From Trees of Blood to Traffic of Drugs
Among the issues that most trouble the West, and especially the United States, are the international traffic in drugs and the third world debt. The linkage between the two is often missed. Both involve corruption, but there is a lot more to the relationship than that.
–Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria
The Beginning of the End for One Village Family
Not only because of its reddish slippery bark is the arrayán sometimes called the ‘palo de sangre’ or ‘tree of blood.’ Throughout the foothills of western México ’s Sierra Madre, arrayanes grow plentifully along the steep ravines and rocky slopes. In the fallow months from December to February, the generous clusters of miniature guavas hang temptingly from the tops of the tall branches. Village children delight in climbing the slender trees to stuff their bellies with the bittersweet, yellow green fruits. The young of the poorest families help make ends meet by picking sacks full of arrayanes, which they later sell for a pittance in the streets and markets of larger towns.
This is one trade where the smallest, thinnest child has an advantage, for he can climb higher and farther out on the brittle branches. Accidents, of course, are common. Every winter the ‘trees of blood’ also yield a crop of broken children.
“If he loses his arm, it’s his father’s fault!” grumbled the young surgeon in the Hospitál Militár of Mazatlán. “I told him he had to bring the boy back in four days to have the bones set. Now it’s nearly a month, and still no sign of them.” The doctor lit a cigarette. “But that’s campesinos for you. They’re illogical about questions of health. Time after time they bring a patient all the way to the city. We begin treatment. And suddenly, they just leave—even when it’s life and death.” The doctor made a gesture of frustration. “By now it’s too late to set the fracture. We’ll probably have to amputate—if he doesn’t die first of infection.”
The doctor was talking about eight-year-old Noé Crispín. Noé is the third of five children from a campesino family (a family of poor farmers) that lives in a mud but near Güillapa, an old Indian village in the foothills of México’s Sierra Madre Occidental. On December 19, Noé and his older brother hiked up a wooded ravine to pick arrayanes. In an attempt to reach a big clump of ripe fruit high in a tree, Noé pushed his luck too far. The branch snapped and the boy fell 30 feet onto the rocks below.
Three hours after the fall, Noe’s father arrived with his injured son at the Clínica de Ajoya, a villager-run health center in a small town eight miles downstream from Güillapa. Roberto, one of the leaders of the village health team, welcomed them. He gently removed the cactus-flesh compress that the father had put on the injury. The arm bent sharply above the wrist and two jagged bones stuck out from an ugly wound. Trembling slightly, the boy looked down silently at his mangled arm.
The health workers at the Clínica de Ajoya are able to set simple fractures. But when the bones are exposed, or the risk of infection is high, or complex surgery is needed, they usually take the injured person to a hospital in the coastal city.
After carefully examining the broken arm, Roberto offered to take Noé to the Catholic Hospital in Mazatlán. He told the father that a friendly surgeon there often did surgery free or at low cost for persons referred by Project Piaxtla. (Project Piaxtla is the primary health care network that the Clínica de Ajoya is part of.)
Unfortunately, when they arrived in Mazatlán, the friendly surgeon was out of town, so Roberto placed Noé and his father in the hands of a ‘traumatologist’ in the Hospitál Militár. Roberto explained that Noe’s family was very poor, and the surgeon promised to keep the costs low.
Roberto thanked him and returned to Ajoya.
Back in Ajoya, no one heard again from Noé or his father. Then, 23 days after the accident, they returned to the village health center. Examining Noe’s arm, the health workers saw that a skin graft had been put over the wound, but that the broken bones had not been set. The arm still bent sharply where the points of the bones poked through the skin.
“If the doctor told you to come back in four days to set the bones,” asked one of the health workers, “why didn’t you go?”
“How could I?” said the father bitterly. “He charged me 510,000 pesos for the first operation! † And he didn’t even fix the bones. I paid him the 200,000 pesos I’d managed to borrow in the village and he made me sign a note promising to pay the rest with high interest. I’ll be in debt forever.” Noe’s father was silent for a moment. “Unless…,” he continued, and made a motion of his hands to indicate cutting rings on a poppy pod. Then he sadly shook his head… “But it’s so risky now! Who knows where I’d end up?”
† Exchange rate at this time: 1,000 pesos per U.S. dollar. A field worker earns about 1,500 pesos/day (540,000 pesos/year). Small farmers often earn much less.
