El Chapo Got Caught. So What?

The flow of drugs will continue as long as there is a black market.


All across America last weekend, panicked drug users rushed to their dealers to stock up on marijuana, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine for fear of running out. The arrest of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, head of the biggest drug cartel in Mexico, was sure to cause a sudden shortage of illegal substances in this country. 

That's right. And I'm Queen Latifah. 

In reality, the capture of the narcotics kingpin is likely to have about as much impact on drug supplies as Martian solar storms do. You wouldn't expect long lines at the gas pump if the CEO of Exxon Mobil were suddenly unavailable, because the company, its retailers and its suppliers would go on functioning. 

The same holds for the Sinaloa drug operation. It no doubt has a succession plan—Guzman was in prison for more than a year before he made a notorious escape last year—and plenty of experience in dealing with the loss of key managers to murder and other unwanted events. Not many people in the drug trade last long enough to collect a gold watch. 

The cartel's vast network of growers, smugglers and retail sellers will continue their operations largely unimpeded. "I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats," Guzman told Sean Penn shortly before being caught, and they are not going to be parked for the duration. 

A bad man who has allegedly killed thousands of people in the course of business is now in custody, where his opportunities for murder will be far more limited. But anyone who expects this welcome development to mark a turning point in the war on drugs has to be smoking something. Fighting this trade is like mowing dandelions. It makes the lawn look better for the moment, but they grow back and keep spreading. 

The current issue of The Atlantic has a sobering article by David Epstein, published before Guzman's arrest, on how, in 2005, the Drug Enforcement Administration managed to capture Javier Arellano, who ran another Mexican drug cartel, the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO). 

"Javier's arrest would be hailed by officials in the (United) States as a decisive victory in what may have been the longest active case in the DEA's history—a rare triumph in the War on Drugs," he writes. "'We feel like we've taken the head off the snake,' the agency's chief of operations announced." 

But there were plenty more serpents under that rock. "Far from stopping the flow of drugs, taking out the AFO only cleared territory for" (where have I heard this name before?) "Joaquin Guzman Loera—aka 'El Chapo'—and his now nearly unstoppable Sinaloa cartel," Epstein reports. "One agent who spent years on the case told me, 'There are more drugs coming across the border than ever.'" 

The supply of drugs in the United States is not likely to change because Guzman was caught. The volume of bloodshed in Mexico, however, may—and not for the better. Anything that disrupts the operations of one cartel creates an opportunity for others to snatch some of its business—a process that often involves killing rivals in the sadistic ways that distinguish Mexican drug traffickers. 

Ted Galen Carpenter, a foreign policy analyst for the libertarian Cato Institute and author of The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to America, tells me, "It could lead to greater disorder and an upsurge of violence after a few years of relative stability." 

If we truly want to hurt the major drug traffickers, there is a simple way: legalize the use, sale and production of marijuana. A large share of their revenue comes from cannabis, and the United States is their biggest market. The legalization of recreational weed in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia, Carpenter says, "has already put a dent in the revenue flows of the Mexican cartels." 

California, which already allows marijuana for medical purposes, is expected to have a ballot initiative in November to legalize it for mere pleasure. If it were to be approved, says Carpenter, the effect on the drug cartels "would be the equivalent of sinking the Titanic." Who would buy illegal pot from El Chapo if they could buy the legal stuff from a reputable American company—or grow it themselves without fear of going to jail? 

El Chapo is someone the Sinaloa cartel can replace. American consumers? Losing those could be fatal. 

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.


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  1. So what if El Chapo got caught? That’s easy to say if you don’t live near the Mexican border, or have family in Mexico where the cartels victimize innocents. Ya’know… taking your advice STEVE…. the next time I hear of a big earthquake in California the first thing I’ll tell my friends there is “so what” because I live in the Midwest and don’t suffer from natural disasters, that is unless you count the Democratic corruption that has ruined major cities like Chicago and Detroit…

    1. It means nothing except a power struggle that will cause more deaths.BTW,before the war on the cartels started by Cauldron there wasn’t all the violence. The truth is,the U,.S war on drugs has created a black market filled with criminals.Just like the failed war on alcohol did in the early 20th century.

      1. Yes, clearly appeasing thugs is the way to go. Otherwise they might do something you don’t like.

    2. Taking out the head honchos has historically led to more violence in the short to medium term as there is a power vacuum. The problem is that there’s usually no plan on what to do to actually fix the underlying problems after the boss is dead or in prison except.

      1. ….except take out the guys who replace him

        1. How many times was the “Number 2 man in Al Qaeda” killed?

        2. You just don’t get it, do you? Hated it when people have said that to me.

  2. Yay! We got the bad guy. People can finally stop using drugs!

  3. I do remember one time when law enforcement taking out one person was enough to cripple one black market. Apparently, LSD production in the 1990s early 2000s for the entire country was mostly done on one farm somewhere in the middle of the country; that they managed to hide their high level of involvement for so long was impressive.

    When the feds took them out, it did become much harder for a few years to find the stuff (from, uh, what my friends told me). Of course, production picked up again after a few years, this time I bet in a way that likely does not have a single point of failure.

    1. You’re speaking about Leonard Pickard and the silo bust in Kansas. I know Leonard and visit him in prison (he’s doing double-life without parole). The Feds said he was producing over 90% of the world’s LSD, which Leonard disputes. In any event, LSD became very difficult to find in the US – although to a lesser extent in Europe, especially in the former Eastern-block countries. And it was about that time when MDMA – or what was said to be MDMA – became quite popular.

      Additionally, the proliferation of research chemicals being erroneously sold as LSD made many aficionados, like me, switch to mushrooms. You can always trust a dark closet and a pile of cow shit…

  4. my neighbor’s half-sister makes $83 every hour on the computer . She has been without a job for 9 months but last month her payment was $17900 just working on the computer for a few hours. why not try this out

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    1. Your neighbors half-sister needs to check her camera-whore privilege!

      1. I guess doing K9 knotting shows is profitable.

  5. Making cannabis legal across the US will not, as is often claimed (including here), cause the demise of the cartels. What they have done, and will continue to do, is increase the sales and marketing of the other drugs in their bag. There has already been an increase in the availability of raw opium for our smoking pleasure. It is naive to suggest legal cannibus will cripple the cartels, especially when it doesn’t come to fruition: prohibitionists will use it to argue legal weed advocates were only joking.

    The only solution is to repeal drug prohibition and replace it with a legal, regulated market, similar to what exists now for alcohol and tobacco. And to those worrying it won’t work: If we fuck it up, we can always give it back to the cartels.

    1. Umm…make that cannabis. My bad…

    2. Why would reducing the price and risk of one product cause consumers to substitute with other products? It would be just the opposite.

      I do agree with your recommendation though, sans the regulation.

      1. Regulation is WA state is shit.

  6. Im making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do,


  7. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.

  8. One murderous buffoon off the top of the psycho drug lord pyramid. So what? There are enough murderous buffoons to replace him.

    There are really only two choices here. Either actively attack the drug cartels with the US military, even if on Mexican territory/foreign territory, along with far more enhanced border patrols and a huge wall/fence/moat, OR make the price of these drugs drop dramatically by legalizing them (and controlling them and their use strictly).

  9. Apparently El Chapo didn’t have any idea who Sean Penn was, other than that he criticized Bush. His assistant told him he was the most famous man in Hollywood. El Chapo really just wanted to see the actress. Comedy gold. I hope they make a movie about it. Penn is one of the most useless idiots in Hollywood.

    1. I hope the feds have a valid pretext to put Se?or Penn in the pen for the next 20 years.

  10. The drug war tyranny must end, along with all the other tyrannies!

  11. The real reason it will not make any difference is our open border. THere has been no serious effort from any administration to control our southern border for at least 60 years.

  12. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.


  13. So you don’t want to actually end the drug cartels’ reign of terror, you merely want to “hurt” them by taking away their cannabis customers? Isn’t that the same mentality you criticize in drug warriors’ pretense that the arrest of one kingpin will make a difference?

    1. The drug cartels’ reign of terror will end when drugs are legalized. This is elementary, why do so many have trouble understanding it (even while recognizing that alcohol prohibition created the mob)?

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