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LA's Part in the Drug War

by Calvin Alvarez Tuesday, Mar. 17, 2009 at 7:32 PM 562.556.5226

Los Angeles has long been a destination for immigration from Mexico, but job seekers aren't the only commodity crossing the border. Cocaine trafficking is big business in Mexico, and my article looks at Los Angeles' role in the Drug War.

Do you snort cocaine? If you have lived in Los Angeles for any considerable amount of time, chances are you’ve probably had at least one encounter with coke. There’s no reason to be bashful anymore, Nancy Reagan isn’t the First Lady anymore and the chances of her scolding you are slim. Besides, do you really know anyone who’s been busted for cocaine, other than those who are partial to the crack variety? And that only happens below the 10 freeway. I know Los Angeles has a love affair with cocaine. I know. I’ve been to your parties and your nightclubs, and I’ve seen the lines coming from the bathrooms, so don’t lie to me. There are always abstainers, though, and for those of you teetotalers who happen to be reading, there is new hope for finally overcoming the relentless peer pressure, and it carries just about as much socially-conscious cache as driving a hybrid or going vegan—your newfound desire to help save Mexico.

Yes, Mexico. It’s not just the place where all of those people you’ve been uprooting from Echo Park originally come from; it’s also the main highway on which your cocaine travels through. And as you may or may not have heard, there’s a war going on over there. Upon taking office a little over two years ago, Felipe Calderón has launched 45,000 troops to take on and wipe out your hard-working drug runners, and since then, almost 10,000 people have perished in drug-related violence.

There doesn’t seem to be anything real intimidating about a drug runner. For one thing, the term implies running, and there’s nothing too scary about that. It seems sensible to think that any halfway decently funded federal army would be able to easily wipe out any network of drug runners, especially one that benefits largely from American arms and money. Think again. The amount of resources available to these drug cartels is extraordinary and could pose a daunting threat to any military force in the world. And these resources aren’t likely to shrink anytime soon. The price of cocaine rises by 300% as it passes through Mexico. Now, before you become irrational and ask your uncle if you can borrow his fishing boat to set sail for Colombia, keep in mind that this truly is a war in every sense of the word, and if caught you won’t make it away with a simple fine. Spend a week in Tijuana and you’ll see, there is plenty of loss to accompany those sky-high profits, but as long as the demand is steady, in a country of extreme disparity like Mexico with ever-dwindling opportunities, there will always be an organization willing to capture the payoffs.

That’s where you come in, Los Angeles. You are the demand. I don’t mean to harsh your buzz, but as long as you keep up a nose for cocaine, your demands will be met by Mexico. Could a city like Los Angeles ever curb its appetite for cocaine? No fucking way. Cocaine is as synonymous with LA as the Dodgers and smog. Cocaine could easily be traded in Hollywood as currency should the dollar ever become valueless. Do you think Lindsay Lohan gives a shit where her cocaine comes from? Could you see her leading a boycott against destructive cocaine? Hollywood has a conscience on some issues, but don’t go after its coke.

The demand for cocaine is not going to subside, and as a result, neither is the bloodshed in Mexico. The United States’ Joint Forces Command recently concluded that the two countries most at risk of becoming failed states are Pakistan and Mexico. It doesn’t have to be like this. Legalization, of all drugs, would transfer the focus away from the unattainable squashing of demand to the regulation of the supply. The United States government and its Latin American counterparts are fighting a zero-sum war on drugs and all one need do is travel through Colombia to see the effects of a ‘War on Drugs’. All signs seem to be saying that any hope of policy change coming from Washington can be classified as wishful thinking. Mexico cannot be sacrificed as the next victim, and we would be beyond delirious to think that Los Angeles and other cities across the nation could be the locus of productive change. People just like drugs way too much. Besides, isn’t change supposed to be radiating from Washington now?

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