On April 23, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a much publicized speech in Juarez, Mexico addressing the murder of a U.S. consulate worker and her husband in that city. These two were the most recent victims of the Mexican drug war declared by President Felipe Calderon in 2006. As many as 23,000 victims have been killed on the Mexican side, including 5,000 who died in drug violence in the city of Juarez in the last two years. This war affects us all.

The word "war" is not just hyperbole; it correctly describes what is going on. It's estimated that the violence—kidnapping and murder—has driven 400,000 locals out of the Juarez area with an estimated 30,000 fleeing to El Paso and beyond. A U.S. border sheriff claimed that the cartels printed fliers ordering his residents to evacuate their homes in the border area or they would be murdered.

The Guns

In keeping with the Obama administration's past rhetoric, Hillary Clinton blamed Mexico's problems on the U.S. She quoted the infamous statistic—90 percent of the guns recovered from Mexican cartels came from the U.S. This has been proven to be another false statistic used by U.S. and Mexican politicians opposed to the Second Amendment. The statistic was derived from a number of confiscated weapons in Mexico, a portion of which were checked through ATF. Of those, only about a third had serial numbers that might be traceable. Of that small remaining number, 90 percent could be traced to the U.S. We know this to be true, because we keep good data, and this information is closely regulated.

However, the favorite weapon of the Mexican cartel is the "cuernos de chiva" (horns of the goat)—the Sino-Soviet AK-47. But the Chinese and Russian weapons are not easily traced. The hand grenades and rocket propelled grenades used by the drug cartels are not purchased in American gun shows or gun stores either.

The Drugs

There are some U.S. systems that do contribute to the Mexican drug-gang violence. The greatest of our contributions is the American appetite for mind-numbing, mind-altering intoxicants. We are about 5 percent of the world's population, but we consume 50 percent of the world's drugs. We are a drug culture. Drug abuse is the symptom of our dysfunctional society. America needs an intervention; the U.S. needs to go through rehab.

Whether it's the heroin addicted prostitute in the alley or beer-guzzling jocks who watch the Super Bowl on a wide-screen TV, we can't seem to work or enjoy ourselves sober. I have seen and heard many excuses for our need to blur our minds, but imagine how the rest of the world sees us. In our society, 43 percent of American children are born outside of marriage. To other cultures, we appear weak and immoral—hypocrites preaching American ideals while we are drunk or high. This is the corrupt U.S. image described by Muslim extremists as "the great Satan."

 In my opinion, this need for speed and other drugs does not originate in our ghettos and barrios. It is not poverty that causes the addiction, although this is where the addiction takes her victims. America's dysfunction and abuse problem stems from its bored and spoiled children. Maybe even our poor have too much. Yes, too much, too soon, and too easily obtained "disposable income." I have seen this even in the homes of "poor" gang members. The children in these homes suffer from a lack of nutrition, poor health and dental care, hygiene and proper clothing, yet they seem to have the latest cell phone, iPod, video games and hottest new name-brand tennis shoes. They start using drugs at an early age.[PAGEBREAK]

The Money

America spent $11 billion securing our borders; $1.3 billion went to the city of Juarez in 2009 as U.S. aid. However, Mexican cartels make as much as $35 billion a year from the illicit drug trade (a conservative estimate), and additional untold billions in human trafficking.

Cartels may spend as much as 60 percent of that income in bribes known as "la mordida" (the bite). This corruption occurs on both sides of the border. Last year, Homeland Security reported 839 allegations of public corruption among U.S. officials. This is one of the greatest dangers threatening this country. Unless the corrupting drug money is stopped, our system will soon resemble our Mexican neighbor's.

American banks launder this illicit money. Why? Because it is just too tempting. The multiple billions of unregulated cash and electronic transfers have already corrupted Wells Fargo, Wachovia, Bank of America, and many others. These banks know where this blood money comes from, but cooperate with the cartels anyway. Without this cooperation, the drug wars and violence on the border would be significantly reduced. This is where the federal government should be doing more. Follow the money.

The People

Of all the American contributions to the Mexican drug wars, the American street gangs are the most lethal. The American Latino street gang culture was born here in the Juarez-El Paso border area. But the Pachuco culture flourished in America. The U.S. gangs have become the transportation and distribution system facilitators in the U.S. Recently they have aligned more closely to the Mexican drug cartels and some of the major U.S. gangs have become directly involved with cartels in Mexico trafficking in drugs and human cargo.

As it turns out, it was not the U.S. consulate worker that was the target of the drug cartels. Despite the grenade attacks recently against U.S. consulates in Mexico; it was her husband that the assassins wanted. The suspects were members of the street and also the prison gang known as Barrio Azteca. The husband worked on the Texas side in a custody facility. Allegedly he had offended the Barrio Azteca gang while on duty, and the gang targeted him and his wife while off duty.

Mexico has begun extraditing some of these gang members back to the U.S. for prosecution. This is a promising development.

This targeting of American law enforcement by cross-border gangs will continue and escalate unless both governments turn up the heat. The U.S. government can assist Mexico by sharing intelligence about the gangs and the identity of the members. I know there are several organizations who are now sharing training and intelligence with the Mexican police and military. But more of this must be done, even at the risk of exposing some intelligence to compromised authorities.

This is best done not at the federal level, but by leveraging working relationships between local officers. Instead of spending billions on federal law enforcement, the poor local county law enforcement on the front line should be assisted with vehicles, weapons, ballistic vests, night-vision equipment, training and discretionary funds.

If mutual trust can be established between two law enforcement entities, the nucleus for a cross-border multinational task force might be established. This might be under the sponsorship of Interpol or some other neutral third party. This unit could begin by targeting "Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel and his drug sources, money laundering systems and gang enforcement on both sides of the border.


Richard Valdemar
Richard Valdemar

Sergeant (Ret.)

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

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Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

View Bio