‘Rogue’, ‘Failed’, ‘Gangster’ & of course ‘Narco’. As so much of modern politics increasingly defines organized crime (arguably in it’s ultimate form), it’s perhaps best to donate some attention to regions that are afflicted by the ‘classic’ model, or at least the model with the most recognized distinction of this growing phenomenon. Filthy as fuck money, drenched in blood, massive narcotic dividends, major state thievery, larceny & kleptocratic hoardings, are washed through the City of London, New York or Switzerland & stashed off-shore beyond tax authorities & public knowledge (or hygienically converted by ‘investments’ or ‘assets’). Both the War on Drugs & the equally pathetic War on Terror remain, absolute failures (more, & worse drugs – more & worse terrorist entities, pretty much by every calculation available <volume, potency, prevalence, numeracy>), a convenient excuse to extend both farces in perpetuity & roll out ever more asphyxiating human rights curtailments, invasive surveillance application & ideology (that is quickly extrapolated to ‘undesirable’ civilian elements), compulsory submissions of commercially exploitable personal data as well as being a tremendous distraction & inaction tool-set & political currency for bullshitting, manipulative diversionists looking to conceal ulterior interests & agendas at the worlds expense. The current climate of impoverization, plummeting living standards, social insecurity & destitution (state neglect effectively) trailing in the wake of the 2008 non-consensual bank-bail-out, now further exacerbated by Austerity, ie – ‘fiscal extremism’ & ‘financial sadism’ (only applicable to the poor, as we are, by action after action – not by any notion ‘in this together’) makes the lure of drugs (& other profit driven crime) less of a ‘choice’ & closer to the a category of necessity. this is a form of criminalization by necessity. let’s recall also, that all of this occurs whilst international capitalism screams, without abatement, through more & more platforms, at a longer & louder gauge – that you are what you earn, and that purpose & existential value is defined by consumerism & bank balance (or the scope of ones off-shore). Worse still, the increasingly devaluing standard available for, forgiving the simplification – ‘doing the right thing’ continues to deteriorate through paucity of positions, reduction in returns, deregulation, inbuilt income insufficiency, rampant inflation & the – ‘priced out, grossly disadvantaged, shat-on & denigrated’ downside – which is, utterly inadequate, unless practical-slavery & permanent precariousness is a position & state to be accepted (the answer is no, it never is). Meanwhile, the example set by the state, establishment, it’s institutions & the financial & corporate sector which run (rarely without a change of script) somewhere between, grossly unfair-mendacious-corrupt-criminal-oxymoronic-sanctimonious & counter-proclamatory ( promises of security, prosperity etc) continues to display the worst role-model (now undetectable to only the most inveterate ignoramus), stimulating supreme trickle-down-corruption (the Tories being the most fantastical example of such state-led mega-malfeasance). Drugs & their abuse (including alcohol), also become far more desirable (market expansion) in times of hard-ship, fulfillment absence, deprivation & poverty – for purposes of escapism, anesthetization, substitutional stimulation, misery medication & ‘coping mechanisms’. Furthermore, there is the direct recruitment & intervention by the gangs/cartels themselves, a flourishing opportunity in these extreme conditions/vacuum with the deficiency & destitution wrought by economic abuse & neglect. Rich-pickings amongst ‘poor-pickings’ , what’s to lose? Where is the ethical onlooker/higher ground? Disqualification, marginalization & ostracization – needs must? This is why capitalism, particularly in its current mutant form, is the culprit. Wall Street, the WTO, the Square Mile, Washington, Downing Street, the City, the IMF, Pest Spinster, Luxembourg, they are all acutely guilty, long before you get into the coca plantations, cannabis farms or meth labs. Capitalism is the affliction, & crime becomes a way to escape its cruelty. I make no excuses for that wasteful shit, & those of moral stamina & flame would never proffer either of the aforementioned as an excuse in this circle of shit, but the bulk of the blame lies with the system, it’s architects, defenders, donors & progenitors.
