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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mexican Cartels Market Heroin in the American Heartland

Old, historic Mexico. Would you like to live in Mexico?

Poverty is widespread (around 44% of the population lives below the poverty line). In Mexico, the average household earned 12,182 USD in 2008

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Mexico is 75 years, or four years below the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs  is 33 micrograms per cubic meter, and is much higher than levels found in most OECD countries.

The average Mexican home contains an estimated 0.9 rooms per person, less than the OECD average of 1.6 rooms per person. In terms of basic facilities, 6.6% of dwellings in Mexico lack private access to indoor flushing toilets, much more than the OECD average of 2.8% dwellings.

In Mexico, 15% of people reported falling victim to assault over the previous 12 months, much higher than the OECD average of 4% and the highest rate in the OECD. 34% of people feel unsafe on the street after dark, higher than the OECD average of 26%.

The homicide rate (the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants) is a more reliable measure of a country’s safety level because, unlike other crimes, murders are usually always reported to the police.In 2009 there were 12 violent homicides registered for every 100,000 Mexican residents.

In Mexico, as in the United States, a violent murder is differentiated from a “justifiable homicide,” such as may occur through self-defense or when a felon is killed by a police officer in the line of duty. Murder in Mexico, as in America, refers to the willful (non-negligent) killing of one human being by another.

In 2009 there was 1 violent murder per 20,000 U.S. inhabitants. When compared to Mexico’s current rate of 1 murder per 8,300 Mexican residents, an individual runs a much greater risk of being violently murdered in Mexico than in the United States, yet the U.S. population is more than three times the size of Mexico's. calculated that there were an estimated 12,400 registered murders in Mexico in 2009. (Cook, Colleen W., ed. "CSR Report for Congress."  Mexico's Drug Cartels. USA: Congressional Research Service. October 16, 2007)

There have been nearly 50,000 drug-related killings in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón began his six-year term. That's more than twice as many civilian deaths in the same period as in war-torn Afghanistan.

This map by Stratfor shows which cartels control which regions, what areas are still up for grabs, and who is smuggling what to where. Part of a full report on the cartels, the map was sent in by Kyle Rhodes of Stratfor who says their analysts work incredibly hard ensuring all their data is highly accurate.

The Government of Mexico Versus Drug Cartels

Mexican cartels advance their operations, in part, by corrupting or intimidating law enforcement officials. Often, the Mexican municipal, state, and federal government officials, along with the police forces, work together with the cartels in an organized network of corruption. A Pax Mafioso, is a specific example of corruption which guarantees a politician votes and a following in exchange for turning a 'blind eye' towards a particular cartel.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) reports that although the central government of Mexico has made concerted efforts to reduce corruption in recent years, it remains a serious problem.

Some agents of the Federal Investigations Agency (AFI) are believed to work as enforcers for various cartels, and the Attorney General (PGR) reported in December 2005 that nearly 1,500 of AFI's 7,000 agents were under investigation for suspected criminal activity and 457 were facing charges.

Felipe Calderón has been widely viewed as having blundered in taking on the drug cartels. Yet, now, many believe his tougher controls have produced some favorable results.

But, when Calderón came to power, Mexico's half-dozen cartels were making up to $10 billion in annual revenue from drugs alone. They bribed officials and the police. Those they could not bribe, they killed. Calderón had no existing means to defeat them so he enlisted the military, a group force that could target cartel leaders and win in an all-out gun battle.

Fifty thousand lives is a heavy price to pay, but this was never going to be an easy war. The cartels had almost taken over Mexico.

Mr. Calderon leaves office in November 2012, as Mexico’s presidents are limited to a single term. In the fall of 2011, he moved to lock in the militarized approach to drug cartels that has defined his tenure, pushing aside public doubts and pressing lawmakers to adopt strategies he hopes will outlast him.

He stepped up calls for Mexico’s Congress to approve stalled initiatives to remake state and local police forces, codify the military’s role in fighting crime and broaden its powers, toughen the federal penal code and tighten laws to stop money laundering.

While Mr. Calderon dismisses suggestions that Mexico is a failed state, he and his aides have spoken frankly of the cartels’ attempts to set up a state within a state, levying taxes, throwing up roadblocks and enforcing their own perverse codes of behavior.

