NAFTA: Open Door to Anarchy|
By William Norman Grigg
Source: The New American, October 27, 1997
a September 16th address honoring the CIA's 50th anniversary, President
Clinton boasted that "here in our own hemisphere, [the CIA's] work with
law enforcement has helped us to capture every top drug lord of the
Colombian Cali Cartel." In fact, the supposed triumph over the
Colombian cocaine cartels was little more than an exercise in securing
the proverbial barn door after the horse had fled. It is Mexico, not
Colombia, which now plays host to the dominant narco-cartels. According
to estimates from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Mexico
takes in at least $7 billion a year in drug profits; estimates from the
Treasury Department run as high as $30 billion a year.
ascendancy of the Mexican drug mafia has been facilitated by the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has decimated interdiction
efforts along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. Furthermore, in order
to assure approval of the NAFTA pact in 1993, the internationalist
political elite in both Mexico and the U.S. eagerly suppressed untidy
evidence of the depth and pervasiveness of drug-related corruption in
the Mexican government.
Pipeline From the South
to the State Department's March 1996 International Narcotics Control
Strategy Report, "no country in the world poses a more immediate
narcotics threat to the United States than Mexico. It is the principal
transit route for cocaine entering the U.S. as well as a major source
country for heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana." Until recently,
Mexican drug barons were merely junior partners to the Colombian
cartels. However, notes the State Department report, "Mexican
traffickers who previously assisted their Colombian counterparts to
move cocaine shipments through Mexico (up to 70 percent of U.S.-bound
loads) are now purchasing multi-ton quantities of cocaine directly from
producers for distribution through their own expanding U.S. networks."
embattled border town of Eagle Pass, Texas has the misfortune to be a
link in a Mexico-based narco-network. In a dispatch from Eagle Pass,
veteran correspondent Georgie Anne Geyer noted, "Before 1994, the drug
cartels that have systematically poisoned the entire north of Mexico
hardly touched the residents of Eagle Pass. Once a year, some cocaine
would be seized, and in 1994 the Drug Enforcement Administration
handled a relatively modest 8,000 pounds of marijuana. Then it struck.
By 1995, the seizures were up to 21,000 pounds; by 1996, 49,000 pounds."
dramatic increase in the volume of drug traffic was coupled with a
corresponding increase in the impunity of the traffickers. Law
enforcement officers in the Eagle Pass area began to find cell phones,
night-vision gear, and walkie-talkies -- expensive hi-tech instruments
used by the smugglers that had been discarded like empty beer cans.
ranchers discovered that their lands had suddenly become a drug
thoroughfare. Fences were torn down and illegal aliens carrying huge
loads of narcotics brazenly paraded across private lands in broad
daylight, sometimes in the company of heavily armed drug gangs.
Apparently for purposes of intimidation, shots were fired into a few
local homes. Even more ominously, some ranchers owning border property
were approached by individuals who described themselves as agents for
parties who were interested in buying their land, but not in revealing
their identity -- suggesting an effort by cartel leaders to establish a
beachhead on the U.S. side of the border.
A drug enforcement
specialist informed Geyer that Eagle Pass "has all the earmarks of
Colombia eight to 10 years ago." The Clinton Administration's triumphal
posturing over the supposed demise of the Cali and Medellin Cartels is
at very best an exercise in misdirection: Thanks to the NAFTA-induced
erosion of the U.S. border control system, the cartels are taking root
along the border and perhaps even in the Southwestern United States.
to former DEA agent Phil Jordan, the tidal wave of narcotics flooding
the southwest border is an ineluctable product of the NAFTA agreement,
which -- as the agency predicted in a 1993 intelligence report -- has
proven to be "a deal made in narco heaven." The report, which had been
completed before Congress voted on the agreement, described how
Mexican-based narcotics cartels had bought up business fronts along the
border to exploit the upsurge in uninspected cross-border commerce. In
an interview on the May 5th edition of ABC's Nightline television
program, Jordan said that the Clinton Administration told the DEA that
the impact of NAFTA "was a subject we could not discuss" prior to the
vote in Congress.
