Mexican cartoonist: The global financial system relies on drug money
Mexican cartoonist, writer, and commentator Rafael Barajas says the war on drugs cannot be won because the world itself is addicted to drug money. In an interview with Chilean newspaper El Clarín, Barajas details the role and involvement of the CIA, international banking interests, and governments in drug trafficking and money laundering.
By Mario Casasús
El Clarín, Chile
Translated by Mario Andrade
Oaxaca, Mexico – In an interview with Clarin.cl, Rafael Barajas (1956) talks about his new books Drug trafficking for the naive, and Drug trafficking in Mexico and who USA’s it (‘uses it’ in Spanish –ed). He states that in the same way people become addicted to drugs, the global economy is addicted to drug money. “Mexico is suffering from a deep addiction to drug money. Here, $45 billion are laundered annually, which is the equivalent of 12.5% of the world’s total drug-related profits. Felipe Calderon’s war has not failed; it has accomplished its objectives, which are to consolidate the drug smuggling routes to the United States, and the containment of a social unrest by means of militarizing the country. I don’t believe that Mexico is a failed state; it is however, a state that colludes with organized crime, and it has been infiltrated by drug traffickers,” he said.
Barajas is the author of many books like How to survive neoliberalism* and still be Mexican (1996), History of a cartoon nation (2000), The dirty tricks of impeachment for beginners (2005), The Land of the Ahuizote** (FCE, 2005), The Independence Crowd (2007), The land of the Icamole wailer*** (2008), I only laugh when it hurts (2008), Sweet Revenge (2009), How Pemex does it (2010), Little Felipe de Jesús (2010), Drug trafficking for the naive (2010), Drug trafficking in Mexico and who USA’s it, among other political humor books. In 2010, he was awarded the literature award known as La Catrina at the International Book Fair of Guadalajara, and since 2006 he co-directs the magazine El Chamuco.
He jokingly told el Clarin: “If I had named my book ‘Drug Trafficking for beginners,’ many people would’ve been interested in buying it so they could start their own business, like the other books for beginners. But really, organized crime has not been seriously pursued because the economic resources continue to flow. Organized crime will always have money to buy drugs, guns, to corrupt politicians and officials or to buy assassins. The militarization allows for the control the population. Here, it was predicted that a powerful social unrest was going to take place in response to neoliberal* reforms, resulting in the election fraud of 2006. However, the militarization neutralized the social movement. Militarization prevents any social rebellion. It is an extreme measure used by governments,” he said.
Casasús .- Why did you publish Drug Trafficking for the naive with El Chamuco Publishing? Were you trying to avoid censorship?
Barajas .- We launched El Chamuco Publishing because it is always better to have total control of your projects from start to finish, and to be able to track the production and sale of your books. We believe that the publishing world has changed. We have a direct relationship with our readers, and with El Chamuco, we can write or draw whatever we want.
Casasús .- What is your hypothesis behind your cartoons and documentation in the book Drug trafficking for the naive?
Barajas .- My book seeks to explain, from raw data, the logic behind the drug war and Calderon. The hypothesis is based on of Galileo’s ideas: “Everything is easy to understand, you just have to know what are the mechanisms that move these things.” In my book, I discuss what strings are pulled behind the trafficking of drugs. It is a book of great revelations; I will not tell you that Chapo Guzman is actually Batman, but what the book does is gather information scattered from public domains. I ask the fundamental questions: Who is behind the drug war? Who benefits? And what about the drug money being laundered in Mexico? These are fundamental questions that are answered somehow in the press, but with information that is still unorganized. Most of the information is obtained from academic research, some classic books like The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia by Alfred McCoy, the U.S. Congressional reports and highly accredited journalistic work, like Anabel Hernández’s book The drug lords – I attempt to put the pieces of the puzzle together because they are scattered.
Casasús .- Rius, the cartoonist launched the humoristic self-improvement book series For Beginners, so is your book Drug trafficking for the naive, or for beginners?
Barajas .- If I had titled my book Drug Trafficking for Beginners, surely there would’ve been many people interested in buying it to start their own business. They would’ve thought it was an entrepreneurship manual (laughs). That is not the intention of the book. Obviously, I named it Drug Trafficking for the naive. Just like Drug trafficking in Mexico and who USA’s it, these are books for people like us, who are not in the drug dealing business.
Casasús .- What are the benchmarks used in Felipe Calderon’s war?
Barajas .- The first record dates back to the Opium War between China and England (1839-1842), and the latest information coming from the Internet via WikiLeaks is that we now have confirmation of how it operates out of the U.S. Embassy. One of the WikiLeaks cables (folio: 06México4937) states that in September 1, 2006, Calderon went to the U.S. Embassy to seek help because he was in a precarious situation, from the political standpoint. According to the cable, Ambassador Carlos Pascual assessed that Calderon was indeed in a state of vulnerability and the U.S. decided to shore it up, creating a mission for the Embassy personnel to work with Calderon in issues that were a priority for the U.S. (WikiLeaks cable published by La Jornada 21/02/2011). We don’t really know who put this team together or how it worked in detail, but the priority for the United States is the “drug war.” In my book, I explain the U.S. role in drug wars throughout history.
Casasús .- Let’s go over this. How did the United States participate in the opium war?
