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DECEMBER 2020

Neverending US-Mexico Drug War: El Chapo Sentenced to Life in Prison, But To Little Avail

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Neverending US-Mexico Drug War: El Chapo Sentenced to Life in Prison, But To Little Avail

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The US Coast Guard raided a submarine in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, containing more than 17,000 pounds of cocaine. The video proving the raid was posted on July 11th, showing a Coast Guard officer “surf” on the submarine.

The event took place on June 18th.

In the filmed incident, the Coast Guard was able to detect the vessel with an aircraft, who relayed the information to members on the ground. Once they had an idea of where the vessel was, the guard launched two small boats to creep up on the smugglers, and were eventually able to board without detection.

There were five people on the vessel, who were then turned over the US Drug Enforcement Administration for prosecution.

This drug bust was the first time the US Coast Guard used a new type of vessel on a counter-drug patrol, Lt. Commander Stephen Brickey the second in command of the Coast Guard said.

In the last four years, there’s been an increase in drug cartels from Central and South America using these semi-submersible vessels, Brickey said.

These vessels are relatively rare. They’re expensive to build, and cartels have to build them deep in jungles to avoid detection. Once they’re filled with drugs and deployed, Brickey said they’re almost impossible to detect without prior intelligence or an aircraft.

“They blend in,” he said. “Most of the vessel is underwater, so it’s hard to pick out. They’re painted blue. They match the water.”

According to Coast Guard data, only 11% of vessels that pass through the eastern Pacific Ocean are stopped.

Part of the problem is that 70 percent of Coast Guard’s fleet is over 50 years old — so they’re slow and require a lot of maintenance before they can be deployed.

“They’re not really effective enough to meet this new threat,” Brickey said.

Another part is that the Coast Guard patrols is that the area they need to protect is massive, while the means to do it with are inadequate for the insurmountable task.

The US’ war on drugs, is a fundamentally flawed approach, it either targets specific shipments, or its leaders. And yes, one could argue that a disease should be treated from its cause, and not simply its symptoms. The US allegedlly does both, and there appears to be very little progress made.

Since in 2016, Mexican authorities arrested Joaquín Guzmán Loera – el Chapo, that was considered a massive blow to the Sinaloa cartel. But, in all actuality, nothing of the sort happened – drugs were still being transferred illegally and sold in the US and there was little change.

Neverending US-Mexico Drug War: El Chapo Sentenced to Life in Prison, But To Little Avail

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In February 2019, el Chapo was found guilty of 10 charges, including drug trafficking and money laundering, by a federal court in New York.

On July 17th, he was sentenced to life. He was sentenced to an additional 30 years were for unlawful uses of firearms. He was also ordered to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture.

Guzmán’s lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman announced plans to appeal against the verdict.

He argued that the trial had not been conducted fairly and claimed that jurors were influenced by media coverage.

“It was a show trial,” he said.

El Chapo, too, provided a comment before the sentencing, through a translator.

He said in the Brooklyn courtroom his confinement in the US had amounted to “torture” and said he had received an unfair trial.

One thing is certain, treating him unfairly would simply lead to one thing – the Mexican cartels would show even more animosity along the US border.

Furthermore, his arrest – dubbed the biggest since Pablo Escobar’s – showed that despite him gone, Mexico and the US weren’t magically rid of drugs.

Rather than reducing the levels of violence and trafficking in Mexico, that approach – the so-called kingpin strategy, employed by Mexico and the US has rather allowed for other forms of crime to prosper, smaller organizations and not the larger cartels, which are much more difficult to counter, simply due to their sheer number.

As Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, el Chapo’s longtime partner, said in 2010 in a rare interview with the Mexican news magazine El Proceso, the problem of narcos isn’t going away:

“As soon as capos are locked up, killed or extradited, their replacements are already around.”

To further substantiate the entire hopelessness of the current state of the drug war, following is the most recent incident along the US-Mexico border:

On July 15th, the Juarez drug cartel detonated a car bomb on the streets of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, less than a mile from the U.S. border. The use of car bombs represents a new tactic in the escalating street violence between drug cartels and Mexican authorities, much of it in the cities that hug the US border. The attack killed 4 and wounded 20.

Neverending US-Mexico Drug War: El Chapo Sentenced to Life in Prison, But To Little Avail

Click to see full-size image

Neverending US-Mexico Drug War: El Chapo Sentenced to Life in Prison, But To Little Avail

Click to see full-size image

On the very next day, drug gangs in another city – Nuevo Laredo, also along the Mexico-Texas border saw a two-hour gun battle between two drug gangs.

Neverending US-Mexico Drug War: El Chapo Sentenced to Life in Prison, But To Little Avail

Click to see full-size image

Neverending US-Mexico Drug War: El Chapo Sentenced to Life in Prison, But To Little Avail

Click to see full-size image

Mexican federal police entered the fray against both gangs and eventually prevailed. The two gangs used SUVs, trucks and stolen vehicles in the battle, and used the parked vehicles as firing positions. One of the gangs in the Nuevo Laredo gun battle used a stolen truck to block the street.

If the situation appears to strongly resemble the situation in Syria, or in another warzone filled with competing militant groups, that’s because it is approximately the same thing.

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