Friday, 22 October 2010

Not your Pancho Villa

The main headline of Time this week has been a list of the most dangerous drug barons in Mexico.

In the public eye Mexico is not associated with drug barons (also called “drug lords” or “high level drug dealers”) in the way the “Andean” nations of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia are. Many would know about the story of such drug barons as Pablo Escobar, who was in 1987 estimated to be the seventh-richest man in the world, but Mexico’s drug barons are not nearly so familiar at least to me.

Coca is certainly grown in Mexico despite requiring a wetter climate than most of that country possesses, but I had assumed the country’s main claim to criminal activity resided in a quite different sphere: political corruption and so-called “people smuggling”.

None of the people are at all famous to me in the way Escobar was, but the “Sinaloa cartel” apparently is as dangerous as the more famous Medellin cartel in terms of its control over world markets for cocaine. There are also the “(Ciudad) Juarez Cartel”, the “Gulf Cartel” and “Tijuana Cartel”.

The descriptions do evoke a situation where drug-related crime is much closer to the centre of drug consumption than remote lowlands of equatorial South America. If this is so, it ought to be easier to do something about cocaine than Ameriricans probably imagine, but the images are really bad in themselves.

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