enormous appetite for coke, pot and meth. Northern Mexico is as violent as it is because Americans simultaneously demand drugs while demanding they be illegal. Prohibition mixed with high demand means huge profits for drug dealers. If one could assert control over Juárez’s drug-funneling infrastructure — everything from stash houses to tunnels to crooked public officials — one could collect gazillions of dollars in shipping and handling fees.
To top it all off, 95 percent of the recovered weapons used in Mexican drug killings last year were traced by the U.S. government to U.S. gun sellers. Not only are we funding the drug violence with our vices, we’re arming it, too.
Just like our War On Terror™, our War On Drugs™ produces fat profits for a handful of assholes — and produces danger, death and misery for pretty much everyone else.
Not surprising at all.. Most of America is a sprawling-strip mall dotted-suburbia speckled-freeway.
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