Its frequently apparent that countries’ economies supersede their people’s interests, or indeed, – run totally counter to them. Economies are a funny ruse… essentially they are framed as being co-owned, & mutually accessible to both rich & poor (radiantly beneficial to all) – but with a little honest scrutiny & investigation – it’s clear that the poor pay in constantly (with high level individual loss) whilst the rich cream-off constantly (with high level individual gain). “The economy” is basically a great way to get the slaves to celebrate the slavers profits. Delusion. Some benefits (increasingly rare/disappearing fast) are connected & ‘administered’ (not directly sourced) by “the economy”/slaves in circulation. As “the economy” is basically an aggregation of the many economies/official monetary tributaries in a country that are in motion, the larger & more profitable variations will naturally gain priority, favoritism, notability & protection (much of which may be undue, opaque & undeclared protection). Monoliths such as the oil, arms, meat & pharmaceutical industries (to name a few) will entrench & super fortify their penetration through acceptable corruption (also known as ‘commercial corruption’) – donations, lobbying, infiltration, deregulation & favorable litigation, capture & implantation, sponsorship, pressure groups, bias media, pro-business propaganda etc, all of which results in aberrational exceptionalism & impunity. what happens when a “traditionally criminal” enterprise becomes powerful &/or influential? Let’s say the drug trade. Ridiculous revenues. A booming “market” – “jobs & growth”, the very enamoration of the capitalist creed. But the said substance/practice is illegal, & quite possibly, the producers are unofficial undesirables, probably with close affiliation or origins in the proletariat/precariat majority. The state then has to destroy or constantly minimize, harry, persecute, incarcerate & pursue this enterprise, with or without the majority populaces approval (the civilian relationship with the criminal faction can be anything from scourge, pest, heroes of the people or total indifference depending on where, which & whom). One of the biggest problems with the failed War on Drugs, is that it puts a truly gargantuan stream of revenue, that is perpetual, & despite all efforts & criminalization, clearly refuses to abate or shrink, – into the hands of violent criminals. Drugs fucking suck!, I am no advocate, but this obtuse, ruinous counter-effective &, in the grand objective of the crusade – utterly useless idiocy of the WOD just empowers criminals & criminal empires. Shit is too lucrative. The world is too capitalistic & too corrupt, & the conditions are too dire, unfair, hypocritical & desperate for the informed moral alternatives to hold sway, especially under the spiked-boot of unaccountable free market extremism, aka the international norm. sometimes the state will triumph, & at other times it will just embitter & perfect it’s foe & concentrate escalating wealth into the criminal fraternity. This stupid, repeated wall-butting travesty of abolishment, has in cases lead to criminal enterprise becoming so powerful, they begin to subsume or exceed the power capacity of the state itself, absorbing either it’s limbs or supplanting it entirely (much as the corporate & financial division has done). Better still, as they are already operating a criminal ‘business’, they are completely unrestrained by conventional law (not that there is much of it left, especially when combating white-collar/corporate/financial crime). Mexico & Afghanistan are two staggering examples. Co-opted & effectively sequestrated from the inside, this is where almost all the trappings of a developed state are maintained, giving the outward impression of…heh! – “business as usual” as perpetrators pose as pacifiers. The advantages, cover, authority & access are obviously tremendous, not to mention the ability to stage immense confusion & ambiguity (as is the case with Mexico especially) with government bodies performing criminal activities. Another scenario is state impotence, as criminal units outmaneuver, outperform or even outgun state agents due to superior budget, equipment, training or numbers (all features that the drug trade will eventually yield). In this respect, the state must constantly maintain hegemony over the syndicates & neutralize them before they become ‘too big’, an ambition that capitalism obsesses & expounds itself (infinite expansion, ceaseless growth).