Responding to a growing sense that Mexico’s military-led fight against drug traffickers is not gaining ground, the United States and Mexico set their counternarcotics strategy on a new course in March 2010 by refocusing their efforts on strengthening civilian law enforcement institutions and rebuilding communities crippled by poverty and crime.

The $331 million plan was at the center of a visit to Mexico at that time by several senior Obama administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Could You See America Falling Victim
To the Mexican Drug Cartels?

"With heroin becoming cheaper than a six-pack
and as easy to obtain as pot,
police and prosecutors are turning
to more aggressive tactics against the drug,
dusting off little-used laws to seek
murder charges against suspected dealers
and provide for longer prison sentences."

(Jim Salter and Jim Suhr. "A Shift to More Aggressive Tactics Against Heroin."
ABC News. Associated Press. April 14 2012)

I understand your reluctance to believe the United States could become engulfed by Mexican cartels. But...this report is from St. Louis. Citizens there are fighting quite a battle now. 

In St. Louis, angry suburban parents have organized anti-drug rallies and founded organizations to spread the word about heroin in affluent areas where it is usually considered an unlikely threat. This assertive approach is being adopted more widely and in more areas that have rarely been so bold --comfortable residential communities.

"We are going to treat every overdose scene like a crime scene. We are going to treat every overdose as a potential homicide," said Stephen Wigginton, U.S. attorney for southern Illinois. "Heroin is the bullet."

Wigginton continued, "There is a false belief that you have to be a major drug dealer to be prosecuted. If you give drugs, you'll be treated like a drug dealer, prosecuted like a drug dealer and convicted like a drug dealer."

Read more here:

Heroin has become far more dangerous and accessible in recent years. Mexican cartels a half-decade ago created a form of the drug so pure it can be snorted or swallowed instead of injected, making heroin more appealing to teenagers and suburbanites who don't want the stigma of shooting up.

The extreme purity -- often 50 percent or higher -- means today's heroin is far deadlier than in the past. As a result, heroin deaths have spiked over the past few years in some parts of the country.

Few places have been as devastated as the St. Louis area, where the city and county reported 116 heroin deaths in 2010 and 194 last year. The increase was even more pronounced across the Mississippi River in Illinois' Madison County, where the death toll has climbed from just five in 2008 to 26 last year. (Jim Salter and Jim Suhr. "A Shift to More Aggressive Tactics Against Heroin." ABC News. Associated Press. April 14 2012)

Part of the problem is availability.

"Heroin is easier to get than marijuana now," said Jim Shroba, the Drug Enforcement Administration agent in charge of the St. Louis office.

It's also cheap: A "button" of heroin — enough for one person to get high — can cost as little as $6.

Authorities are also redoubling their efforts to get users into rehab. St. Louis County officers now provide a small card to everyone arrested for heroin with a 24-hour phone help number on one side and police contacts on the other — in case they want to turn in their dealer. 

Tavis Doyle of East St. Louis, who was sentenced to life in prison in August for providing the heroin that killed a man. Prosecutors say Doyle refused to let anyone call 911 after the victim collapsed and instead tried to revive him by putting frozen meat in his pants. 

Tavis Doyle was tailor-made for that charge, according to his lawyer John Stobbs. "His house was a drug den," Stobbs said.

Stobbs said he thought Doyle's was the case on which Wigginton decided to make a stand."You are going to think twice about running a drug house," Stobbs said.

Read more here:

In the five years before Tom Gibbons became state's attorney, Madison County filed just one case of drug-induced homicide. In the 15 months since, Gibbons has filed six.

Beautiful Shannon Gaddis, a heroin victim

Triad High School was off for two snow days in mid-January. Shannon Gaddis, an outgoing, well-known student and former cheerleader, spent the first day with two friends. They bought heroin in St. Louis, police reports state.

Just after midnight she snorted a dose and a half by herself. Later that morning one of them, Taylor Kennedy, woke up to find Gaddis lying prone across her bed, and he called 911, police said.

Read more here:

On Wednesday, January 12, 2011, Triad High School senior, Shannon Gaddis, passed away. Shannon was born on July 27, 1993, and was 17 years old at the time of her death.

Interactive Maps: The New York Times . "The Reach of Mexico's Drug Cartels"
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