I know the Mexican Drug War is real and I know the U.S./Mexico border can be a dangerous place, but if I had not read about the whole thing I would be oblivious to it while I was on the border several times recently.
I’m not complaining. I don’t want to experience it.
But it is strange. In my job as a long-haul truck driver, hauling a lot of produce, I often take loads down to the border for transfer south into the Mexican interior. I make these drops right on the border. In fact, one place I go to has me park to wait for an open dock door right on the actual border itself. I back my truck up to the fence that separates the two nations.
Sometimes I arrive in the dark of night before the places even open. When I think about the drug wars and the wanton violence associated with them and the fact that innocent people, thousands of them, sometimes even north of the border, get caught up in the drug war violence, it makes me a little apprehensive.
But I am not really scared or highly nervous because fortunately for me things have always been terribly calm on my trips to the border.
Actually, the only time I ever had a somewhat nervous encounter was I think in the late 90s when I was still relatively new to the trucking job and before the current drug war got under way (the drug war, not drug smuggling, which has a longer history).
I had picked up a load of potatoes in northern New Mexico and was instructed by dispatch to meet some folks at the border, just south of San Diego. When I got to the place I was instructed to go it was dark and I could not see well. No one was around and there were no buildings, just an empty field. And I was right on the border. I could see the fence.
Then I heard voices and saw some light in the distance and some trucks. So I drove over to it all. I told someone who I was and what I had and asked them if I was at the right place. No one spoke much English as I recall, but they did indicate I was at the right place. I had been told by my dispatcher that I was to pay them a specific amount of money for them to transfer the load from my trailer to one of theirs. I forget the exact figure, but I will say $80. I had that much in cash on me from wired money through my company and maybe a little more of my own personal money. When I double checked with one of the men there on how much I was to pay them, he named that figure ,$80, but added that I would have to pay each unloader extra money.
I was a little nervous, but I was not about to be robbed. So I said, no, I was instructed to pay $80 and that it is it. I told them that was all the money I had.
The man just shook his head. It was a standoff.
But in a while a big car drove up. From out of a back seat a man stepped out. He had the typical thin mustache many Latin men wear, and he was wearing a kind of Mexican western (as in cowboy) cut and designed suit and wore dark glasses (and this in the middle of the night).
“I understand you have a problem,” he said to me.
Now I was a bit more nervous, to say the least.
“No, I don’t have a problem,” I said. “It’s just that I was told by my dispatch that I was to pay only $80 and that is all I have.”
He looked at me with a serious expression for a moment and then said:
“Okay, I’ll take care of it.”
And that was it.
More recently, only a few weeks or a couple of months ago, I arrived down near the border in the town of Nogales, Arizona, again late at night. I could not find the warehouse at which I was supposed to unload the next morning. I spotted a man coming out of a warehouse and asked him directions. He was just getting off work, he said. He said he thought the place I was looking for was just down the street back from the way I had come. Then he offered to give me a ride in his SUV and go down there and check the address so that I would not have to go to the trouble to turn my rig around on the narrow street for nothing.
He seemed innocent enough, but I was a little apprehensive, this being on the border. But I did and it was the place and he brought me back to my truck safe and sound and I thanked him and he told me no problem.
Just a couple or so days ago I delivered a load down at the border. I showed up just before my appointment time and had the luck that the receiver showed up at the same time in his car and he took my paper work and not long after that I was unloaded and gone. Nice people, I thought — better than the next previous time when I spent 12 hours waiting without any logical explanation — but that’s normal for trucking anywhere.
Anyway, I’m glad we have this legitimate trade with Mexico in produce — it helps me make a living. Some might be surprised or at least interested to know that not only does produce (a lot of it) flow north out of Mexico, the U.S. ships a lot down to Mexico. I deliver apples and pears out of Oregon and Washington state to the border.
Mexico is a major trading partner to the United States for all types of goods and services. Mexican labor, the illegal alien controversy aside, is vital to our economy north of the border. We have close cultural ties with Mexico, with the Hispanic population and influence so abundant north of the border.
The bribe, the payoff, the favoritism to friends, is often the way business is done in the Hispanic culture (although they do not necessarily have a total lock on that method). But I have also noticed that Mexicans by and large are hard workers — that is one reason they are so much in demand.
At any rate, when I read about the violence south of the border (with some spilling over north of the border) due to the drug war, with the bodies in the streets, birthday parties being shot up, and innocents along with government officials being murdered, I question why our own government is not more concerned about peace in our own neighborhood than things halfway around the world.
It is estimated that some 28,228 people, again many of them totally innocent of the goings on in the war between the drug cartels, and the cartels’ war with authorities, have been killed since 2007.
Having a real job (beyond this blog) I must tend to, I am just now trying to research what this drug war is all about, but as I understand it, things got under way when due to the loss of power by Colombian cartels with the arrest of some of their leaders and the loss of the PRI political party Mexico, who had deals with the cartels, a new rivalry for control of the drug trade was set off in Mexico.
The insatiable demand for drugs in the U.S. creates the market for the illicit trade and the violence south of the border is augmented by the flow of illegal weapons from the U.S. to Mexico. Weapons can be purchased legally in the U. S. but are prohibited by Mexican law. Signs at the border warn you that guns are illegal in Mexico. And I guess that kind of serves to prove the point of gun rights supporters north of the border who are fond of saying: “when you make it criminal to have guns, only criminals will have guns”.
Adding to the problem, the corruption in Mexico’s government at all levels hampers the effort against the cartels.
Back when the old PRI party was in complete control in Mexico, although it was corrupt, it kept a check on things, taking its own payoffs from the cartels to look the other way. But when a new, non-PRI president took control and vowed to fight the cartels all hell broke loose, as I understand it, although I do not mean to suggest that the war would not be taking place if the government simply cooperated. There was already an inter-cartel war that was affecting everyone in and out of the cartels themselves.
I imagine a major factor in all this strife is the lack of a strong middle class in Mexico (although there is more of one than their used to be, as I understand things). There is a lack of opportunity in Mexico which causes people to turn to the drug trade or to become illegal aliens north of the border.
At the same time, the middle class in the United States is shrinking due to economic upheaval and the fact that corporate fat cats control our government with their unlimited payoffs to politicians and the fact that Washington elites, no mater what their supposed ideology, seem to be more comfortable being around and serving the interests of economic elites than the common man (example: Obama promising to help the poor and middle class but falling all over himself to bail out the fat cat bankers). We only have to look south to see what the eventual consequences of this could be.
The Mexican Drug War and its causes and the possible solutions to it need to be addressed.
We would do better to take care of things in our own neighborhood than halfway around the world.
It should not really be beyond imagination that with our own economic crisis in the U.S. and the continued erosion of our own middle class, this ongoing drug war might consume much of the North American continent.
While we fight a war for questionable reasons in the Middle East with no identifiable things to be gained, our own security deteriorates here at home.