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March 10, 2013 / Tom Liberman

Rise of the Mexican Drug Trade

Foreign EntanglementsI’ve posted on numerous occasions why I think the so-called War on Drugs actually promotes criminal activity and engenders huge amounts of violence. I’ve also talked about how my Libertarian philosophy suggests that the United States should not be involved in the internal affairs of foreign countries; even those that are our enemies.

Those two ideas came to a surprising conjunction when I happened to be watching a Hulu show called Bordertown: Laredo and did a little research. It’s a story that is so incredible it can only be true. No one can make this stuff up.

In the 1980′s the most profitable drug was cocaine and the production and distribution of this came primarily from a Columbian drug organization called the Medellin Cartel headed by a fellow named Pablo Escobar. At this time Mexico was not a significant drug supplier to the United States.

Meanwhile, in the country of Nicaragua a fellow named Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista government supported Cuba and their communist agenda. President Reagan decided that we would fund a guerilla organization called the Contras in an attempt to overthrow this government. The Sandinistas and Ortega came into power in 1979 and President Carter agreed to allow the government to pursue its agenda without sanctions. Reagan reversed this policy.

Following so far?

Impartial organizations claimed that the elections in Nicaragua were fair and free although the Reagan administration disputed this and provided financial aid and military training to the Contras. In 1983 the U.S. Congress forbid any more funding on the Contras. The Reagan administration refused to admit defeat and began to channel funds to the rebels through outside sources including selling Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Iran which led the Iran-Contra scandal although this is outside the scope of today’s post.

Meanwhile, it turns out there was a fellow in Mexico who was helping fund the Contras. His name was Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo. Gallardo was a high-level security official in the government of Mexico and, because of his generous donations to the Contras, immune to interdiction from the CIA. In addition to helping President Reagan fund the Contras he was also working directly with the Medellin Cartel to bring cocaine to the United States.

Gallardo essentially created the entire Mexican drug cartel organization that exists today. This is the organization that is behind the vast majority of drugs that are shipped into the U.S. and commits much of the horrific violence that pervades Mexico. The violence funded by the massive appetite for illegal drugs in the U.S. and carried out largely with guns manufactured in the U.S. and smuggled into Mexico. Gallardo’s activities were apparently known to the CIA and other U.S. agencies but allowed to continue because he was giving large amounts of money to the Contras.

Gallardo ordered the capture, torture, and murder of U.S. DEA agent Enrique Carmarena. For this he was arrested and eventually convicted. This led to the splintering of his organization and the Mexican drug wars we see today.

As an aside, a fellow named Oliver North in addition to helping funnel money from Iran weapon sales to the Contras was also in contact with Panamanian strong-man Manuel Noriega who was eventually brought to trial in the United States. There is some evidence to suggest that North was at least aware of the distribution of cocaine into the United States from Panama and allowed it to happen because some of this money was also given to the Contras.

Meanwhile the funding for the Contras to overthrow the apparently fairly elected government of Nicaragua was eventually stopped by the Iran-Contra scandal. However, we continued to support anti-Sandinista efforts and achieved election “victory” as Ortega was defeated in 1996. To this day the United States is trying to influence politics in Nicaragua against the Sandinista government which came back into power in 2006.

I don’t mean to suggest that President Reagan wanted to create the drug situation we now face but I strongly argue that his policies led directly to it. The best intentions often lead to horrible results. No one can say that the Mexican drug cartels would not have arisen even without U.S. policies towards Nicaragua but the results of that meddling are undeniable.

We should stay out of the internal affairs of other nations even if those nations are our enemies. Our meddling does us no good and often results in real harm. Oh, and we should make all drugs legal; manufacture, distribute, and tax them in the same way we do any of our legal drugs.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

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