The disappearance and presumed murder of the 43 Mexican students of Ayotzinapa exposed to the world the relation between drug cartels and the violence of the state apparatus in capitalist Mexico. What is not publicized in the corporate media is the U.S. role in corrupting and impoverishing Mexico — and in causing the drug war that has taken 100,000 lives. Today, the masses there are rising up in protest.
Crushing poverty was imposed on the rural Mexican people in 1994 by the so-called North American Free Trade Agreement pushed by Washington. Its provisions destroyed the rural economy and ended the livelihoods of many farmers, as the invasion of U.S. corporations and their commodities began. This fueled the rise of the drug cartels. Another factor in their ascent has been the strong demand for drugs and drug profits coming from the U.S. side of the border.
However, the forcible intervention of U.S. arms traffickers and repressive forces in Mexico has only escalated this conflict, so it has now spread countrywide. The U.S. has invaded Mexico and violated the country’s sovereignty and security for years.
Gun control laws are much more rigorous in Mexico than in the U.S. Large-caliber rifles or high-powered pistols, which are considered military weapons, cannot be legally owned in Mexico by private citizens.
U.S.: the source of guns in the “drug wars”
However, in the four U.S. states bordering northern Mexico — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — there are 8,500 licensed gun dealers. There, agents or “straw buyers” of drug gangs purchase guns, such as AR-15s and AK-47s, often in large quantities, and take them to Mexico for transfer to the drug bosses.
The weapons were first brought into Mexico in massive quantities as the drug wars escalated in 2005 and then continued. But the tens of thousands of U.S. military troops on the U.S. side of the border have never tried to stop the gun traffic. They are stationed along the border solely for the inhumane purpose of stopping immigrants from entering the U.S.
Mexican authorities have said they seized 20,000 weapons from drug gangs in 2008, with the majority brought in from the United States. Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimated in 2009 that 90 percent of the weapons recovered in drug gang violence originated in the U.S.
Between 2006 and 2011, the ATF operated Project Gunrunner and the Arizona ATF branch ran Operation Fast and Furious (OFF). These operations were ostensibly to stop the flow of guns to Mexico. They traced the guns’ journeys from U.S. dealers to the traffickers in Mexico. ATF agents went along with the “straw buyers” and surveilled and built relations with heads of the drug cartels, especially those in Sinaloa.
But these programs did not actively try to stop gun shipments from the U.S. to Mexico, whose law enforcement agents were not even notified about the ATF operations. While these operations were going on, the drug wars became especially violent in the border city of Tijuana and all along the Mexican side of the border with Texas.
In Ciudad Juárez, just across the border from El Paso, there were 10,000 recorded deaths from the drug wars from 2009 to 2012. Now, the violence has moved south into central Mexico once again.
However, the U.S. right wing, with Rep. Darrell Issa in the lead, has used the issue of U.S. gunrunning and OFF to attack Attorney General Eric Holder. The right wing has a vendetta against Holder, one reason being that a Border Patrol agent was allegedly killed with a gun supplied by OFF in 2010.
The ATF and OFF are supposed be under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Justice Department. However, agencies of repression such as the ATF are often powers unto themselves, though they’re part of the repressive capitalist state.
U.S. planes, drones fly over Mexico
Washington has been involved with Mexico in a “new security initiative” to combat drug trafficking called the Mérida Initiative/Plan Mexico at a cost of $3 billion. Now, U.S.-piloted aircraft and drones fly deep into Mexico, and not just along the border. And Washington trains thousands of Mexican troops and security officers.
According to U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials, Washington collaborates with vetted Mexican security units. All this is not well-known because the Mexican Constitution forbids foreign military and law enforcement agents from operating in Mexico. Officials want to keep this from coming into public view. Not surprisingly, none of these relationships have stopped or slowed the drug war.
In reality, the U.S. contributes to the drug war in Mexico. The U.S. military and intelligence forces inside that country work with and influence Mexico’s police force, and they interact with the drug gangs.
The U.S. is not really helping to combat the drug-related violence in Mexico. The opposite is true. U.S. imperialism is only furthering the suffering caused by the drug war and has no interest in stopping it — no matter how brutal it is for Mexico’s workers and poor people.
Washington will keep repressive forces in Mexico to ensure that U.S. corporate profits continue to flow from the labor of Mexican workers, but not to improve or protect their lives. The lives of the Mexican masses do not matter to U.S. imperialism.
Their lives do matter, however, to the workers and oppressed people of the world who stand with them against the Colossus to the North.