For years, Mexico has battled an image problem in the United States amid issues such as sporadic cases of American military and tourists getting robbed across the border, the flow of illegal aliens/undocumented workers (choose your pet phrase) into the United States and, the most recent instance, swine flu.
But now a longstanding issue is growing in Mexico and spilling over in the United States — and there ares signs it could get worse: the residue of Mexico’s drug wars and its powerful cartels could be impacting a city near you. CNN reports:
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, a 54-year-old drug cartel leader whose nickname means “Shorty,” is the most wanted man in Mexico. He’s also one of the most wanted men in the United States.
For five years, the State Department has kept a $5 million bounty on his head, calling Guzman a threat to U.S. security.
Guzman, who leads the Sinaloa cartel, is a key player in the bloody turf battles being fought along the border.
And, CNN reports, this bloody turf war could well generate some future headlines that won’t make Mexico’s tourism officials happy, nor those who’ve visited Mexico and love its people and culture:
He recently upped the stakes, ordering his associates to use lethal force to protect their loads in contested drug trafficking corridors, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The cartel’s tentacles and those of its chief rival, the Gulf cartel, already reach across the border and into metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Seattle, Washington; St. Louis, Missouri; and Charlotte, North Carolina, Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Joseph Arabit told a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee in March.
“No other country in the world has a greater impact on the drug situation in the United States than Mexico does,” said Arabit, who heads the DEA’s office in this year’s border hot spot, El Paso, Texas. See where Mexican cartels are in the U.S.
A December 2008 report by the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center revealed that Mexican drug traffickers can be found in more than 230 U.S. cities. So far, the U.S. has largely been spared the violence seen in Mexico, where the cartels’ running gunbattles with police, the military and each other claimed about 6,500 lives last year. It was a sharp spike from the 2,600 deaths attributed to cartel violence in 2007.
The operative word here is “so far.” If a worst case scenario comes to pass and there is a Guzman-related escalation of violence on this side of the border, it will make an already thorny hot-button issue even thornier. During the height of the Swine Flu coverage, some talk show hosts were blaming swine flu on illegal immigrants from Mexico, even though that is not accurate. If suddenly Mexico’s drug wars spill over into the United States generating huge headlines, look for this to be lumped together with illegal immigration as well by those who see it as a potent vote, audience and readership getting issue.
Here’s an AP report on the Mexican drug war issue on You Tube, posted to allow embeds:
The biggest business? According to CNN, it’s marijuana:
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.