Let me flag-up my first piece of media. This is the largely excellent documentary Cartel Land, directed by Mathew Heineman & released in 2015 on the great Dogwoof. It definitely contains some considerable dodginess – subtle sexing-up & dramatization through editing, partial fetishization of conflict, violence voyeurism, & at times, some fairly subtle interventionist framing of events & content. The executive producer is Katheryn Bigelow, who directed the notoriously skewed/factually smudged The Hurt Locker/Zero Dark Thirty, which will contextualize such flaws. However, these shortcomings are overshadowed by the films merits, along with some proficient reportage on an extremely important quandary & crisis. the film follows Jose Manuel Mireless, a practicing doctor turned vigilante leader. Besieged by the Knights Templar cartel (murders, extortion, taxes, bedlam) & neglected by the state, a reactionary force of civilian volunteers were established in 2013. These “autodefensa” vigilante units induced a whole movement in the state (that would eventually repel the Templars). The culmination of this film results in the Autodefensa’s being subsumed by the state, with official sanction (but actual subjugation) & reformed as The Rural Force. Dr. Mireless condemned & rejected the move & was subsequently jailed on trumped-up gun charges. Things are grim in Michoacan state these days, with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel basically continuing the Templars scourge, vying for the full exploitation quota from rivals the La Familia Michoacan. A total cluster fuck! But some people are getting very rich off the mass misery of others. On the North side of the border, in the remote Altar Valley, you have the US vigilante equivalent – “border militia’s” or Arizona Border Recon, led by Tim Foley (also identified as “Nailer”. Tim seems like a pretty sound guy, doing what’s both necessary & correct (at least in most senses), but the shits that his endeavor seem to be attracting (to what number, it’s hard to conclude given the brevity of insight in this picture) are clearly straight out of the latrine bowl. Although it’s apparent that the film is bias towards his work, its actually really good journalism & important exposure. One can only dream that these militias expand their remit to repelling/destroying the fracking companies (& a whole slew of other nefarious industries) that are laying waste to tracts of America & poisoning Americans. Can you envisage that? America’s drug habit fuels the war, which has cost Mexico an indescribably tragic experience, with a body count exceeding 230,000 in the past decade (almost 30,000 died last year alone). The violence is extraordinary. Cartel Land is an accurate snap-shot into part of this giant atrocity. It also details one of the most pressing, poignant & needed debates of our era – “vigilantism”. This word/action, along with it’s even more politically-pliable, twin-sibling pejorative – “terrorism”, will play a central role in the era to unfold. As the state “retracts” & becomes ever more predatory, corrupt & criminal, self-defense becomes another ‘necessity’.
“Gangster Warlords-(drug dollars, killing fields and the new politics of Latin America) by British journalist Ioan Grillo is one of the best compendiums on the subject. Published in 2016, it’s one of the most incisive, determined, well-researched expansive works available. Brilliantly written, Its also devastatingly critical of the shit-brained War On Drugs. The interviews, access & transcribed conversations are amongst the best I have read, covering a huge orbit of interrelated issues. From Brazil’s Commando Vemelho, Mexico’s multivalent cartels, through Jamaica’s Shower Posse & the Mara Salvatrucha/Barrio 18 through Guatemala, El Salvador & Honduras. That’s the specific centers of the books research, but naturally, Columbia, Nigeria, Italy & Islamic State are referenced & analyzed alongside. It’s an incredible & essential authority on the matter & should be read by any individual that has any serious interest in the issue.
Ed Vulliamy’s “Amexica-war along the border” is another classic of the field. I read it years back & have not revisited the heavily marked pages for data notations as of yet, but it remains a profound source of knowledge, insight & history that I remember blowing my mind. The two things that most retain were the horrific, mass commercial exploitation of Mexican labor by American multinationals in Maquiladoras (brutal sweat shop factories & assembly plants based in Mexico with a duty free import auxiliary for US conglomerates to gorge on their slave-fed mass production). Piss-poor pay, awful conditions, extreme hours, appalling health & safety. We will take your toil! & we will take your drugs! Just not your people! The last, & perhaps best card is the final section entitled “Blood Money” that runs from pages 308-324. This breaks down the brazen complicity & profiting by the Western financial system & banks, most notoriously HSBC (largely considered the worst offender of them all) in aiding the Cartels to launder their massive criminal dividends through London & New York to off-shore safety, predominantly without detection. HSBC has got into some trouble regarding its massive & recidivist criminality, but with little consequence, as the fines don’t’ match the crimes (& they rarely get detected), nobody has been prosecuted as a result & the bank still continues to operate unscathed. Below is an extract from this chapter, detailing an account by Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime from 2002-2010, on opportunities afforded by the financial crash that is well worth preserving –
“With these crises, the banking sector was short of liquidity, so the banks exposed themselves to the criminal syndicates, who had the cash in hand. It was pure quid pro quo: banks needed the cash, and criminal syndicates needed somewhere to put their cash. And we are talking about huge amounts of money. Criminal syndicates will penetrate where there is least resistance, where the banks need it greatest. So it was Western Europe in 2003 and the USA and UK in 2007-08. It’s not suddenly one moment, one place; they get in progressively and they get in deep, buying up shares, buying up major assets. “
For those of us that speak français, it’s well worth viewing the recent shocking documentary HSBC: Gangsters of Finance. –
You will also recall the then Tory chancellor George Osbourne, staggeringly managing to dissuade the US Department of Justice from pressing charges against HSBC for abetting mass-murdering narco terrorists laundering their cash through British banks (HSBC more than any other) as it would cause a “financial calamity” (6). Perhaps that antic is what secured him the position at the US bank BlackRock, where he earns £650,000 per year for working one day a week? (7). – it’s a wonderful world.