The July 30, 1995 New York Times declared that
"Mexican traffickers seem to have embraced a vision of North American
integration not unlike that with which NAFTA ... was sold to skeptics
in Washington." A former U.S. official explained to the Times that
"once Bush and Salinas decided to go with NAFTA as the No. 1 goal, then
everything else had to be manageable." John P. Walters, who inherited
the post of "Drug Czar" from William Bennett, made the point even more
clearly in a subsequent interview with the Times. "People desperately
wanted drugs not to become a complicating factor for NAFTA," explained
Walters. "There was a degree of illicit activity that was just
accepted." This trade-off has not met with the approval of U.S. law
enforcement personnel. Writing in the July/August 1996 issue of Freedom
Review, Douglas Payne observed that "U.S. Customs and DEA personnel now
openly refer to NAFTA as the 'North American Drug Trade Agreement,'
while Texas law enforcement officials prefer, 'North American Free
traumatization of Eagle Pass typifies what might be called the
"narco-harmonization" of the southwest border. Harmonization, simply
put, is the process through which the institutions, laws, and living
standards of the NAFTA nations are being brought into sync. For the
U.S., this means that our regulatory standards will be redefined,
through "upward harmonization," with those of socialist Canada, while
our living standards will be dragged down toward those of Third World
Mexico through the process of "downward harmonization." But it also
means that our political elite and law enforcement agencies will be
wedded with their Mexican counterparts, which are incurably riddled
with drug-abetted corruption.
In February 1995, the Clinton
Administration and the government of Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo
inaugurated a series of binational "law enforcement plenaries" in order
to coordinate joint ventures in counter-narcotics enforcement. In
October of the same year, then-Secretary of Defense William Perry
proposed the creation of a Bilateral Working Group to "determine areas
for increased cooperation" between the U.S. Department of Defense and
Mexican military "in areas of mutual interest, such as counter
narcotics." Numerous similar efforts are coordinated through the
standing Mexico-U.S. Binational Commission, which is essentially a
cabinet-level liaison between the U.S. and Mexican governments.
crown jewel of counter-narcotics cooperation was unveiled on May 6th of
this year, when President Clinton and President Zedillo signed the
Declaration of the Mexican-U.S. Alliance Against Drugs. According to
Mr. Clinton, the Declaration "takes our already unprecedented
cooperation to a new level" -- ominous news indeed, given the nature of
Mexico's "cooperation" in anti-drug efforts.
Corruption at the Top
a few days before the Declaration was signed in Mexico City, Mexican
officials in the state of Tamaulipas intercepted a propane tanker that
was ferrying nearly ten tons of Colombian cocaine. Why wasn't this
dramatic bust hailed to the skies during Mr. Clinton's Mexico City
visit? The June 2nd issue of Insight magazine provided a fascinating
answer: The bust also netted Comandante Eliazar Hernandez, a
high-ranking official of Mexico's Federal Judicial Police (FJP), and
implicated Mexico's ambassador to France, Jorge Carpizo MacGregor.
Before assuming the post in Paris, Carpizo had been Mexico's Interior
Minister -- that is, the head of the national police force -- and a
renowned enemy of corruption. Yet a highly classified U.S. Customs
Service report leaked to Insight implicated Carpizo as a middleman
between Mexican drug kingpin Amado Carillo Fuentes and his sources in
Fuentes, known as the "Lord of Heaven" for his
sophisticated network of drug-ferrying aircraft (which employs
everything from light planes to 727s), was -- until his apparent death
in July -- head of the Juarez drug cartel, which pumps at least 100
tons of cocaine a year into the American drug economy and takes in an
estimated $200 million a week. Insight describes Fuentes' narco-empire
as "a Byzantine network of hundreds of real and sham companies
stretching from Mexico City and Guadalajara to New York and the
Bahamas." But until earlier this year Fuentes' most important asset was
Jesus Guiterrez Rebollo, the commissioner of Mexico's National
Institute to Combat Drugs -- who was on Fuentes' payroll.
