By David Simmonds
Part 1 of my interview with Jack.
“Jack” is a career military “special operations” operator, a retired “case officer” and still a member of the intelligence community at the highest levels. The name “Jack” is a pseudonym, at his request. His career has taken him to Columbia, Mexico, the Middle East and much of the world. I know Jack well and know him to be very honest, bright, and a stand-up guy. He is a true patriot in every sense of the word.
We have had many conversations. The following is excerpted from various talks and emails, with his permission and approval.
DS: Jack, what’s going on with the drug cartel situation in Mexico? How is it ever going to improve?
Jack: The best comparison I can make is what happened in Columbia during the time of Pablo Escobar. We were finally able to get to him when the people of Columbia turned against him. The people have to demand it or it won’t happen.
DS: How does this relate to Mexico in 2011?
Jack: Right now the drug cartels are more popular than the government, the police or the army. The cartels are Mexico’s biggest employer. Think about that! They are providing a living and necessities for many people and communities that otherwise would be nearly starving. You can call it bribery or intimidation, which it is. But for the people benefitting it is salvation, a way to get by day to day.
DS: But the brutality of the cartels is contrary to anything I know to be true of the Mexican people. How do you square that?
Jack: For the most part the violence is directed at people in the drug game – rival drug gangs, informants, etc. If it ever gets directed towards the general public, then the people will rise and demand that it change. But the cartels know this. They want the people on their side because they know that is the only way they can survive. So far they are winning that battle.
DS: But there have been some innocent people killed, Jack.
Jack: Yeah, I know, but they are usually in the wrong place at the wrong time and get caught in the middle of something they had nothing to do with. That can happen anywhere in the world.
DS: How did all of this escalate like it has?
Jack: Most people will say that it started with President Calderon’s declaration of war against the cartels. But this really goes back to the 1980’s when the government wanted to change the Mexican economy from a primarily agrarian state to manufacturing. That was when NAFTA began to be negotiated and was finally signed in 1994.
DS: How does NAFTA relate to the situation today?
Jack: NAFTA was intended to benefit Mexico by the growth of manufacturing jobs. At the same time the US started to dump corn into Mexico with the help of subsidies from the US government. As a result, farmers had to leave their farms because they couldn’t get a high enough price for their corn. And the vast manufacturing jobs didn’t quite materialize because of Far East competition, and the work didn’t pay well.
DS: This situation also drove many Mexicans north of the border, right?
Jack: Absolutely. They could no longer make it on the farm or in the city. Enter the drug trade. Either by accident or design they filled a void by “hiring” locals and helping their communities financially. Many people saw just three options – leave their homeland, scrap for a minimum wage job that can’t support a family, or hook up with the bad guys.
This interview will continue in future posts covering drug legalization and who, on both sides of the border, is benefitting from the violence, and the U.S role. I think that many of you will be surprised by what you learn.
Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Contributor for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own. Mexico Today is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination.