Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dear Government Officials: Today Someone Shot Up a Middle School From a Helicopter, and It's All Your Fault

Update: I had originally said that the attack appeared to be perpetrated by organized crime based on initial reports.  It now appears as though the helicopter in question was actually a Mexican military helicopter.  However, the government is calling the witnesses liars and says the helicopter never opened fire on the school.  It claims that "civilians" firing on each other caught the kids in the crossfire.  But this wouldn't be the first time the government invents narco shoot-outs to cover up for the military when it shoots kids for no good reason.

"Unidentified subjects" in a helicopter reportedly opened fire today on middle school students in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.  Thirteen-year-old Daniela Oyervidez was wounded in the attack.  She is in fourth grade.

If this story even makes the international press, pundits and government officials from both Mexico and the United States will use this horrendous crime as an example of why the war on drugs must continue at all costs: because our children's lives are at risk. 

I just want to point out one small detail: attacks like this didn't happen before Calderon deployed the military to fight the war on drugs, and they didn't happen before the US decided to enable Calderon with the Merida Initiative.  To the pro-war pundits and government officials, I want to tell you this: little Daniela is in the hospital with a bullet wound, and it is your fault.  Your children don't die in the crossfire.  They don't die because poverty drove them to deal drugs on street corners or to enlist in the military because unemployment is at an all-time high.  It's easy for you to wage this war because you don't feel the consequences.  Maybe your children are coke addicts, but we, the journalists, the young, the poor, we die in this war because you have this perverse idea that record-breaking human rights abuses and execution rates means more "security."

Do you really think this war is winnable?  What does "winning" mean to you?  How one "wins" the war on drugs is a mystery to us, because you've never explained how you plan on ridding the world of illegal drugs.  We can't imagine a happy ending to this war.

You won't win this war because you don't want to win this war.  You're having too much fun lining the defense industry's pockets.  You arm both sides (as if there really were "sides" in this war).  And you make a killing selling them weapons and armored vehicles and tanks and helicopters and the latest intelligence equipment. 

And the drugs flow across the border unabated.  And laundered money flows into the banks.  We all know drug money is the only thing propping up the global economy during the economic crisis: the UN has said so two years in a row.   You, Mr. Calderón and Mr. Obama, have no financial incentive to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States.  On the contrary, you'd be shooting yourselves in the foot economically.  Even you, Mr. Calderón.  Mexico has lost a lot of tourism dollars because of the rapidly deteriorating security situation, but drugs pump nearly four times as much money into the Mexican economy, and you know it.

But you have all the incentive in the world to perpetuate the war, because both countries' defense industries--the arms manufacturers and dealers, the private contractors--are making a killing (literally), and your economies still profit from laundered drug money. It's a win-win situation for you.

Meanwhile, Mexico is headed down the path to becoming the next Colombia, where narcos become presidents and innocent people have been dying for so long that now it's a normal part of life.  I hope you're happy with the hell on Earth you've created.


Unknown said...

I have been tracking US Mexico border issues for decades. I appreciate your comments. Might I request a more challenging dissertation from yourself regarding your views on the solutions that would resolve the US Mexico border issues. Please trust me, I am not being sarcastic or cynical in any way. I am honestly curious what solutions you would suggest. Please let me know: Thank you!!

Have an Excellent Day!!

David Hartman

Unknown said...

Hi David.

Thanks for commenting. Yes, this was probably the least fact-based piece I've ever written, because I was enraged, trembling, because a little girl got shot from a helicopter while she was in school.

First, I don't think that there's a utopian solution to the problem of drug trafficking. Illegal drugs, with the exception of marijuana, do kill people from time to time, and they also lead to addictions and other health problems. But alcohol kills people too, and we've learned through experience that we can minimize the health consequences of alcohol by legalizing and regulating and taxing it. Treating people for their addictions and overdoses made more sense financially and in terms of security and public health. Prohibition, on the other hand, gave rise to the US mafia.

I think the same goes for drugs. I think they need to be made legal so that they can be regulated and taxed. I think we need to start with marijuana and then go from there. Regulating and taxing drugs cuts off drug cartels' money supply and their motivation to corrupt and kill.

I'm not a border expert and I won't pretend to be. But I think that once you eliminate the illegal drugs trafficking problem (by legalizing it) then the border zone will become a much less violent place. Then money and resources can be diverted to rehab and prevention and to less-militarized border security solutions.

Again, not a perfect solution, but less people will die if drugs are legalized and regulated. And the government can legitimately tax the industry instead of just letting laundered money prop up their economies.

I hope California does legalize pot in November. The DEA estimates that 50% of Mexican cartels' money comes from pot. Who knows how they know that or how reliable that number is, but that's what they claim. I can assure you that if California legalizes marijuana, no one is going to be buying the dry, seedy Mexican ditch weed that is smuggled across the border in bricks. California has some of the best bud on the continent (from what I've read), and if it's legalized, I'm pretty sure Californians will choose American.

If you want a really good argument for legalization from a US perspective, I suggest you check out the Drug Policy Alliance ( They've got excellent information, and they've been winning legalization referendums in many states because their argument against prohibition is airtight. Ethan Nadelmann is pretty brilliant, both in his arguments and his strategies.

or Comment Using Facebook, Yahoo!, Hotmail, or AOL: