Welcome Sylvia Longmire (BorderViolenceAnalysis) and Host, Sam Quinones Journalist, Author (SamQuinones.com ) (LATimes)

Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars

Hello FDL readers

My name is Sam Quinones. I’m a reporter with the LA Times, author of two books of nonfiction stories about Mexico. I’ll be moderating today’s chat.

Today, we’ll be talking with Sylvia Longmire about Mexico’s drug war, now in its 7th year, as I believe it’s actually been going on since at least 2005 — and not 2006 when Felipe Calderon came to office.

I welcome your comments, questions and observations. Please don’t be shy – I’m sure you won’t be, as the topic is fundamental, engrossing, and controversial.

Having followed Mexico’s cartels for years, border security expert Sylvia Longmire takes us deep into the heart of their world to witness a dangerous underground that will do whatever it takes to deliver drugs to a willing audience of American consumers. The cartels have grown increasingly bold in recent years, building submarines to move up the coast of Central America and digging elaborate tunnels that both move drugs north and carry cash and U.S. high-powered assault weapons back to fuel the drug war. Channeling her long experience working on border issues, Longmire brings to life the very real threat of Mexican cartels operating not just along the southwest border, but deep inside every corner of the United States. She also offers real solutions to the critical problems facing Mexico and the United States, including programs to deter youth in Mexico from joining the cartels and changing drug laws on both sides of the border.

Sylvia Longmire is a retired Air Force Captain and former Special Agent in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

She has worked as an intelligence analyst for the state’s Emergency Management Agency, focusing on drug trafficking and border violence.

She has a Master’s degree in Latin American studies and is the author of the new book, her first, “Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars.

Please welcome Sylvia Longmire.

121 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Sylvia Longmire, Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars”

BevW January 21st, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Sylvia, Welcome to the Lake.

Sam, Welcome back to the Lake and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Thanks for having me, Bev!
Sam, great to chat with you again!
I’m very excited to be here this evening.

dakine01 January 21st, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Good afternoon Sylvia and welcome to FDL this afternoon. Sam, welcome back.

Sylvia, I have only had a chance to read the Intro and first chapter of your book so forgive me if you address this question in the later chapters but how can things be fixed when there are large US banks basically supporting the money laundering and receive, at most, a slap on the wrist?

This seems to embolden them for other borderline criminal activities such as fraud with mortgages and such and really seems to be connected.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 2:00 pm

thanks for the invite — good to be back….Sam

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:02 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

Well, banks want to make money like everyone else, and they know what legal loopholes they can work within. I talk about the banking and money laundering challenges in my book, but US banks are largely left to inspect themselves and look for signs of laundering or other illegal behavior. It’s very frustrating when you’re trying to go after the #1 goal of drug cartels.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I think it’s almost important to note, however, that so much cash gets exported to Mexico from the US in cars. and in small amounts by money-wiring services….

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Sylvia — give us an idea of waht prompted you to write the book. Some moment? event? or just a career spent on the topic?

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:04 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

Now, one thing that the US system has going for it is that investigations of US banks make for great headlines, and if an investigative reporter or ambitious investigator catches a whiff of something, the general public will be out for blood – especially in this environment of everyone hating the banking sector. There’s more motivation now, I think, for banks to keep their noses clean and avoid the temptation of drug money flowing through their vaults.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:07 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 7

Actually, writing the book wasn’t even my idea! I had been writing about border issues for many years, and much of my work was out there for public consumption on my blog, online articles, etc. A documentary director I had helped with a project asked if I had ever considered packaging my work for a TV or book pitch, and I hadn’t…until that moment! With the help of my agent and editors, I felt I could really answer a lot of questions for so many Americans who knew a bit about the drug war, but needed something concise and readable – a “Drug War 101″ if you will.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Why do you think there is, as your subtitle suggests,an invasion of Mexico’s drug war on the horizon?

BeachPopulist January 21st, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Haven’t read the book but it seems to me that the drug cartels already have alliances with the major street gangs and that it would be only a short jump from that to Mexico-style warfare on our streets. Am I close? How do you see the scenario developing?

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I think one of my endorsers or reviewers called “Cartel” something like “one-stop shopping” for information about the drug war. It’s not designed to go really really deep into any one aspect; maybe I’ll do that for my next project :).

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:11 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 10

We’re already starting to see signs of the drug war spilling over into the US, especially in south Texas. There are cartel members in over 1,000 US cities, and 90% of the drugs consumed in the US are provided by Mexican cartels. The invasion is like a virus (not so much War of the Worlds), and it’s happening right underneath our feet. I feel that if our government continues to regard the drug war as a low-threat issue, the incidents we’re seeing north of the border will continue to occur with more regularity as cartels get more brazen in encounters with US law enforcement.

dakine01 January 21st, 2012 at 2:12 pm
In response to Sylvia Longmire @ 8

Now here’s where I go Devil’s Advocate:

Wouldn’t it make more sense economically, humanitarian, and a lot of other areas if we went ahead and legalized drugs?
It cuts out the profit motive for the inflated prices due to the illegal activity
It cuts the associated violence since the profit motive has been slashed
A fraction of what is currently being spent in a losing battle could go to education and treatment and drastically increase those areas
We could save a few million people from being treated as criminals when there actions are often addiction related

AdamPDX January 21st, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Thank you Sylvia.

How much of the drug war would decriminalization of marijuana end? What percentage of the drug cartel business is marijuana and what percentage is harder street drugs (cocaine, opiates, etc)?

reefer9 January 21st, 2012 at 2:13 pm

How do you see Islamic Fundamentalists aligning themselves with their counter parts….the narco terrorists like the Zetas etc.
Any ideas if and when that scenario will play out and how?
Meaning…..the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Do you see the 2 entities helping each other out to achieve each others objectives.

emptywheel January 21st, 2012 at 2:13 pm
In response to Sylvia Longmire @ 5

I, like dakine, have just started the book.

Do you go into DOJ’s (relatively) new Transnational Crime Organization initiative, where they basically go after cartels and mobs like they do terrorists? Initially, DOJ only put Los Zetas on its list.

If so I’m wondering if you think that will help. I have noted that the Feds took down the Lebanese Canadian Bank much more thoroughly than they did Wachovia, for example.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:14 pm
In response to BeachPopulist @ 11

All of the cartels use US-based gangs for drug distribution, enforcement actions, or both. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and it helps insulate the cartels from prosecution because when gang members are arrested, they can rarely provide any useful intelligence to cops. We’re already starting to see that kind of criminal-on-criminal warfare in US cities, but no one either dares or is able to classify it as cartel violence because making those links/ties is difficult.

emptywheel January 21st, 2012 at 2:15 pm
In response to Sylvia Longmire @ 8

Dunno. Did you even notice when JPM settled on a bunch of sanctions violations, including trading w/Iran, last summer? You’d think in this anti-Iran environment, it’d have been toxic for JPM but … crickets.

Maybe drugs are different though.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Then the question is how do we know it’s “cartel” violence and not something else?

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:16 pm
In response to Adam503 @ 15

Decriminalization is more practical than legalization because of the United Nations Single Convention against illegal narcotics. But decriminalizing marijuana alone – while making a short-term dent in cartel profits – won’t end the drug war because cartels are making a killing off meth and cocaine, plus heroin. You’d have to completely legalize everything across the board for things to start coming to a close.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:18 pm
In response to reefer9 @ 16

There’s a lot of talk about cartels aligning with terrorists, but it’s such a bad move in so many ways. The cartels know if there’s even a whiff of evidence that they’ve taken one red cent from terrorists, the full weight of the US government will come crashing down on them, whether or not the Mexican government objects, in my opinion.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 2:18 pm

it’s true that the cartels now sell many others things besides marijuana, but marijuana is the product that sells no matter what the popularity of the others. moreover, marijuana is the gateway drug for small traffickers from Mexico. It’s how they get their confidence, experience, clients, routes, capital, etc. It’s rare that anyone begins by smuggling meth or cocaine, i think.

emptywheel January 21st, 2012 at 2:19 pm


As I said, I’ve just read your first few chapters (I found the start quite engaging).

But I’m wondering about the chicken and the egg thing. You seemed to suggest that the Cartels were creating a market. To what degree are they just responding to one. And far more importantly, to what degree are they so virulent because Mexico was destabilized for a variety of reasons?

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:20 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 17

In my book, I advocate for a renaming/recategorization of TCOs because it’s useless to go after them like simple criminals. They’re not quite at the level of full-blown terrorists yet (although a good argument could be made for Los Zetas), but going after them like terrorists is a much-needed stroke of genius.

emptywheel January 21st, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I’m curious that you say that about Los Zetas–I, and others, were wondering why you’d list JUST Los Zetas (listing them made sense to me, listing the Yakuza didn’t, but I was just confused why Los Zetas and not some of the other cartels).

I’m SORT of familiar why they’re different, but can you explain it? Thanks.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:22 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 19

The American public, I think, might have a harder time wrapping their heads around how going after a bank just dealing with Iran is a bad thing. Now, if you say the bank was laundering money for cartels that are chopping people’s heads off just south of the border, it’s a little more concrete, and Americans (and maybe the US media) start to care a little more.

gordonot January 21st, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Yeah an egglaying chickenhatcher is what this is. And a self fulfilling prophecy for those who benefit from the escalation.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:24 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 20

We don’t, and that’s both the beauty of how cartels operate in the US, and the frustration in the debate over spillover violence. I train lots of cops these days on the drug war through my consulting business, and I find that there’s no real way to capture cartel connections in an assault, or burglary, or other violent encounter unless the suspect decides to declare himself a member of a cartel. And if it’s a gang member who was hired by a cartel, and by some miracle he knows which one hired him, is it considered gang violence, or cartel/spillover violence? Very frustrating.

reefer9 January 21st, 2012 at 2:25 pm

A recent news story is briefly copied below….I am curious about your thoughts. I have read other stories where money laundering is being done in the middle East and sub-Saharan/the Horn of Africa for the cartels.

Los Zetas Worked with Lebanese Man Linked to Hezbollah, Says U.S.
The Los Zetas drug cartel has for years collaborated with a Lebanese man who has ties to the militant Middle East Shiite group Hezbollah, according to U.S. federal authorities.

gordonot January 21st, 2012 at 2:25 pm

CIA and their alphamates are up to their eyebrows in these used oats, are they not?

Phoenix Woman January 21st, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 23

Would decrim of marijuana take down the US banking system by taking away the need for cartels to launder money?

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 23

That’s very true. Mexican cartels are what I like to call the Walmart of dope. The stuff is crap – lots of seeds, unpredictable quality, and often just nasty. But it’s cheap, and there’s lots of it. Moreover, they’re getting better at growing it because they’re doing it in US national parks and adopting US growers’ techniques to improve the quality. In one of my last chapters, I advocate for the legalization of marijuana because I think it’s a step in the right direction, but not a silver bullet by any means.

eCAHNomics January 21st, 2012 at 2:28 pm

How badly is the drug war being lost? The more it is fought, the worse it gets.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I have to say you can count me among the highly skeptical about your argument that a cartel invasion is coming. It’s not just that I find no evidence really of that. It’s that it doesn’t correspond to the nature of Mexican drug trafficking once inside the US, which is very diffuse, made up of small networks, usually family or hometown-related groups, of varying sizes but not often reaching growing enormous. these are not cartels.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t take what’s happening in Mexico with great seriousness. That’s absolutely not my argument, but the nature of Mexican trafficking once it gets inside the US is very different from what it’s like inside Mexico.

In fact, I’ve long thought that the drug industry in each country reflects the economy of that country. Mexico’s is oligopolistic, controlled by relatively few. So is its drug industry. The US economy is wide, deep, with enormous opportunities for many, even those with no connections to power. So is its drug industry.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:30 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 24

I don’t know that the cartels were creating a market; they were just responding to the enormous demand coming from the US. And the cartels flourished in a relatively stable Mexico, during the 71-year rule of the PRI. Mexico’s government is still stable, and so is its economy; it’s the security situation that’s become unstable, and that’s why the cartels can operate with impunity.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 2:32 pm

It’s true that there are areas where Mexican drug-related violence is serious — Phoenix, Texas border. But I don’t think it gets much beyond there. In many places, people selling drugs that originated from rival cartels in Mexico coexist very nicely.

I was speaking to a cop in Weld County, CO, a rural county that’s become a major transit point for drug networks from Mexico. He said dope he sees comes from several areas of Mexico, yet the vendors never have any problems at all.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 26

Los Zetas are strange cats in the world of Mexican drug trafficking. The “old school” cartels in Mexico, like the Tijuana and Juárez cartels, the Sinaloa Federation and the Gulf cartel, they emerged and evolved very much like the Italian Mafia here in the US. They only went after each other, and business was business; no wives, no kids harmed. Los Zetas never developed that code because they were recruited to be killers, and they were good at it. They also operate like a franchise, and don’t have the same kind of hierarchy – and thus system of accountability – that other cartels have.

reefer9 January 21st, 2012 at 2:34 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 35

I think there is a preponderance of evidence that the invasion has already begun. It’s not Normandy….it’s kinda like the bay of Pigs……only more successful and consistent.