“Damn it,” said Roberto, “that doctor robbed you! You were right not to take Noé back to him. But somehow we’ve got to get the bones set—free or as cheap as we can. But it’s going to be a struggle.”
México, in addition to its national health insurance that serves mainly the urban middle class, has a number of federal and state medical facilities designed to serve the poor `according to their ability to pay'. But the long lines, red tape, hidden costs, and other obstacles put these services out of the reach of many of the poor. The village team decided to try taking Noé to a federal children’s hospital in Culiacán, the state capital, 150 miles away. Finally, after several attempts, and a petition directly to the director, the hospital agreed to attend the boy for a ‘token charge’. Noé was hospitalized and his arm put in traction.
In only two weeks, Noé was ready for release. But when Noe’s father went to pick him up, the hospital handed him a bill for 215,000 pesos. They refused to let the child go until the money was paid. Noe’s father returned to Ajoya in despair. Then, two of the leaders of the village health team went to Culiacán and confronted the hospital authorities, who at last released their young hostage for 100,000 pesos.
All things considered, Noé was lucky. No infection developed and his broken bones knitted well. But if it had not been for the efforts of the village health team, he could easily have remained disabled for life. As it is, within a few more months, Noé should get back the full use of his arm.
Economically, Noe’s family was not so fortunate; it will need much more time to recover, if it ever can. Noe’s father had to borrow over 300,000 pesos, and owes an additional 310,000. For a campesino, such a debt can be devastating. With the small, uncertain income from growing corn and beans on the steep hillsides, he will be lucky if he can even pay the high interest charged by the local money lender—10% per month! Noé and his family will have to sell the bean harvests and eat mainly corn. This means that they could become malnourished, especially the younger children. They also may have to sell their donkey, which will mean hauling firewood and grain on their backs. To help with the extra work,1 Noé and his brother and sisters may have to drop out of school. They will need to pick and sell even more arrayanes. And if one year the corn or bean crops fail and the family cannot pay the interest on the loan, the money lender- who is also a big land and cattle owner—is likely to strip the family of its few chickens, pigs, tools, and other possessions. Then, the family will have to move to the mushrooming slums of the city.
For many families, in a similar way, the high cost of medical care means the beginning of the end.
Drug growing—A Desperate Alternative
Of course there is another, quicker way for a poor farmer of the Sierra Madre to try to pay off his overwhelming debts: growing drugs. With one successful harvest of opium poppy, Noe’s father might earn over one million pesos, be able to pay off his half million peso debt, and even have enough left over to buy a calving cow, a .45-caliber revolver, or even a submachine gun (a basic tool of mountain farmers who get deep into the drug trade).
The temptation is great—but, as Noe’s father knows only too well, so are the risks. However, some of the risks are there in any case. In the Sierra Madre today, no man, woman, or child is free of danger. Far too often, it is the innocent who pay for the deeds of those most involved in the growing, trafficking, or erratic control of narcotics.
Already, Noe’s family is in some ways a victim of the rampant narcotics business in the state of Sinaloa. (Both Güillapa and Ajoya are in this northwestern state of México.) Because so many campesino families have become involved and (temporarily) have relatively large amounts of easy money, the inflation rate in the mountains has skyrocketed worse than in the cities. Prices of food, clothing, and other basics now average almost twice as much as in the cities. To make things worse, village stores tend to stock expensive items (canned goods, foreign cigarettes, and bottled alcoholic drinks) for the big spenders, instead of low-cost staples (rice, wheat flour, dried beans) for the subsistence farmers. Poor families who, for reasons of ethics or caution, have long refused to grow drugs, find their situation of poverty steadily worsening. To survive, many families give in and begin to grow drugs, or the fathers and older children go to work for triple the basic wage in the poppy fields of the big growers. (Some of the biggest illegal plantations are said to have been owned by the former governor of Sinaloa and guarded by the Mexican army). (1, 2) In the cities, markets that cater to campesinos also have raised their prices to match the pocket books of the `new rich'. Items that have suffered disproportionately high price increases include barbed wire, firearms, ammunition, medicines, and medical care.