Barajas .- In the war of England against China, involving American businesses, the great promoter of the war was William Jardine, owner of the U.S.-based Jardine-Matheson company and its operator was Warren Delano, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s grandfather. If you do a thorough research of the drug wars, you will notice that in all those wars, the United States was a participant: in China, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Japan, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Indochina. Also, there was the “French Connection” between Corsican and the Sicilian Mafia, and of course in South America with Plan Colombia, Central America with the Nicaraguan Contras and the Guatemalan Kaibiles. The question is: Are we going to think that Mexico is the only exception? History confirms that Mexico is no exception to the rule.
Casasús .- How did the U.S. intervene? What is their modus operandi?
Barajas .- The U.S. Congress and scholars have documented that U.S. intelligence agencies organized many of the networks and drug trafficking routes for past 60 years. This is nothing new as we all know now. In Mexico, the Americans are involved at all levels, from Washington to the CIA and the Pentagon. The Fast and Furious program was no accident. It was not just about weapons that slipped out of their control; it is the norm, and it is a well organized and deliberate effort. The biggest operator in the networks responsible for the sale of cocaine between Mexico and the United States was a gentleman named Alfredo Sicilia Falcone and when they arrested him, he said: “I am a CIA informant and they are aware of my activities. The CIA helped me establish the business in order to help the Nicaraguan Contras.” When reviewing the U.S. Congressional documents on the Iran-Contra case, you can find ample evidence of how Colombia’s drug cartels, like the Medellin Cartel and the Mexican Guadalajara (Jalisco) Drug Cartel, were backed by the CIA in exchange for control of the territory, with weapons and funding to support the Nicaraguan Contras. The list of American interventionism is endless.
Casasús .- What is the role of the United States in laundering Mexican drug money?
Barajas .- Just like people become addicted to drugs, the global economy is addicted to drug money. Mexico suffers from a profound addiction to drug money. When analyzing the data, here in this country, they launder over $40 billion per year, which is 12.5% of the global drug money. But where is that money handled? A bi-national U.S.-Mexico customs and border protection study indicates that 90% of the drug money comes from the U.S. and 50% reaches the Mexican financial system. In 2001, a Florida judge fined Wachovia Bank with $110 million for laundering $378 million of drug money from the Sinaloa Cartel between 2004 and 2007. Ed Woods, the investigator in charge of the Wachovia case, quoted by Ed Vuillamy, said, “the money laundering contacts are Citigroup and Wall Street,” (The Observer 3/4/2011). So how do these criminals get away with moving all these amounts of cash? The bottom line is: if they were to suddenly withdraw all the drug money in the Mexican financial system, the macro-economy would suffer a total collapse. That explains why they don’t really go after money laundering crimes; it is all a joke because they never arrest the white collar criminals. Here, the intelligence services only arrest women who carry a purse full of Dollar bills. The truth is that drug money is one the single and most significant factors that provides stability for the financial system.
Casasús .- Is the “war on drugs” an excuse to militarize the country?
Barajas .- What I am telling you about money laundering forces me to think that they are not seriously pursuing organized crime, because the economic resources continue to flow. Organized crime will always have money to buy drugs, guns, to corrupt politicians, or to hire gunmen. The militarization to control the population here created a powerful social unrest in response to neoliberal* reforms and the election fraud of 2006. However, the militarization put a stop to that social movement. Militarization prevents any social rebellion. It is an extreme measure used by the government.
Casasús .- Felipe Calderon’s regime criminalizes human rights advocates. You are one of the biggest promoters to have Calderon prosecuted before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Have you been persecuted for your research and your political opinion in your cartoons?
Barajas .- Society itself is criminalized in general. Cartoonists are not particularly singled out. It is true that the cartoonists do not enjoy the affections of the government; I have no doubt about that. However, when the authorities criminalize society, when young people are arrested for using Twitter (warning other citizens about possible drug cartel shootings) in Veracruz, there is a systematic persecution against people who are dissidents. I recall the case of the Reyes Salazar family, the murders of Nepomuceno Moreno, Marisela Escobedo, and Josefina Reyes who were documenting abuses by the army, as well as the investigations that indicated the involvement of the military. Marisela Escobedo was shot in front of the Government Palace of Chihuahua. These crimes went unpunished, and that’s how they inhibit social dissent. The Moreno Nepomuceno case was astounding because the first public official line of defense was to smear him, inventing alleged links with drug traffickers in Sonora. It’s the oldest trick in the book used by governments, which is to criminalize the victims.
Casasús .- Finally, are we survivors in the midst of a failed state?
Barajas .- Felipe Calderon’s war has not failed; it has accomplished its objectives, which are to consolidate the drug smuggling routes to the United States, and the containment of a social unrest by means of militarizing the country. I don’t believe that Mexico is a failed state; it is however, a state that colludes with organized crime, and it has been infiltrated by drug traffickers.
* Neoliberalism – In Latin American politics, the word liberalism is associated with globalism and internationalism.
** Ahuizote – In Aztec mythology, an Ahuizote was a devil-like water dog creature similar to an otter, but with bat-like wings. This devil-like creature ruled the Aztec empire for a period of time. During its rule, many disasters, plagues, tragedies and calamities took place.
*** Icamole wailer – Reference made to the battle of Icamole, state of Nuevo Leon, where Mexican military factions tried to start a revolution against the federal government in 1876. After the bloody battle, a soldier sat down and watched the destruction and cried. He was then known as the Icamole wailer.