View this link. The statistics are from the Dept of the interior Park Service.

emptywheel January 21st, 2012 at 2:34 pm
In response to reefer9 @ 30

Incidentally, if you look at that, the ties are far closer with our trade partners Panama and COlombia–we really partnered up with some money laundering hotspots! And the tangential auto broker money laundering will, I suspect, end up having far more attenuated ties to Hezbollah than made out in the press, after having put tens of businessmen in the US out of business bc they’re Lebanese.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:36 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 34

The better question is, how badly is the drug war being managed? This isn’t something that can be won or lost. Who would surrender on the cartel side, as the voice of all cartels? And what would victory look like, since it’s impossible to end all drug trafficking (as long as drugs are illegal) and all drug violence? I think a managed drug war means Mexican citizens can be free to go to work, to school, to the supermarket, etc. without fear of being harmed. In that lens, it’s being managed very poorly.

hackworth1 January 21st, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Calderon “won” the election sort of like Dubya Bush “won”.

IIRC, Calderon’s populist opponent was making some noise about legalizing Pot.

American Political Operatives were active in ensuring that Calderon won the Mexican Election.

Now in the US, as steps are made toward legalization of MJ, the so-called liberal D Party and POTUS Obama are trying to stop it.

So the Trillion Dollar “War on Drugs” Continues unabated.

Aside from the obvious Cartels aka dealers who benefits?

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 37

And I hope that the violence doesn’t get much beyond south TX and AZ :). However, there have been violent murders and other incidents that have occurred well away from the border. We also have to remember that criminal-on-criminal and criminal-on-immigrant violence is harder to detect because the victims aren’t motivated to report these crimes. And those crimes/perpetrators reflect the nature of violence in Mexico. I think our agencies have no idea how many of the violent incidents we see every day in places like Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta, Denver, etc. could be connected to Mexican cartels.

reefer9 January 21st, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Correct. The Last one I read about was in Tulsa Oklahoma. I work with a group called The Texas Border Volunteers and most of us have a real fear of the next terrorist attack is going to be coming in from the southern border. I am always looking to see who else is connecting those pesky dots….you know, the ones that didn’t get connected before 9/11

AitchD January 21st, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Sylvia or Sam (Hi & thanks) –

Do you know how the cartels regard legal medical-use marijuana, or if they regard it at all? Are they antagonists? Have they attempted to undermine it?

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:45 pm
In response to reefer9 @ 44

I wouldn’t worry so much about terrorists coming from the SW border area as I would about the thousands of Hezbollah members already living here in the US. I just wrote an article for Homeland Security Today about this issue: http://www.hstoday.us/briefings/correspondents-watch/single-article/hezbollah-presence-in-the-united-states-is-no-surprise/2e1af4c017be5f75d5a5da67329b6b91.html

eCAHNomics January 21st, 2012 at 2:48 pm

WRT Colombian drug war, I’ve read that the longer term consequences of ‘winning it’, i.e. decapitation, was that it split and split and split and smaller gangs do insurgency warfare, melt into the general population when pursued. They also migrate, or they form contacts in other countries, like Mexico, The Gambia. So it isn’t a matter of managing it well. Insurgencies can’t be managed, they are almost always won by the insurgents. It just takes them a long time.

Insurgents win, in part, bc they are badly managed by their opponents. But that’s a feature, not a bug. No cure for that.


Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to AitchD @ 45

Producers of medical marijuana in the US are their direct competitors because they’re targeting the same market – American users. Now, the quality of US medical marijuana is usually much better than Mexican-grown marijuana. However, the cartels know they have a price advantage. That being said, there’s evidence that cartel marijuana-growing operations in the US are attempting to adopt US growers’ practices, like using greenhouses, to improve the quality of their dope to make it more competitive.

Tammany Tiger January 21st, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Unfortunately, many of the nation’s top leaders continue to view drug use as immoral and thus refuse to tote up the costs and benefits of our current policy, which would lead to the conclusion that the policy is a failure.

eCAHNomics January 21st, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Who are teh big corp sponsors of the drug war in the U.S. Presumably gun mfgrs, drone mfgrs, private prison corps, PhRMA. What are those corps political donations, and who are the largest recipients.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to AitchD @ 45

I offer this as an anecdote for what it’s worth:

I had a long interview over 3 days with a guy from a small village in Sinaloa, incarcerated in an AZ prison. His village basically subsisted on marijuana sales, actually had grown prosperous on it, and the poverty had been alleviated to an important degree because of the relatively high price they got for it year in and year out. He had one fear, as we were parting. He asked me not to write that marijuana should be legalized. I suggested that it might help the economy, as they’d no longer have to bribe the police and could rely on a steady market. he didn’t seem convinced.

eCAHNomics January 21st, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 49

I doubt that many pols in U.S. regard illegal drug use as immoral. More are prolly users.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:52 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 47

If Mexico’s situation were a true insurgency, then I’d lean towards your explanation, but it’s not. The cartels don’t want a new government, or to run it themselves. They just want to control it at the local level so they can do whatever they want. And the cartels have already made contacts in other countries across the globe, but for business purposes only. Los Zetas train and operate to a small extent out of Guatemala, but the majority of cartels are based in and will continue to operate from within Mexico.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:54 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 50

Well, for what it’s worth, Big Pharma doesn’t need the drug war to make profits. More Americans die from the use of prescription drugs than from the use of all illegal drugs combined. If the drug war were to go away and now-illegal drugs were to become prescription meds, Big Pharma would only stand to benefit, I would imagine.

Tammany Tiger January 21st, 2012 at 2:55 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 52

Or, perhaps, abusers of prescription drugs who have enough money to find multiple doctors willing to write them prescriptions for the really potent stuff.

eCAHNomics January 21st, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Self-determination is the goal of insurgents. Political insurgents want control of their govt, drug insurgents want control of their biz.

In any event, I was referring to tactics when I raised the issue of insurgency, not goals.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:57 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 51

Sam, I imagine the situation is much the same for all the opium poppy growers in the Golden Triangle who rely on the cartel buyers just to survive. We know that alternative crop programs have largely failed in places like Bolivia because nothing will ever pay as well as growing cannabis or poppies right now.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Okay, I knew the subject of legalization would come up fairly quickly. But we’re already an hour in, and not one person has mentioned the most controversial subject in the drug war. Guns! :)

reefer9 January 21st, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Excellent article. Many great points to ponder. My guess is that the 19 hijackers on 9/11 probably didn’t give a rats rear end about money laundering, fake purses, or the effect their attack would have on the money raising capabilities of another terrorist organization. I like when terrorists become capitalists. I can talk to those folks. It’s the ones whose main objective begins with my death that are difficult to bargain with.Because an eye or an arm just won’t satisfy them.

eCAHNomics January 21st, 2012 at 3:00 pm

PhRMA makes profits on patented drugs, not OTC ones. 80% of their research is on me-too drugs, i.e. those with the smallest patentable diff from blockbusters. Think Viagara-Cialis.

Are you suggesting that if mj were legalized, PhRMA would figure out a patentable diff, buy off congress & prez so that prescriptions for their brand be required? I haven’t heard that plan before.

AitchD January 21st, 2012 at 3:00 pm

(Nice & interesting article, thanks)

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:01 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 60

Ha ha! You crack me up :).

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:02 pm
In response to AitchD @ 61

You’re welcome! I write three articles for HSToday every month, almost always about border issues, so feel free to check back on their website every couple of weeks if the subject interests you.

hackworth1 January 21st, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Recall that four months before 911, the US Gov gave the taliban 43 mil to get them to stop the poppies.


How did that work out?

What might be a better alternative than bribery and iron fists?

reefer9 January 21st, 2012 at 3:04 pm

In your opinion are the guns coming from america or the middle east / Africa or where exactly?

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Guns — good topic. I have to say, the ATF for all the heat they’ve been taking over Fast and Furious, always seemed to me an agency that one part of Congress/America hoped never really did their job. thus they’ve never had the power/ability that, say, the FBI has had. it’s an agency that has been hamstrung, yet now is asked to take on one of the most important/pressing issues: gun-running, or gun sales, to Mexico

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 64

Well, the easiest – and hardest – answer is to make the poppies worthless, either by eliminating demand or eliminating the black market for them. Both incredibly impractical.

pJack January 21st, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 14

Totally agree, plus taxed like cigarettes. Windfall revenue for the shortfall that exists. Shoot any dealer that sells to kids!

eCAHNomics January 21st, 2012 at 3:06 pm

WRT poppy in Afghanistan, it is less hygroscopic than wheat or other alternatives, very important in drought ridden Afghanistan.

Also going back to my PhRMA link, I have heard, but never enough evidence to satisfy me, that the soln to poppy is for western govts to buy the crop and distribute morphine as a cheap painkiller which is more effective with fewer side effects than the fancy PhRMA patented drugs.