Of these, the high cost of medical care is often the most devastating to poor families. In the past, there were many doctors who provided services to the poor at somewhat reduced prices. Today, more and more doctors charge outrageously for services, especially to campesinos. They can get away with this because enough campesino families are able to pay the high prices to keep the doctors in business. Of course, most of those who can pay are the drug growers, traffickers, and their relatives -or those who borrow from the growers and then pay back by growing drugs themselves.
A campesino father will pay everything he has, and more, to save the life of his wife or child. He will pay his entire drug earnings for a single surgical procedure. Knowing this, many doctors now routinely charge millions of pesos for a simple surgery that a few years ago they might have done for a fraction of the cost.
The Effects of Drug Growing on the Mountain People
The drug business in the mountains of western México is having many direct and indirect negative effects on the people’s health and well-being. This has been aggravated by the shifting, contradictory role of the narcotics enforcement agents—mostly the federal soldiers. Sometimes the soldiers first promise the growers protection; then, when many poor farmers have sold their stored grain to make advance payment to the soldiers, and have spent months tending their opium fields, the soldiers (responding, perhaps, to higher orders for a crackdown) come in and destroy the smaller plantings. In this way, hundreds of poor families who have planted drugs instead of food crops, end up with nothing. The big planters and traffickers are usually immune to the crackdowns. Thus, the drug business brings wealth to some and hunger to others.
The rampant drug trade has produced an unprecedented wave of violence in the state of Sinaloa. In the last 15 years, the Sierra Madre Occidental has changed from a region where people could travel anywhere unarmed and safely, to a ‘war zone’ where no one is secure. Part of the violence results from the distrust that comes from illegal business. If a man discovers that overnight his marijuana field has been harvested and stolen, he cannot complain to the authorities. If he dares, he might confront his neighbor or whomever else he suspects. But the simplest way to recover his losses is to steal from another neighbor’s field the following night. This leads to suspicion, killings, prolonged family feuds, and an atmosphere of fear and mistrust.
Proudly, 12-year-old boys now sport .45-caliber pistols (a .22 is seen as childish) and their fathers carry machine guns. It seems that most of the money made from drugs is spent on arms and alcohol. Because of the precarious mix of the two, a lot of the drug money is also spent on huge medical bills—and funerals. In the past two years in Ajoya (a village of 850 people), 12 killings have taken place. Nearly all of them were related to the drug trade or to the arms and alcohol drugs have paid for. In the state of Sinaloa as a whole, the murder rate was already one for 869 inhabitants in 1975, and has no doubt increased dramatically since then.
The extent to which drug trade dominates the economy of Sinaloa is explained in an article entitled “El Narcotráfico es Pilar de la Economía en Sinaloa” (Drug traffic is the pillar of the economy in Sinaloa), published in El Libertarian, in México. The following are translated excerpts from an interview with José Antonio Ríos, director of the Mexican Workers' Party (PMT) committee in Sinaloa:
To speak of the economy of Sinaloa is to speak of drug traffic promoted by the government itself, which has played a key role in the production of narcotics in the state—where national values have been so distorted by this activity that the youth look to Rafael ‘Caro’ Quintero, and to songs on the radio about other famous drug traffickers, for their models of behavior…
The latest major investments for the tourist industry in Mazatlán have been made with money from drug dealing, since this illicit activity has become the pillar of the state economy.
It has even reached the point where the best irrigated lands are openly used for growing marijuana, as was discovered in Navolato, where hundreds of acres produce Cannabis indica instead of corn, wheat, and other basic foods. (4)
Piaxtla Workers Jailed for Fighting Corruption
Governor Toledo Corro has been accused of closing down kindergartens to open neighborhood bars. During his six-year term, 14 of the Project Piaxtla health workers were arrested without charge, some for organizing women to prevent the opening of a bar in Ajoya, others for organizing the villagers to protest the abuses of a corrupt civil judge who had taken control of the village water system and shut off the public taps. Thanks to popular protest and support from local newspapers, all the health workers were soon released. (5)
In the January 1987 issue of Proceso, an article titled “El gobierno de Antonio Toledo Corro fue la ‘larga noche’ del delito y el empobrecimiento” [The government of Antonio Toledo Corro was a ‘long night’ of crime and impoverishment], points out some of the damaging effects during the 1980-86 term of the governor who promoted drug growing and alcohol consumption.
During this six-year period there were 6,500 murders in the state of Sinaloa. For most, no one was punished.
The Commission on Human Rights of Sinaloa, affiliated with Amnesty International, reports an upsurge in human rights violations and of arrests without charges.
