It seems that America (at least in El Paso, Texas) has given up on the drug war. Why? Because they know that what is happening in Juarez, Mexico is just a crackdown away.
Yet what is happening on the other side of the border — a vicious turf battle prompted by Mexican government efforts to crack down on the cartels — is taking its toll here in myriad ways. Americans have cut back on visiting their relatives in Mexico, and Mexicans, too, venture to the American side in smaller numbers, either because they are afraid to leave their homes at night or because they lack money.So there you have it the long and the short. War in the streets or leave the drug vendors alone. It looks to me like the choice has been made.
The local public hospital in El Paso has treated 48 people wounded in gun battles in Mexico in the last year, and law enforcement officials in the United States spend much of their time trying to figure out how to prevent the violence from spilling over into their jurisdictions.
"It's just lawless over there — it's complete lawlessness," said Fernando Apodaca, an El Paso insurance agent, echoing the views of many Americans here. "The criminals have the run of the city."
Apodaca, 47, stopped crossing the border on business, as he had for his entire adult life, after his car was stolen at gunpoint on Sept. 17 in broad daylight.
Experts say many factors have kept violence at bay in El Paso, from a high concentration of law enforcement officials because of border operations to fear of the death penalty in Texas.
But some have other theories. Cook, for one, thinks the problems in Juárez began when a Mexican crackdown on drug dealers backfired. The operation smashed the drug-distribution network on the Mexican side, leading to turf wars. That has not happened on the United States side, Cook said, but if it did, he said, a similar crime wave could erupt.
Worries that the violence in Mexico could spread to the United States reach to the highest levels of the federal government. Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the Bush administration had laid plans to send a surge of federal agents and soldiers to trouble spots if the violence spilled over.
The conflict in Juárez has led some in El Paso to propose radical solutions. In a symbolic resolution of support for Juárez, the El Paso City Council recently voted unanimously to ask Washington to consider legalizing drugs as a way to end the violence. "We think it should at least be on the table," Councilman Beto O'Rourke said. On Monday, the Council backed down after the mayor vetoed the resolution and local members of Congress warned that the Council's stance might imperil federal aid.
Still, the failed measure was a sign of the general longing here for a return to the relatively peaceful days before December 2006, when the Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, began the current campaign to wipe out the drug cartels.
In my town there was a huge drug raid 20 years ago (I had Federal agents swarming around the apt. bldg. where I lived. One of the drug kingpins lived next door to me. And he was a rather pleasant fellow. Very friendly. Not scary at all) and the murder rate shot up just as the FBI predicted it would. We haven't had a big crackdown since. I guess some one told the powers that we are not interested in having a war here. At least not one raging day and night.
Cross Posted at Classical Values