In this narrative, PhRMA is the big impediment.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:07 pm
In response to reefer9 @ 65

I think a good chunk – mostly pistols and rifles – are coming from US sources. Very cheap, very easy, and very close. That’s a simple business practice right there. Another chunk is coming from Central American sources, and yet another from Mexican sources – military, cops, etc. The $64,000 question is, in what proportions? NO ONE know that answer, which is extremely frustrating.

AitchD January 21st, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 60

Several patented prescription drugs that mimic mj & THC already exist here and in Canada.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Guns is also a topic where Americans don’t seem to understand the contradictions of their desires: an almost unregulated access to guns and an end to the cartel violence and cartel power in Mexico. it’s almost as if you can’t have both.

BevW January 21st, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Sylvia, Sam, the cartels in the US, have they divided up the US into regions or is it free-for-all and that is the cause of the violence?

eCAHNomics January 21st, 2012 at 3:09 pm
In response to AitchD @ 71

Not surprised. Also guessing they are more expensive and less effective than the real thing.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 66

Definitely agree with you. The ATF has been vilified for decades by pro-gun groups, but they’ve never been allowed, or given the resources, to do their job properly and effectively. There are a LOT of unanswered questions about F&F, but I wonder, if the ATF worked at a much less dysfunctional level, and with much less pressure from both pro-gun groups and the US government, would F&F have ever happened?

RevBev January 21st, 2012 at 3:10 pm

You certainly have an interesting background. You may have answered this above…not sure. Where do you see the largest threat to the safety of the US? And, do you think maximizing threats/or building fear is an on-going practice?

Siun January 21st, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Thanks Sylvia for you very useful book …. It really helps to have all this foundational info so well presented particularly given the ways the media plays these issues for maximum hype not clarity.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to BevW @ 73

the illegal drug market in the US is almost entirely a free-for-all in my view. but i would say there is very little violence associated with it. remember the colombians in the 1980s? they turned Miami into a well-documented war zone as they penetrated the US market with their cocaine. Mexico drug groups and networks are simply not like that.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:12 pm
In response to BevW @ 73

Bev, I know that certain cartels have a presence/operational control in specific cities in the US, and they also have arrangements with specific gangs in those areas. But I’m not sure – and maybe no one is sure – about how they establish those territories, and how they avoid fighting over them in the US.

reefer9 January 21st, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Articles/opinion from pro gun institutions suggest that it would be impractical for a majority of the weapons to come from the US. Do you not see any overseas link. For example we know of the friendship between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez. Is it possible large quantities are moving that way?

eCAHNomics January 21st, 2012 at 3:13 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 72

Think of a split personality as an analogy. Citizens (99ers) want guns to protect themselves from govt tyranny. Geez, I’ve got almost 6-months worth of food in my house. Under NDAA, I’m allowed only a week’s worth. So I am a terriss.

The other side of the split is gun mfgrs who desire the most violence to create demand for their products.

No contradiction. 2 diff constituencies.

AitchD January 21st, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 74

Hashish is the real thing, but I regress.

hackworth1 January 21st, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Legalization of all drugs for those over 21 would be very practical. Good for population control. A true Ron-Paul-Market-Driven Utopia. If legal, Poppies are cheap. Pot is cheap. Coke is cheap. Let everyone have all they want. Bust em if they drive a car Etc. At first, many fools would overdose and die. Then people would wise up a bit. Moderation is key.

How is it impractical? People want it. The Cartels, our pol reps and their masters do not.
To clarify, our political reps will not allow it to be practical.

Siun January 21st, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 51

I certainly have heard the same from CA based growers, at least the smaller family business ones. They also were reporting increased violence around their communities due to Mexican cartels entre into their region.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:15 pm
In response to RevBev @ 76

I think the largest threat is to US law enforcement, particularly if they don’t know what they’re walking into. For example, last October in Hidalgo County, TX, a sheriff’s deputy was responding to a strange call about a possible kidnapping. It turned out it was a deal gone bad, two people had been kidnapped, and the deputy took three bullets to the chest from a Gulf cartel member. I worry that as cartels get more desperate to maintain their drug profits and move product into our communities, and as their self-discipline and expertise levels get lower, we may see more confrontations like this.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to reefer9 @ 80

I doubt it; do you know how far Venezuela is from Mexico? Quite a ways, and you have to go through several countries to get there! And it’s ridiculously practical/easy to buy guns in the US and transport them south. The straw buyers hired by the cartels to do the buying are US citizens, and they have clean records. They can walk out of a gun shop with at least a dozen guns, load them in a car, hand them off to a courier, and walk away. Chances of that courier getting inspected heading south is only 1 in 10 – maybe less than that.

Tammany Tiger January 21st, 2012 at 3:20 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 83

If you set the age at 21, get ready for a world of enforcement headaches. As it is, college officials are at their wits’ end trying to deal with underage alcohol consumption.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:21 pm
In response to AitchD @ 82

Have you ever seen the series “Drugs, Inc.” on the National Geographic Channel? The did an episode a couple of weeks ago on hashish, and boy is that stuff potent! I know very little about it since it’s primarily a European/Middle Eastern vice, and the show was quite enlightening.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:23 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 87

If you set the age at 18, then you’re matching up with underage tobacco consumption. It would be an enforcement challenge no matter what age you go with, I think.

reefer9 January 21st, 2012 at 3:23 pm

We will agree to disagree. I do like the spirited conversation.

AitchD January 21st, 2012 at 3:23 pm

No, I can’t trust anything on TV except golf. :-)

hackworth1 January 21st, 2012 at 3:24 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 87

Make it 25. Whatever. Try it out and see how it impacts society. We never hear the news out of Amsterdam.

Does drug legalization reduce crime, for example?

BevW January 21st, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Sylvia, in your Introduction you talk about an encounter by Agent Border Patrol Mike Miller had with a group of people at the border, dressed in black with military hardware. Could you explain that to our readers and does it happen often?

marymccurnin January 21st, 2012 at 3:25 pm

If anyone can pretty much get any drug at any time, how can the headache get bigger for enforcement of under age use?

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:27 pm

One thing I like to talk to people about is the significance that the drug war has to Mexicans in their communities. You all likely come across someone from Mexico on a regular basis, whether at a restaurant, or hotel, local store, etc. Have you ever thought to ask them what part of Mexico they’re from, and if their families have been affected by the violence? I’m traveling a lot these days, and I do this on every trip. You might be amazed at some of the stories you might hear.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:29 pm
In response to BevW @ 94

I love the responses I get about Agent “Miller” in the introduction! The real agent (I use a pseudonym for his protection) is a good friend of mine, as are several other US Border Patrol agents. Depending on the sector, this sort of thing happens every day. South Texas, parts of Arizona near Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and San Diego sector see this sort of confrontation quite a bit.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Sylvia — what’s your view of the Calderon administration’s approach. there’s a Mexican presidential election coming up this summer, in which a major, perhaps leading, candidate (Pena Nieto of the PRI) has let it be known he would probably change the approach, standing down the military. What’s your view?

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to marymccurnin @ 95

It can always get bigger, which means enforcement gets much less effective. Then you have budget cuts on top of everything else in some places. In California, the state government just eliminated their Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement – something like 160 drug agents, all reassigned. Considering California is the top domestic marijuana producing state…can you imagine the impact of that cut?

reefer9 January 21st, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I live near San Antonio and I have. You are right. The consensus is that any where is better than the border regions. The drug traffickers have taken over the human smuggling operations. Most of the folks I have spoken to have been here a while and came over with “freelancers” or coyotes….now the cartels are starting to run the show. We see smaller groups that we saw to years ago and our spotting and reporting to BP is down as well.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:35 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 98

I think Calderón painted himself into a corner with his military strategy. Anything less than a full-blown offensive would have acknowledged some sort of defeat or failure, and I don’t think he wanted to do that. If/when Peña Nieto wins, he could likely pull the military back in some places. My hope is that they go after Los Zetas, and Los Zetas alone for a solid year with everything they’ve got. That group is easily the biggest danger in Mexico right now. The Mexican government would have to give the US government the finger in some capacity to pursue that strategy, because it would mean essentially ignoring other crime groups. But I think it’d be worth it.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 3:35 pm

yes, that would seem to be a major blow to law enforcement in the state.

BevW January 21st, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Sylvia, Sam, what are your views, future predictions of where the Cartels will be in 5, 10 years?

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Bev, are we assuming that US drug policy stays the same, or is that part of the question? :)

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I’ll be interested to see if EPN wins whether that happens, and whether it means a return to the PRI days of old, when the government facilitated traffickers’ work in some areas, and in others stayed out of their way. What’s you view of a Pena Nieto administration?

BevW January 21st, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Your call – will US drug policy stay the same or change to meet the changing War?

