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Chaos on the Southern Frontier
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 5/29/08

Among Mexico’s chief exports are oil, people and drugs. The United States is its best customer for all three. Blessed with petroleum resources, a favorable climate and hard-working, family-oriented people, Mexico should be a prosperous neighbor instead of a mostly poor, third world country whose God-fearing, honest people feel compelled to sneak across our border in order to find work to feed their families.

Unable to maximize its oil wealth potential because of its reluctance to permit foreign investment, Mexico’s state-run petroleum industry is a model of inefficiency. A succession of single-party governments in the past failed to adequately address the needs of its growing population and, combined with institutionalized corruption, resulted in a huge disparity between the wealthy few and the huge, impoverished under-class.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

America’s addiction to cheap, illegal labor encouraged poor Mexicans to leave their loved ones and risk their lives to break the law, paying coyotes to lead them across treacherous and desolate wastelands to try to find work at shamefully low wages in the fields, factories and homes of the United States, often enduring squalid conditions in order to send money home to their families. Congress and the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did little or nothing about the mixed messages we were sending, to wit: respect our borders but if you do make it across without getting caught or killed, there will be work for you. Not surprisingly, the risk was accepted and a trickle became a flood.

America’s insatiable appetite for cheap labor to mow our lawns, tend our children, pick our crops and work at generally unpleasant jobs for wages that no U. S. citizen would agree to is matched by its voracious appetite for illegal drugs, most of which are conveniently supplied by or via Mexico. Human smuggling has been a dangerous enough business, both for the smuggled and for the innocent victims who get caught up in high speed police chases or who have their identities stolen by illegals desperate to avoid apprehension and deportation. But the violence incident to the drug wars in Mexico may impose an even graver risk to Americans, especially in the border regions.

Drug cartels have been blamed for at least 6000 violent deaths in Mexico during the past three years and the slayings are accelerating with prominent police officials increasingly being targeted. Indeed, Mexico’s top police official was recently murdered in an apparent backlash by cocaine drug cartels against a government crackdown. Kidnappings for ransom are on the rise. Drug gangs have practiced brutal torture, atrocities and terrorism in attempts, often successful, to intimidate reformers. They have plenty of firepower, including automatic weapons and even fragmentation grenades, probably obtained from the United States.

The Mexican police alone are unable to contain the violence and the Mexican Army is now involved in action against its own citizens, any country’s worse nightmare. Corruption and intimidation in police departments is reportedly widespread. Three police chiefs recently sought asylum at the U.S. border, claiming that their subordinates deserted them, that their departments had dissolved into chaos and that they feared for their lives.

This is what is going on just south of the border, down Mexico way, and if U.S. citizens think that they are permanently insulated from this chaos, they had better think again because the violence is reportedly already spilling over the border. The danger is particularly acute for Border Patrol personnel because these gangsters and their militias will stop at nothing to preserve their lucrative drug empires. We are not speaking here of a problem in a faraway country in another continent like Columbia. We are talking about our nearest neighbor to the south with whom we share a lengthy and porous border.

We, of course, have largely brought these problems upon ourselves because of our addiction to drugs and cheap labor.  We deserve little sympathy because we have lacked the national will to take effective action back when the problems were still manageable. We are told now that it simply isn’t practicable to seal the border and it would offend Mexican sensibilities to militarize it. But what happens if the good guys lose the drug wars in Mexico? So long as the lucrative U.S. market remains, they really don’t have a prayer. Now, innocent Mexicans are dying because of our insatiable demand for drugs.

Anyone out there got any solutions? Neither Congress nor the Bush Administration appear to. CRO

copyright 2008 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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