The proliferation of marijuana in the state affected 400,000 young people.
The production of beer in the six-year period rose from 72 million liters to 102 million liters, while the production of milk dropped from 43 to 25 million liters. (6)
The Proceso article concludes:
No other governor has been shown so insistently as Toledo Corro to protect and provide a front for drug trafficking. He has been denounced even from abroad—but in vain. (6)
In 1986, when a U.S. congressional investigating committee reported evidence that Governor Toledo Corro and other high Mexican officials were deeply involved in drug trafficking, the Reagan administration quickly apologized for the committee’s ‘undiplomatic’ and ‘erroneous’ accusation. The accusations were dropped.
Much of the violence in Sinaloa, especially in towns and cities, has resulted from gangs led by very rich powerful drug lords who have police protection. One of these drug lords and his gang have caused the death of over 100 persons in and around the village of San Juan, a few miles from Ajoya (where Projects Piaxtla and PROJIMO are located). The fathers of four of the children attended by PROJIMO (a project for disabled children run mostly by disabled villagers) were killed by the same drug lord, ‘El Cochiloco’ (Crazy Pig) who, according to Newsweek, “of all the gangsters in the region… may be the most violent.” (7)
In the mountains, much of the violence has also come from drug wars between gangs and from fighting between campesinos involved in drug growing. But many of the abuses of human rights have come from government agents assigned to narcotics enforcement. In the Sierra Madre, these mostly include the federal soldiers and the state police (or judiciales). Both groups often behave like gangsters: beating, killing, or arresting persons, often with little or no provocation. I personally treated a child with a sprained neck, whose head had been held under water by a soldier’s boot, until the child was made to talk. And I treated one man for broken ribs who had been beaten by the narcotics control soldiers because he had decided not to grow drugs that year, and therefore did not give the soldiers their ‘cut’.
A Drug Lord’s Revenge
While I was writing this newsletter in Ajoya, a disabled teenager who works with PROJIMO came and sat beside me. As I knew that his father had been killed by the drug lord, El Cochiloco, I asked him about it. He told me that 15 members of his family, including his father, brother, uncles, and cousins, had been killed by ‘El Cochi’. I asked him why.
“Well, you see, my father was not involved in drugs,” said my young friend. “El Cochi killed the members of my family as vengeance for the death of his own father by a relative of ours. My father was a quiet, peaceful man who didn’t have problems with anyone.”
The boy’s eyes clouded. “But don’t think El Cochi just shot the people he killed. First, he’s have his men pull out the people’s fingernails and then cut off their hands like a pig being slaughtered. He’d have them dig out their eyes. Drag them to death behind a car. Castrate them. They did all that to my brother.”
“How old were you when they killed your father? I asked. “About ten. I was in the fifth grade.”
“Were you very close to your father?”
The boy, who is small and looks young for his age, gave me a sad smile. “I was his favorite,” he whispered.
The boy explained that after his father had been killed, and his mother had lain out his body for mourning in their hut, a truck full of armed men pulled up outside, shouting abuse and bragging that El Cochi had made the kill.
“Didn’t the police do anything?” I asked.
“Are you kidding?” said the boy. “The police belong to El Cochi. The judiciales move in and out of his gang. Everybody knows that.”
The boy leaned toward me and said softly, “If someone killed your father and brother like that, would you try to get revenge?”
I shook my head. “I hope not,” I said. “Revenge usually only continues the chain of suffering and death of more innocent people. It makes more sense to struggle with others for a fairer, more just society.”
“But how?” asked the boy.
I had no easy answers. “Hacemos el camino caminando,” I quoted the old revolutionary saying. “We make the path by walking it.”
Health Workers Falsely Accused
In Sinaloa’s Sierra Madre, arrests of drug growers seem to be made to satisfy quotas and to get more money from the families of those arrested, rather than to seriously deter drug growing. Usually, only the smallest growers are arrested, and sometimes persons who are not even involved. This happened to one old man in the village of Verano, who owned a few head of cattle. The soldiers forced him to go to a poppy field and photographed him with the plants. The used the photos to extort money from him. He had to sell his cows.