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Sam, I think there’s no going back to the old PRI days. Remember, back then, the government had ultimate control over the cartels. If someone got out of line, there’d be some arrests, killings, disappearances, and the cartels would step back in line. Now, it’s just the opposite. I don’t think the cartels have much to gain from any sort of arrangement, assuming they’d even remotely be interested in any concession. Plus, in the PRI days you only had four or so major cartels. Now, it’s anywhere from seven to 28, depending on your source. I think the PRI is also under a huge spotlight to make sure they don’t repeat mistakes past, and the US government is more invested in security happenings in Mexico. I really don’t see any huge strategic shift coming up.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:45 pm
In response to BevW @ 106

If Obama gets reelected, or if a Republican wins the election, there will be no drug policy change in the next five years. Ron Paul is a long shot, and even on the off chance he got elected, he’d still have an anti-drug Congress to deal with. I see much more of the same, unfortunately.

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Bev — that’s a good question. On one hand, it appears the road is clear for them to get larger, and perhaps get international, as they seem to be doing in small increments. On the other hand, the Calderon govt has made history in the numbers of cartel capos it’s killed or arrested and deported. Even Chapo Guzman has had key people close to him arrested in the last few months. So you may see a continuing of the fracturing.

It’s a long argument and one I don’t know we have the space to make here…however, in my view, until Mexico reforms deeply its local institutions — city govt, taxation, — these drug groups will continue to grow. If there’s anything this drug war and these cartels have shown, it’s that in the global economy, local govt is more important than ever.
MExico was bequeathed a dysfunctional local govt system by the once-ruling party and a dictator before that.

I think our local govts, strong and able, are one reason why we haven’t seen this kind of barbaric bloodshed that exists just a few miles south.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I’ve been very disappointed with the lack of attention being given to border security in the presidential debates thus far. It sends me a message that the border and the drug war is not a national priority, and that’s another reason why I see things staying the same, or getting worse.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to Sam Quinones @ 109

Sam, local law enforcement really is one of the front lines of defense, and they know those border communities better than anyone. Border Patrol and CBP stop the people crossing illegally with drugs, but many cartel players are here legally, or make it across the border undetected. Then it’s up to our cops and communities to ferret these folks out.

BevW January 21st, 2012 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this lively Book Salon discussion,

Sylvia, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the Mexican Drug War.

Sam, Thank you again for returning and for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Sylvia’s website and book and BorderViolenceAnalysis blog.

Sam’s website and books and Reporter’s Blog

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Sunday – Greg Palast / Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores; Hosted by Diane Wilson.

If you want to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

RevBev January 21st, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Would a rational immigration policy have much impact on the problem?

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I’ve been disappointed in the way Mexico has not been a major issue for anyone in the campaign so far. Pres. Bush didn’t do much, certainly post 9/11. Obama has made some moves re Mexico, but then other things grabbed his attention, like our economy, and Mexico seems to be once again pushed into the background. Unfortunate, i think.

eCAHNomics January 21st, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Border security is more stringent than ever and undocumenteds are coming across in vastly decreasing numbers. What are you talking about.

Sylvia Longmire January 21st, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Thank you both so much for your time, and to everyone who participated for your great questions and comments!

Sam Quinones January 21st, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Time is winding down. Thanks to Bev and FDL and to Sylvia, and to chatters all, for joining us.

You have a true tale, you’re hankering to write, click on my ‘Tell Your True Tale’ link. I’m on Twitter (@samquinones7) and on Facebook (Sam Quinones).

Enjoy the rest of your evening.


eCAHNomics January 21st, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Would also dispute your assumption that R ‘debates’ have anything presidential about them.

Tammany Tiger January 21st, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Thank you, Ms. Longmire, for spending part of your evening with us.

hackworth1 January 21st, 2012 at 4:12 pm

The author, seems to offer a traditional point of view from a law-enforcement perspective. Ms. Longmire espouses one sensible idea – the legalization of MJ – which she gives short shrift.

Aside from that, she is all about cracking (more) heads.

Ms Longmire pointed to law-enforcement budget cutting as a problem. While this may hold some truth, it is also true that a shifting of budget resources is occurring. Flooding the DOHS with more cash while cutting other law enforcement agencies still results in the overall fortification of the Police State – (which has been fighting the War On Terror for over ten years and the War on Drugs for a century).

What we have to show for it is the destruction of our civil liberties.

AitchD January 21st, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Mexico has been a colony for Monsanto and Smithfield Meat Packing, so the economic and social disruptions are self-censored in most US reportage. If that flu news from two years ago could have been censored it would have been. Mexico can’t afford to buy our jet fighters like Brazil can afford.

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