Some recent shit & a harbinger to quell early – “ the Netherlands is becoming a narco-state, Dutch police warn (1). (Daniel Boffey, the Guardian, 21/2/18).” – ‘Detectives see that small criminals develop into wealthy entrepreneurs who establish themselves in the hospitality industry, housing market, middle class, travel agencies.’
Gibraltar is suffering a similar decline – “High town in the shadow of Gibraltar and drug gangs (2). (Sam Jones, the Guardian, 5/4/18).” – ‘When the Spanish authorities cracked down on the trade in the mid-90’s, some of the smugglers diversified into hashish. Their numbers swelled after the economic crisis hit Spain in 2008, which forced many of those that had lost their jobs in the construction sector to look for other ways to pay the bills. Today, unemployment in the town stands at about 35%. But in the worst affected barrios, up to 80% of young people are out of work. The arithmetic is simple. “People have got little or no hope of finding work, which makes for ideal circumstances for the narcos.” ’
With the Wests latest ‘great idea’ of automation, AI in the workplace, robots & mega human obsolescence in the job sector, what do you think people will resort to? Busking?
“Slovakian fury is growing over state corruption and killings (3). – (Shaun Walker, the Guardian, 6/4/2018)” – ‘instead of shouldering some of the responsibility for running a country where the mafia had got so close to the top offices of government, he began spreading conspiracy theories.’ This is where an anti-corruption journalist Jan Kukiak was recently shot dead at his home with his fiancée in a highly professional killing. “Corruption has penetrated all levels of the state administration”. This relates to the Italian mob, of whom the now ousted president Robert Fico (fuck off!) has allegedly been cavorting with.
Speaking of Italy & mafia related crime in Europe (of which Italy is the absolute apex), lets progress to the fourth piece of media… the seminal Roadmap to Hell (sex, drugs and guns on the Mafia coast) by Barbie Latza Nadeau, recently published on One World. This is an amazing piece of reportage. Awful & harrowing, but exceptional – Latza deserves a fucking medal! Multi-dimensionality abounds, but we are talking mostly about the burgeoning trafficking & forced prostitution of Nigerian women on Italian soil. Oh! & Europe’s drug trade, 80% of which is controlled by Ndrangheta according to UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), bringing in an estimated $66 billion annually (do you have any idea?)! people smuggling is also covered in forensic detail. In between everything else, chapters such as “Terrorism ties in Europe” illustrate that arms are being sold to ISIS for European attacks (including those in France) – by Italian organized crime groups!? Well, this is capitalism no? it’s all a bit Mad Max (Castel Volturno & the Land of Fires – Europe’s largest illegal waste dump located in Southern Italy & home to more than 550,000 people). Italy recently held an election with a right-wing party taking the majority of the vote based largely around anti-immigrant shite. It seems that many in the country are happy with the cheap suck-jobs, drugs, exploitable labor & financial opportunities from the trafficking/immigrant ‘industry’ that are an obscene source of revenue to many local interests. Perhaps nothing demonstrates this colossal contradiction more than the recent case of Medhanie Yehdego Mered (“The General”), a prolific human trafficker from Eritrea who was apprehended in Sudan in 2016 & extradited to Italy for prosecution relating to previous major people smuggling offenses (including a shipwreck incident on the 3rd of Oct 2013 which left 368 immigrants dead off the island of Lampedusa). It turns out by way of a documentary from Swedish public broadcaster (SVT) in conjunction with Guardian reporters, that The General has never been arrested by European agents, & is living it up in Kampala, Uganda whilst