A drug lord tied him to the back bumper of his old Ford pickup and dragged him across the rugged desert terrain until nothing remained of his carcass.
After struggling for generations to improve their lot, many Mexicanos have stopped praying. Instead, they are selling drugs to the wealthy gringos in el norte. Meanwhile the Mexican government keeps a choke hold on the middle class in order to enrich the ruling class and use a clever public relations machine to conceal their mafia-type operations from the rest of the world.
Operating from Ojinaga, a remote desert pueblo, Pablo Acosta developed the first multimillion-dollar exporting business from the harshest desert in Mexico. As a teenager in 1958, Pablo Acosta saw his father gunned down in the street in a small Texas town for no particular reason. Pablo learned early about toughness. Although his father was illiterate, he taught Pablo about business, how higher business risks often yielded higher profit margins. After his father's abrupt death, caused by a bullet between his eyes, Pablo began to apply his business savvy to a fledgling drug business during the 1960s. "Pablo Acosta would later tell how his father and Macario Vazques, the most famous of candelilla [desert plants used to make wax] smugglers, once shot it out with forestales [government forest rangers who often robbed peasants] in the mountains above the river village of Santa Elena."(1) Smuggling has a long tradition in the Mexican border towns since before the Revolution of 1910, when guns were brought from the north to fight the authoritarian, almost fascist, government.
Like the violent fights against a tyrannical regime, smuggling also represents one of the links between the popular Villa-Zapata Revolution (1910) and the growing drug industry that first began by selling cactus moonshine, sotol and mescal to Americans during Prohibition in the U.S. The drug business picked up in the 1960s.
"For him [Regela, an FBI agent] the investigative experience became the thrill of traveling backwards in time. Smugglers wearing sombreros and crisscross bandoleers studded with high-caliber cartridges used tactics their forefathers had employed even long before the Mexican Revolution to evade detection." (2)The revolution of 1910, like its predecessors, aimed at transforming Mexico's charade of a democracy into a government for the people, where the regular Mexican citizen might have a chance on an equal economic playing field with the generations of landed Spanish aristocrats, and where peasants might obtain a small parcel of land to cultivate a viable living standard, almost like a middle class.
That never happened. The status quo, elite class picked apart the revolution and then reinforced its authoritarian regime once again and to this day. In place of the failed revolution, peasants, like Pablo Acosta, found a new marketplace, where they have a chance at a middle-class, if not higher, standard of living--despite the risks.
For peasants, ambitious to improve their situation, drug trafficking has become the surest work that pays the mortgage, nice cars, and education for their many children. It's the Mexican dream. Running drugs north is the ticket to success and, if a guy plays his cards right, he can move up in the organization. It's the fast track, like earning an MBA or a JD in the U.S., more risky but more lucrative.
Guys like Pablo Acosta hitched their wagons to this gravy train. The more cut-throat and aggressive drug runners learned to branch out, develop their own operations, and, most importantly, earn enough money to dominate la plaza, the marketplace.
Quie'n estÃ manejando la plaza? Who is in charge of the marketplace? To Mexican drug traffickers, this expression takes on special meaning. Who pays the government authorities the license to operate, to kill competitors, and to control a territory?
The protection money goes up the ladder, with percentages shaved off at each level up the chain of command until it reaches the highest levels, including the Mexican presidency, judiciary, police, and military.(3) The more a trafficker pays, the more he gains in territory and latitude to operate. A drug lord like Acosta, a Padrino or Godfather, can dominate an entire state like Chihuahua or Sinoloa, as reported by journalists, who risk their lives to reveal the dangerous secrets.
Contrary to reports in the mass media, the Mexican government has always been complicit in helping certain entrepreneurs to develop strongholds in their marketplaces. Even monopolies like Slim Helu's telephone business is supported by a government guarantee, so long as the officials are handsomely bribed. Likewise, Mexican government officials all the way to the presidency receive bribes to protect certain entrepreneurs in the lucrative drug industry, as we see in daily news reports ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFDVV1YxKuI ) exposing the government support for the powerful Sinoloa cartel.
"The story of Mexico is a predictable story of absolute power corroding absolutely. It is the story of awesome accumulations of wealth by a miniscule fraction of Mexican society derived through the advantages of power, through the systematic plundering of the wealth of its own people and through the exploitation of weaknesses in the United States. It is the story of a deliberate orchestrating of drug trafficking to flood those neighbors with drugs, for gain but also to satisfy a twisted thirst for vengeance. It is the story of the resulting impoverishment of a potentially great nation whose people are forced out of desperation to flee, bringing about one of the greatest migrations in North American history." (4)From its Spanish colonial origins, the Mexican government has grown over centuries into the regime it is today. It is not a democracy for and by the people. It is an extreme right-wing government, holding power by an iron fist. Except for rare anomalies, the presidents are selected among the ruling class and then passed through an electoral charade. Opponents to the selected presidents are not allowed to win the election. The process is fixed one way or another to make this happen. The proof of this lies in scandals that occur during elections, when ballot counting is fixed by various methods or where campaign funds are overwhelmingly stacked against the opposition.
An Evil Use of Branding and Marketing The word "corruption" does not apply because the government operates by systematic self-enrichment of a dominating ruling class. "Corruption" implies some criminal exception to an otherwise principled government serving the interests of the general public. On the contrary, Mexico's regime operates in secret from the general public and especially the United States. A clever use of branding, marketing, and public relations strategies, applied in Machiavellian tactics, enables the authorities to maintain a veneer of a disciplined and ethical system, while in reality the plutocracy, unaccountable to anyone, has always profited from operations like the harvesting of candelilla a century ago to supplying cocaine today. Drug trafficking operations in Mexico are now a billion-dollar business and offer so much profit that those in power cannot reject the drug trade as unethical or illegal. It is so attractive to everyone, it is unstoppable.
Today the government--the judicial system, the police, the military, and even the executive branch--participates in trafficking to further its ambition to garner wealth for the ruling class. Over centuries of rule, the Mexican government has developed a steadfast power arrangement in which a tiny group grabs the wealth at the cost of the rest of the population.
The Mexican government corrupts its own people by reaching down to the ambitious peasant classes and enabling and even sponsoring organized crime. Traffickers like Pablo Acosta or Amando Carrillo Fuentes, men from peasant backgrounds, did not buy and intimidate their way into power over la plaza. Rather, the government officials, from the local police all the way up to the president, allowed them to do what they do; they were encouraged, almost employed, to generate wealth for the men in positions of powerful authority, men who normally should protect and serve their country's citizens. The Mexican government, under veils of secrecy and under-the-table deals, has refined its ability to tap into the ambitions and energies of individuals of lower classes and to channel them to increase the gains of their more educated and powerful masters in authority. When drug lords and others like them reach the end of their dangerous and glorious careers, the same system that sponsored them, now moves to kill them or jail them, and seize whatever wealth they may have accumulated.
Mexican officials and their civil servants fighting the war on drugs are part of a clever illusion, a public relations campaign. They call the media to witness and document how they ceremoniously burn marijuana stalks as a great stride in the battle against crime, but only after they have harvested the lucrative tips of the plants. When staging cocaine burnings, it is almost always corn starch, while the real coke is already sold to a favored cartel. They will seldom ever genuinely cooperate with U.S. drug enforcement officials beyond a mere charade of professionalism.
In one report to the next, from books like Drug Lord by Poppa (5) to Murder City by Bowden(6), Mexican officials vehemently deny any complaint or accusation of involvement. As proof of their commitment to fighting the war on drugs, they will pick out an ineffective drug runner to sacrifice in the name of the law and their own reputation. To hell with the drug-addicted victims in Mexico and much less in the U.S. Business continues, and it is good.