A friend of mine who might know (and therefore should remain anonymous) says that the government in Mexico runs the narcotics industry. He says that the government needs the illusion of cartels to perpetrate murders and extrajudicial discipline.
With the fluid corporate structure of the narcotics industry, the interpretation of who is working for whom is kind of irrelevant. Things change. Former elected officials might retain a lot of power until someone takes it away from them. And everything is negotiable till it’s not.
There’s an interview on the Huffington Post site with Peter Watt, one of the authors of a new book, Drug War Mexico: Politics, Neoliberalism, and Violence in the New Narco Economy.
The mutually beneficial relationship between smugglers of contraband and the political and economic elites goes right back to the beginning of the twentieth century.
The then governor of Baja California, Esteban Cantú, also a military general, takes advantage of the fact that central government is essentially leaving the north to get on with things, so long as they prioritise quelling rebellions and staving off incursions by the US army. Cantú forbids the use of Mexican currency, printing his own instead, and raises his own taxes. Using his power with near complete impunity, he makes a personal fortune from prostitution, extortion, gambling and smuggling contraband into the United States. Governors like Cantú actually favored the prohibition policies, not for the same reasons that Nancy Reagan preached “Just Say No,” but because prohibition virtually guaranteed that the price of opium and heroin would rise. For those in power who could abuse their positions with few or no legal consequences, it was a way to get rich quickly.
Hat tip to Molly Malloy at Frontera List.