another man, 29-year-old refugee Medhanie Tesfamariam Behre remains in prison on his charges. This unfathomable obscenity came from a recent Guardian article – “People smuggler ‘held in Italy’ seen living high life in Uganda” (4). – (Lorenzo Tondo, Alon Mwesigwa, 12/4/18). ‘SVT is also in possession of a file revealing how a European police authority is aware that the real smuggler is still at large, but cannot persuade Italian prosecutors to issue a new arrest warrant’. – “he is rich and can pay anyone to get his freedom”. so the Italian state is aiding & protecting mass murdering people smugglers whilst Italian criminal gangs are arming & facilitating ISIS in attacks on Europe, all while Italian far right parties are winning elections on xenophobic, anti-immigrant sentiment. No wonder Bannon was in town to express his support. (meanwhile – “Italian authorities have released a migrant- rescue ship that has been impounded for almost a month, but are still investigating two of its crew members on suspicion of enabling illegal immigration.” (5). <Lornezo Tondo & Sam Jones, the Guardian, 17/4/18).
Last but not least (lotta’ work chuck) – we could not possibly deal with the Narco state issue without touching on Columbia. Thus, I must present one of the best books on the country/struggle – Robin Kirk’s- More Terrible Than Death (violence, drugs, and America’s war in Columbia), 2004, Public Affairs. Although major transformations have happened in the region (most significantly the disbanding of the FARC) since the book’s publication, this is one of the best pieces I have read on the larger historic account of Columbia’s struggle. It also reveals how so much of this unnecessary bloodbath was instigated by the greed & abuse of “the land owning class”, who’s murders & expropriations caused a rebellion (similar to what’s dawning in Brazil with slithering shit-shifters like Blairo Maggi & the Temer pus-wads). Beef barons, ranchers & agribusiness giants. The polarization of the ‘rebels’ which lead to the intervention (gigantic military funding, training & technical assistance year on year) of ruinous, poison touch U$A. escalation, stalemate, war, waste, conflict, fall-out, government double-cross, the coca resort, government paramilitary death squads, massacres. The constant antagonism, maltreatment & denigration of the world’s poor by a small colony of perverse, profit-obsessed, parasitic psychopaths. If the US had kept it’s dirty-dick out of Colombia, we would have a radical Left Wing alternative instead of another lost capitalist satellite on the road to oblivion. “ ‘If this doesn’t work,’ he added, ‘we’ll see each other at the same table 10,000 deaths later’ ”. It turned out to be a lot bigger than that. A very precious & in-depth book on this unique countries continuing odyssey.
Another recent report from the Igarape Institute informs that Latin America has suffered 2.5m murders since the start of the century, making it the world’s most homicidal continent, even though none of its countries are officially ‘at war’. The continent clocks 33% of the world’s homicides, despite the fact it hosts 8% of the world’s population. Poverty! & way’ way’ way worse – poverty – in a capitalist system, & to blow it completely off the fucking scales – poverty – in a corrupt-capitalist system. Drugs don’t even really need to enter into the argument/solution – it’s absolutely about poverty-capitalism-corruption.
For the bone-hard rogue-scholars & super diligentsia amongst us, let me just throw down a few quick recommendations for further lucubration & reference –
Murder City-ciudad Juarez and the global economy’s new killing fields by Charles Bowden.
Narco Land-the Mexican drug lords and their godfathers (Anabel Hernandez)
Beyond Bogota-diary of a drug war journalist in Columbia (Gary Leech)
A Swamp full Of Dollars-pipelines and paramilitaries at Nigeria’s oil frontier (Michael Peel)
& pretty much anything by Lydia Cacho!
Index of reference articles –