Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Real South American Cartel

"Drug War Capitalism,” by Dawn Paley, 2014

This book is a detailed and logical extension of Naomi Klein’s ‘Shock Doctrine’ and other discussions of ‘disaster’ capitalism.  Paley, a reporter, does not follow the hegemonic bourgeois narrative that the worldwide ‘drug’ war consists of noble governments combating evil drug ‘kingpins.’  She looks under the deceptive propaganda to see what is actually happening on the ground in four Latin American countries. 

In the U.S. the ‘drug war’ makes mostly non-white young people its target, resulting in 50% of the incarcerations in the U.S. penal system.  The drug war enriches and militarizes U.S. police departments.  The drug war allows the state and corporations increased intervention in the lives of everyone, but especially the different layers of the working class. It creates an anti-popular army force residing in each city.  It doesn’t bother the upper classes at all.  The international drug war decreed by  Reagan has been carried on by every subsequent president, so it is bi-partisan and bi-lateral.

The drug war in Mexico, Columbia, Guatemala and Honduras plays the same role – with one immense difference.  It allows foreign oil, mining and agricultural capital to penetrate formally hidden regions in these countries, which have been declared ‘drug zones,’ and turn those regions into cheap new sources of oil, minerals and agricultural commodities.  It also allows U.S. military contractors to sell massive amounts of gear to these countries as part of the project – the same kind of activity that John Perkins describes as an integral part of Structural Adjustment Programs instituted by the IMF.  This becomes another tool of imperial domination.  That is the thesis of Paley’s book.  She describes “Plan Columbia” and the “Merida Initiative” as appendages to NAFTA and now the proposed TPT.  They are essentially counter-insurgency programs and capital-penetration projects that lead to massive violence - and do not stop the ‘drug flow.’  How does this happen? 

Paley studied these four countries, interviewing dozens of people in each to grasp what was actually going on among indigenous people, rural farmers, workers and city dwellers.  It is a horror story.  Essentially anything the U.S. touches in the name of ‘fighting drugs’ turns local situations into war grounds.  That includes the militarized zone along the southern U.S. border.  Death rates sky-rocket with the introduction of militarized policing after a ‘war’ on drugs is declared.  This was seen in Mexico, where border towns like Nuevo Laredo and Juarez were turned into murdervilles.   In Mexico the murder, kidnapping and violence rates shot up in the wake of the Merida Initiative, something never mentioned by the bourgeois press.  Juarez became the poster child for militarization, seeing 13,000 soldiers invade the city as the murder rate went up to 2 a day.  The people being killed are not all from opposing gangs - they can be kidnapping victims, extortion victims, caught in a cross-fire, reporters, political and environmental opponents to the criminal gangs, the government or the maquiladora corporations.  This continued into the Obama administration.   

Ultimately it is companies like BP, Chiquita and Canadian mining conglomerates who have benefited.  Every ‘drug war’ is declared a ‘success’ but it is only a success in the amount of capital penetration it enables.  The drug flow continues by  different channels, that is all.  In Columbia the process is to terrorize local poor communities for harboring ‘terrorists’ or drug gangs and chase the population out of the area through murder, bombings and spraying chemicals.  Then corporations move in and start mining, oil drilling or putting up palm oil plantations for agro-fuel.  Since most indigenous and peasant people do not have individual deeds, they are basically displaced and forced to move to the cities.  In Mexico the ‘ejidos’ – socially-owned farming land – are taken away from the communities and privatized through similar methods.

None of this reduces the flow of drugs – at best it just moves the problem elsewhere.  The drug gangs do not disappear, they just metastasize into smaller units.  Arresting a 'king-pin' just leads to many littler pins.  The real problem is drug prohibition itself and the imperial political and economic profit rationales behind it. 

In these poverty-stricken countries, the police, the army, the government and the ruling elites are all beneficiaries of the drug trade through corruption anyway.  As Paley describes it, it is basically a fight by different wings of the ruling elite to get the most drug profits.  So when soldiers show up, they are really on the side of one drug gang or another, or else are one themselves.  In Columbia the percentage of profits from drugs for listed ‘terror’ organizations like the FARC is miniscule compared to that gained by the rightist paramilitaries and wings of the official military.  Books have been written about the intertwined role of the state and the Narcos in Mexico, yet none of it seems to make a dent in the dominant propaganda narrative. Paley intends to do so.

The role of 'parquat’ and other defoliants dumped on agricultural land from helicopters destroys many other crops, not just marijuana, coca or poppies, and has health impacts for local people.  This also destroys local livelihood.  These spraying campaigns are no different than the dumping of “Agent Orange” on people in Vietnam.  The methods haven’t changed since the ‘60s – just the rationale offered to gullible Americans.    Fighting ‘communism’ is now replaced by fighting ‘drugs’ or ‘terror.’  But the same result is hoped for - profits.

Another part of the anti-drug programs are legal changes.  For instance, the Mexican legal system is being changed into something resembling the U.S. one – yet without juries – just judges, and now with a 90-day detention law.  Because of this law, blanket incarcerations and torture have increased, while police, government and cartel crimes go almost unsolved, as police have virtual immunity from arrest. (Sound familiar?)  Prison populations are sky-rocketing.  Yet American corporations now find familiar laws and a friendly pro-private property legal structure.  On the economic side, the national oil company, Pemex, which supplies 40% of Mexico’s revenue, is now being privatized, as is the nationalized electrical system – all decreed in December 2013 by the PAN government.  The PRI government will not change anything.  Having soldiers occupying large swaths of Mexico is to their benefit too – among them stopping any insurgency against this kind of literal ‘sell-out.’  

Paley mentions that the illegal profits from activities like drugs, trafficking in people or arms, extortion or prostitution propped up many banks during the 2008 crash.  HSBC is the most prominent drug money laundering outfit - it was fined and still goes about its business of changing bad money into good.  Trillions of dollars in drug money laundering and the U.S. government looked the other way.  Other American banks with branches in Mexico were also implicated.  Illegal money props up the financial system like a hidden gas geyser.  It is no secret that Afghanistan, which supplies most of the heroin used in the world, is having its best year ever!  Afghanistan, our valiant ally.    

Criminal gangs like the Zetas and the Knights Templars in several Mexican states now mine illegal iron ore, and ship it to China.  They also kill environmental and political opponents of Canadian gold and silver mining companies - basically clearing the ground for the mining concerns.  All of this displaces thousands of local residents and farmers. When citizens call on the Mexican government to help, the government takes the sides of the criminal gangs and multinational corporations.  In response, local communities have had to form armed self-defense units or independent police forces controlled by the ejidos and communities.  These erect barricades on roads to keep the government soldiers and the criminals out. Mexican federal troops try to disarm local self-defense units instead of the real criminals.  Which is why when you see the U.S. President having a 'tet a tet' with the President of Mexico, he is basically collaborating with the criminal gangs endorsed by the Mexican state and furthering the interest of U.S. imperial capital.  And the U.S. knows it.

Paley goes on to describe similar situations in Guatemala and Honduras.  The fascist military prominent in the Guatemalan civil war are back, now named the "Kaibiles", this time ostensibly fighting 'drugs.'  A past leader of the bloody military which carried on the war of extermination against the indigenous Maya, Oscar Molina, was elected President.  Now military bases are being built around mining and agricultural land owned by big foreign corporations to keep opposition terrorized.  The government even accuses whole communities of being 'narco-communities' so that they can kill or remove them - and run their own drugs, in league with the Zetas. In 2012 the Obama administration stationed 200 Marines in Guatemala to prop up the Guatemalan military and its war on drugs - a first in many years.

In Honduras the 2009 military coup that Obama ignored has allowed the ‘drug war’ to be used against the ousted popular forces by the trans-national business elite.  Some of the same coup figures were involved in death squads when Honduras was used as a U.S. base during the wars in the 1980s against the Sandinistas, FMLN and the Guatemalan popular forces.  In spite of Hillary Clinton's lies as Secretary of State about a reduction in violence in Honduras, the rate of violence in Honduras actually went up with the increase in U.S. military 'anti-drug' aid from the CARSI program.  Now Honduras has a prominent 'maquila' sector as part of the increase in corporate penetration in that country, all part of the same program.  

If you look at the ‘drug war’ in the U.S. and remember to transmit that understanding to the rest of the world, you know that prohibition has its ‘uses.’  And it is not in making us sober. Knowing the truth makes us sober.

A new book on cocaine capitalism and the hidden unity of 'illegal' and legal commodities under capitalism is in the book, "Zero, Zero, Zero" by Robert Saviano.  We do not have it yet at Mayday. Reviews of “Shock Doctrine” and “Secret History of the American Empire,’ below.  Use blog search box, upper left. 

And I bought it at Mayday Books!
Red Frog
February 3, 2015

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