before he was detained by Mexican authorities on February 6th,
Guiterrez was lauded by General Barry McCaffrey, the U.S. "Drug Czar,"
as an incorruptible man of conscience and an ally in the war against
drugs. More importantly, as the February 20th New York Times reported,
Guiterrez headed a sealed-off agency that "had access to the most
confidential intelligence Mexico has gathered about its cartels" --
including "detailed briefings on what the United States knows about
Mexico's cocaine cartels...." Those briefings continued until just days
before Guiterrez was arrested. Guiterrez had been appointed Mexico's
"Drug Czar" on December 9th, 1996 on the strength of his reputation for
"tough measures against some of the major drug dealers in the central
Mexican region where he served as commander for seven years." However,
within a few weeks of Guiterrez's appointment, Fuentes had provided his
supposed arch-enemy with an apartment and a car, and Mexico's "Drug
Czar" was happily pocketing regular payoffs from the country's largest
drug lord. Just weeks after Guiterrez's arrest, Mr. Clinton eagerly
certified Mexico as a "partner" in counter-narcotics efforts.
quasi-socialist economy has been a tremendous boon to the drug cartels.
Raul Salinas de Gortari, the brother of former Mexican President Carlos
Salinas, is under investigation by the Justice Department for his
alleged role in using Conasupo, a state-run food conglomerate, to
launder millions of dollars in drug proceeds. Another example: The
tanker truck intercepted on April 22nd was owned by a subsidiary of
Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the state-run petroleum concern. However,
drug barons profited as well from the "privatization" efforts
undertaken by President Salinas, in which nearly 800 state-run
enterprises were deeded over to private concerns. In 1994, senior FBI
official James Moody disclosed that "many of these firms are being
purchased by Mexican and Colombian drug trafficking organizations."
also pointed out that "money laundering operations [in Mexico] often
involve influential Mexican financiers" -- a point that strikes at the
heart of the peculiar immunity to criticism enjoyed by Mexico's corrupt
political elite. The Raul Salinas scandal illustrates the extent to
which drug-related corruption in Mexico has permeated the U.S.
financial system. Notes Douglas Payne, "Raul Salinas, who never earned
more than $190,000 a year as a government bureaucrat and had no record
as a businessman, siphoned more than $100 million, and possibly three
times that, out of Mexico. Most of it was funneled through his private
banker at Citibank in New York, Amy Elliott, who continued to manage
his account even after he was jailed in Mexico in February 1995." *
Raul Salinas' reputation for graft (he was known as "Mr. Ten Percent,"
a sobriquet listing the percentage he collected on business deals
arranged with his brother's government) and connections to Juan Garcia
Abrego, the jailed head of Mexico's so-called Gulf cartel, were a
matter of public knowledge. Furthermore, the FBI reportedly obtained
notes from a 1993 meeting of the Gulf cartel indicating that Raul was
channeling drug profits through his Citibank accounts.
of Carlos Salinas, the indispensable co-architect of NAFTA? Former U.S.
Attorney General Richard Thornburgh told the Mexican periodical El
Financiero that despite Washington's knowledge that high-ranking
members of Salinas' government were collaborating with drug
traffickers, "President Bush and Salinas had a very close relationship;
they wanted to build strong ties." Other former Bush Administration
officials disclosed to the Mexican journal that in the interest of
pursuing the NAFTA agreement, the White House essentially ordered a
"narco-amnesty" for Salinas.
Since leaving office, Salinas has
continued to enjoy his peculiar immunity. According to a December 13,
1995 report in the Associated Press, the Customs Service attaché in
Mexico City issued a cabled "border alert" for Salinas, which would
require that the Service be notified immediately if Salinas attempted
to enter the United States. This extraordinary directive was prompted
by evidence collected by Customs and the DEA connecting Salinas to an
estimated half billion dollars in suspected drug money secreted in 60
bank accounts in various countries. Salinas has since retreated into a
comfortable exile in Ireland, slipping into the U.S. occasionally to
attend meetings of the board of directors of the Dow Jones Company in
New York City.
Former DEA agent Michael Levine is
well-acquainted with Salinas' role in transforming Mexico into a
"narco-state." His best-selling exposé Deep Cover describes a 1987 DEA
initiative spearheaded by Levine called "Operation Trifecta," which
collected evidence implicating political officials in three Latin
American nations in the international drug trade. Even more
significantly, Levine reports, the operation "resulted in evidence that
revealed massive government corruption in Mexico including video- and
audio-taped evidence that indicated that once Carlos Salinas de Gortari
was elected President of Mexico ... his intention was to open his
country up for drug traffickers. Evidence that was destroyed and
covered up by high ranking U.S. government officials, including CIA."