Mexico

Leaked Memo: Killing Key Cartel Members Isn't Keeping Drugs out of the U.S.

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"We are legion"

Arresting or killing "key" cartel players "does not significantly impact drug trafficking flow" into the U.S., reads a leaked memo from Customs and Border Protection. What does affect the flow of drugs into the U.S.? Crop cycles and religious holidays. 

Since 2006, the U.S. and Mexico have been operating under the assumption that capturing or killing the heads of the cartels would cripple their organizations. The drug-related murder count (as many as 43,000 people in the last five years) and the fact that two-thirds of Mexico's most wanted are either dead or in jail appear to be the only discernible results of that strategy. 

And now it seems even the Department of Justice is willing to admit–at least internally–that its strategy is not working. The full conclusion of the Customs memo reads as follows: 

The removal of key personnel does not have a discernable impact on drug flows as determined by seizure rates. [Drug trafficking organizations] operations appear to have built in redundancy and personnel that perform specific duties to limit the damage incurred by the removal of any one person. By sheer volume alone, drug operations would require more than one individual to coordinate and control the process. While the continued arrest or death of key DTO leadership may have long-term implications as to the control and viability of a specific DTO, there is no indication it will impact overall drug flows into the United States.

The National Drug Threat Assessment released yesterday by the Department of Justice makes equally significant concessions: 

The Mexican-based organizations' preeminence derives from a competitive advantage based on several factors, including access to and control of smuggling routes across the U .S . Southwest Border and the capacity to produce (or obtain), transport, and distribute nearly every major illicit drug of abuse in the United States. These advantages are unlikely to change significantly in the short term, ensuring the dominance of Mexican-based TCOs for at least the next several years.

NDIC assesses with high confidence that Mexican-based TCOs control distribution of most of the heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine available in the United States. Moreover, production of these drugs in Mexico appears to be increasing.

Mexican-based TCOs were operating in more than a thousand U .S . cities during 2009 and 2010, spanning all nine OCDETF regions.

Emphasis mine. So, at the same time the U.S. and Mexico have put more pressure on the cartels (instigating the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent people in the process), the cartels have been trafficking more drugs into the U.S., and claiming more turf in U.S. markets.

This strategy isn't working. 

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  1. The removal of key personnel does not have a discernable impact on drug flows as determined by seizure rates.

    Maybe they should try removing unkey personnel. Or, I don’t know, putting more key personnel in place. Policy makers are open to trying anything to fix this. Literally anything to stop the drug problem. (Except that.)

  2. This strategy isn’t working.

    The politics of failure have failed…it’s time to make them work again!

    1. This strategy isn’t working.

      MOAR MONEY IS REQUIRED! IT JUST WERNT BIG ENUFF!

  3. But it is inspiring action movie plots like this:

    The film would find Schwarzenegger playing a sheriff whose “inexperienced staff” has to stop a drug cartel leader from escaping across the Mexican border in what Kim described as a “super car.”

    MOAR PLEASE!

  4. *slaps forehead*

  5. That really is unexpected. During Prohibition, we took out key personnel and people stopped drinking.

    1. Wasn’t Al Capone’s arrest the thing that caused the end of Prohibition?

      1. No but it did end that terrible Kevin Costner movie.

      2. I thought it was the beer summit.

      3. Wasn’t Al Capone’s arrest the thing that caused the end of Prohibition?

        I thought it was Geraldo breaking into his vault.

    2. It actually wasn’t illegal to drink during Prohibition. It was illegal to manufacture, import or sell alcohol.

  6. [Drug trafficking organizations] operations appear to have built in redundancy and personnel that perform specific duties to limit the damage incurred by the removal of any one person.

    Jumping Jehosephat!

    Does this mean the indians don’t really retreat in disarray if you shoot their chief? I find this quite astonishing.

    1. I know Brooks. It is almost as if these people kill each other and have had to plan for such an eventuality.

    2. [Drug trafficking organizations] operations appear to have built in redundancy and personnel

      1. Shit. Hit the wrong button.

        [Drug trafficking organizations] operations appear to have built in redundancy and personnel

        It’s called profit, and it organizes itself no matter what the opposition.

  7. In the interest of vetting news info, could you post a link to the memo, or at least the source of info about the memo?

  8. This strategy isn’t working.

    The obvious solution is to pour more money into it, roll up our sleeves, and get serious about stopping drugs. Because we’ve never tried that before.

    1. Maybe some sort of government agency….a drug enforcement agency or administration if you will!

      It shouldn’t take long at all to get this problem sorted out.

      1. If you say so. We will have to give them military weapons and broad (possibly unconstitutional) powers.

        1. Well I’m not sure that’s a good idea….but I’m scared of drugs and those dirty druggies so you go ahead and do whatever you think is best….including lying and breaking other laws.

  9. But I thought laws were magic.
    You pass a law that says demand for politically incorrect chemicals is illegal, and that demand should *poof* vanish!
    Why didn’t it vanish?
    And when it vanished, supply should have *poof* vanished as well.
    Why didn’t it vanish?

    All of the best intentions were there!

  10. Riggs, CBP is part of the Department of the Treasury, not the DoJ.
    Could you correct that in the story and mention me by name as a nitpicking bastard?

  11. Years ago, when Barry McCaffrey was the head of ONDCP the Onion ran a story about the drug war being over and drugs having won. Every piece of evidence I see indicates that’s still true, but the dead-enders in the .gov just won’t admit it.

  12. Time to double down!

  13. Killing or capturing key cartel figures to stop production and product distribution seems akin to killing or capturing Bill Gates to get people to stop using Windows.

    I’d be really interested in seeing a balance sheet from one of the mexican cartels (stupid request, since for some reason, I don’t think they have good accounting practices). I’m very interested in the percent of total revenue that the cartel’s marijuana operations represent. I’d guess that it’s the revenue leader, if not the net profit leader as well. If so, I’d love to be able to say with certainty: “legalizaing marijuana would cripple the mexican cartels”.

    Thoughts? Anyone got the 12/31/10 annual statement of Los Zetas? Sinaloa? Juarez? Any of them is probably fine.

    1. “legalizaing marijuana would cripple the mexican cartels”.

      I bet you’re right.

      1. I also bet their accounting is better than you think. Although that’s not to imply that you could just go out to edgar and pull it down.

        1. With their profit margins they can afford to be sloppy with their accounting.

    2. killing or capturing Bill Gates to get people to stop using Windows computers.

  14. “This strategy isn’t working.”
    Depends.
    Now if you assume that drug cartels and the prohibition bureaucracy exist in a symbiotic relationship, and the drug war is designed to assure the continued existence of this mutually beneficial relationship, it’s working just fine.

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