Worse things happened to one of the health workers of Project Piaxtla. During one of the ‘get tough’ raids in the mountains, the soldiers had apparently been ordered to make a number of arrests. Because the campesinos who grow drugs are often well-armed and know the terrain, (with its ambush points) better than the soldiers, many soldiers are reluctant to have any real confrontations. When the troops marched into the small mountain village of Pueblo Viejo, they spotted a group of 14 men playing volleyball. These Sunday games had been organized by thee local health worker, Chavelo Barraza, to encourage sports instead of drinking. The soldiers, being sure that at that moment the ball players were unarmed, arrested them all and marched them down from the mountains. In Mazatlán, the men were accused of drug growing and jailed in a huge, new federal penitentiary (ironically called the “Center for Social Rehabilitation”). They were told that any of them that could pay a 2 million peso ‘fine’ would be released. This meant that only those who were, in fact, drug growers, could buy their freedom. Those not involved in drugs had no way to pay that much money, and remained on jail.
Chavelo and his son have now been in jail for over a year. As a result, Pueblo Viejo is missing its health worker. A group of friends, and leaders of this project, have been trying to get them released. So far they have not been successful.
Just a few days ago an old friend, Carmela Nuñez, from a tiny village high in the mountains, stopped to see me on her way back home from visiting her husband, Juan, who is also a prisoner in the Centro. Juan is a master craftsman who helped me build the outpost ‘El Zopilote’, organized his village to start a primary school, and later studied to be a village health worker. Carmela explained to me that she and Juan had been arrested as they had been leaving their small planting of opium poppy high inn the mountains.
“What really makes me angry, “ Carmela said, “is that the army lieutenant who arrested us, and who treated us like dogs, is the same one who invited us to plant it. He, himself, owned a big opium plantation higher up in the mountains. A son of J_____ B_____ from Verano was managing it for him. Everybody knows. After he gave us permission to plant, for some reason he and his soldiers destroyed a few of the smallest plantings. That made the growers of those plantings furious, so they burned the lieutenant’s field, That’s when the lieutenant got mad and began to arrest anyone he could get his hands on. Our bad luck!”
During ‘permissive’ years, the soldiers assigned to narcotic control allow and even encourage the campesinos to plant marijuana and opium. They say they are the campesinos' friends, and are “giving them a chance to overcome their poverty.” Of course the soldiers demand regular payoffs plus a generous share of the harvest. The growing is carefully monitored by the capitán or teniente, who inspects the plantings in a ‘narcotics control’ helicopter supplied by the United States.
During the ‘tough’ years come the crackdowns where the soldiers spray and burn all but the biggest drug plantations, make arrests, burn huts, and abuse anyone who isn’t quick enough to get out of their way (mostly women, children, and old people).
Even in the permissive years, a certain number of fields are burned or sprayed (sometimes even bean fields or vegetable gardens), and persons are arrested in order to give the appearance that the control program is functioning.
A Mexican cartoonist’s concept of a new monetary unit to replace the Mexican peso, which has devaluated to 1% of its 1975 value. After Arturo Durazo, known as ‘El Negro’, had been indicted a narcotics trafficker by a U.S. grand jury, former Mexican President López Portillo appointed him as México City’s police chief. According to Alan Riding’s book Distant Neighbors, ‘Durazo converted the police into a racketeering empire,’ whose abuses included extortion, murder, and the marketing of cocaine. (8)
Pervasiveness of Drug-Related Corruption
To anyone living in the state of Sinaloa, a senior officer’s involvement in drug as no surprise. Extensive involvement of many Mexican state and federal officials at different levels and in various branches of the government has been repeatedly documented both in the U.S. and Mexican press. (9, 10)
Much of the corruption linked to drug traffic first came out in the investigations spurred by the U.S. government after the kidnapping and murder of U.S. drug enforcement agent, Enrique Camarena, and his Mexican pilot. (11, 12, 13, 14) The Chicago Tribune, in an article titled “Mexican drug flow borders on official corruption,” starts off:
SAN DIEGO—The continuing investigation into the 1985 murder of a U.S. narcotics agent in México has produced evidence linking numerous officials of the Mexican government, including the current and former governors of at least 10 Mexican states, to the increasing flow of illegal narcotics across the border with México.
The degree of official involvement ranges from simply turning a blind eye to such activity, to actively protecting major smugglers from prosecution, to direct participation in the drug smuggling trade, according to several sources familiar with the investigation. (11)
The article states that much of this evidence was gathered by U.S. agencies, notably the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and NSA (National Security Agency) through telephone taps of known and suspected drug traffickers in México. Conversations tapped included those of Mexican state governors, more than 20 commanders of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police (or federates) and the Federal Security Directorate (DFS). “At first, …the CIA’s wiretaps were conducted in cooperation with Mexican law-enforcement and intelligence agencies…” the Tribune article stated. “But …when it became apparent that some members of the federates and DFS were themselves involved in narcotics trafficking, CIA agents continued the electronic surveillance on their own ….” (11)
According to numerous reports in both the U.S. and Mexican press, drug related corruption of Mexican officials is “pervasive.” (13, 14, 15, 16) Allegations to links with major drug rings have been made against low- and high-ranking officials in the following governmental divisions:
Mexican Federal Judicial Police (federates-equivalent of the FBI)
Federal Security Directorate (DFS—equivalent of the CIA)
Mexican army (especially soldiers and officers included in the narcotics control units)
Governors of at least ten states
Certain magistrates and judges
México City police (11, 13, 14)
History’s Biggest ‘Bust’
The biggest ‘bust’ in U.S./Mexican narcotics history took place on November 9, 1984 near Los Búfalos, Chihuahua, México. (14) Eight thousand tons of marijuana, valued at 8 billion dollars, were found on a huge plantation tended by 3,700 workers. When the bust was made (jointly by Mexican federales and U.S. DEA agents), the owners, foremen, and controllers—as usual—had vanished. Under interrogation, workers said they had been prevented from leaving by armed guards and that ‘inspection visits’ had been made regularly by agents of the DFS. In October of 1985, one of the DEA agents, Enrique ‘Quique’ Camarena and his pilot were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. The U.S. government demanded an investigation, which exposed complicity of Mexican officials at high levels, including the Director General of the federales. To appease the wrath of the U.S. government, two ‘middle-level’ drug lords implicated in the Camarena mission were arrested. But even the first attempts at arrest were foiled because of corruption. When drug lord Rafael ‘Caro’ Quintero was stopped by the soldiers as he was about to flee for Costa Rican his private jet, the drug dealer wrote a check for 275,000 dollars to the captain—who then stood back and let him fly away. Caro Quintero is now in a Mexican jail only because the Costa Rican police, tipped off by U.S. agents, captured him and sent him back. Other drug kings implicated in Camarena’s murder, Manuel Félix Gallardo and Manuel ‘Cochiloco’ Salcido, are still ‘on the loose’. According to one authority, Salcido is “locatable but unarrestable.” (13) (UPDATE: According to many reports, the infamous El Cochiloco of Sinaloa was killed by rivals/police in about 1988.)
Caro Quintero, who after his arrest admitted that he owned the Los Búfalos plantation, stated that he had given 43,000 a month to ‘protect’ his operations there. He said he also gave $21,000 a month to a commander in Sonora to protect similar plantations there, and $34,000 a month to a DFS officer in Tijuana for “unspecified services at the border,” according to the Wall Street Journal. (14)
As the pervasive corruption surfaced during the investigation following the Camarena murder, the DFS director Antonio Zorillo Pérez, suddenly left for Spain and the agency fired 427 agents and 19 commanders. However, few drug dealers or public officials have been arrested or stayed in jail long, Nearly all, including Caro Quintero, have denied their earlier statements, saying they were extracted under torture for “political reasons.” (14)
The quantity of drugs flowing into the U.S. across the Mexican border is enormous. As early as 1976, Alan Riding, in the New York Times, claimed that Sinaloa alone “now produces more than half the heroin consumed in the United States.” (3) A U.S. State Department report of October 1986 noted a “dramatic increase” in the production of marijuana and opium poppy in México. It says the statistics “…indicate that México is once again the largest single-country source of heroin and marijuana.…” (17)
In the last few years, México has also become a major pipeline into the U.S. for cocaine from South America. A report by the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control states that “…an estimated 42% of the heroin, 35% of the marijuana, and 33% of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. [is] being either cultivated in or trafficked through México…” (18)
What does this mean in tens of dollars? Astronomical amounts. In 1985, the Los Angeles Times spoke of the “$90 billion nationwide illicit drug industry.” (19) Today, with the huge increase in U.S. cocaine use, it is possible that up to $50 billion in drugs might be coming from (or through) México alone.