Drug violence tied to illegal profits

Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may write to him at: 400 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, Texas 76102, or via e-mail at bobray@star-telegram.com.

Hillary Clinton is right.

Right on target.

Dead right, if you will.

Before some of you Hillary haters begin convulsing, hear me out.

After hearing our new secretary of state's comments last week in México, I thought perhaps she had overheard a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with an obviously upset man.

He'd left several voicemail messages before we had a chance to talk. In the recordings, he made it clear that he had wanted to talk about something he found quite disturbing.

When we finally connected by phone, the tone of his voice -- the tremor of each word -- was one of hurt and anger. The caller was a Hispanic with a deep love for México.

After hearing broadcast reports about the drug cartels in México and the violence along the U.S.-México border, the man was upset by a recurring theme in comments from some U.S. government officials.

Some of those officials -- and some media commentators -- were referring to México as a "failed state" or on the verge of becoming such.

He had a question: If México is a "failed state" because so much drug traffic is coming from there, then are Americans a "failed people" because they are consuming those drugs?

I promised I would ask his very good question to our readers and dare them to answer it honestly.

That brings me back to our secretary of state, who visited Mexico as our country was committing more resources to the border and desperately trying to figure out what else could be done to stop the drug trafficking and the increase in related violence.

Clinton said our two countries have a "shared responsibility" in this devastating crisis, and she concluded that Americans' drug habits and our failed government policies contribute to the problem we claim to vehemently despise.

"How could anybody conclude any differently?" McClatchy Newspapers quoted Clinton as saying. "Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians."

She is right.

I said the same thing when this country, under President George H.W. Bush, ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989 to depose, capture and arrest leader Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking.

I continue to ask: If we knew Noriega was sending tons of drugs to the United States and laundering money, we should also have known who in this country was receiving all those drugs and paying for them. If Noriega was a racketeer, then there were also racketeers in this country.

The same with Mexico.

If there are cartels south of the border, then there are cartels north of it. Let's deal with them all, consistently and effectively.

Sadly, we do have communities all over this country afflicted by addiction, and we can never do anything significant about drug trafficking until we deal with the demand here.

Too often in our "war on drugs," we focus on the junkies and the small-time dealers, leaving the leaders of the "cartels" to stay in business.

It's much easier to raid a home in some low-income neighborhood and drag some minor drug dealer out in his underwear than it is to raid some downtown office building and arrest some kingpin dressed in a $1,000 suit.

Every time there is a budget crisis, among the first programs to be cut are drug prevention, intervention and treatment.

If we spent one-tenth of the amount on drug treatment and prevention as we do on drug enforcement, we would make tremendous progress in addressing the problem. Yes, we need to fight the drug-related violence along our border and help México fight the addictive cancer that's eating at its soul.

To answer that caller's question, neither country is a failed state, but both have failed at adequately addressing one of the most damaging problems any nation can face.

La violencia se debe a ganancias ilegales

Hillary Clinton está en lo justo.

Dio justo en el blanco.

Y justo en el centro, para ser más claros.

Pero antes que quienes se indigestan con Hillary empiecen a convulsionarse, préstenme un poco su atención.

Cuando oí los comentarios que nuestra nueva Secretaria de Estado hizo la semana pasada en México, pensé que ella había escuchado por accidente la conversación que tuve hace un par de semanas con un señor evidentemente molesto.

Esta persona me dejó varios mensajes en el correo de voz antes que tuviéramos la oportunidad de hablar. En sus grabaciones, dejaba muy claro que quería platicar sobre algo que le tenía muy disgustado.

Cuando por fin nos pusimos al teléfono, el tono de su voz -- el temblor de cada palabra -- era el de alguien dolido y furioso. Mi interlocutor era un hispano que ama entrañablemente a México.

Luego de escuchar las noticias sobre los cárteles de la droga en México y la violencia que se vive en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México, lo que le enojaba al hombre era escuchar un tema recurrente en los comentarios de algunos funcionarios de gobierno estadounidense.

Varios de esos funcionarios -- y algunos comentaristas de los medios de comunicación -- se referían a México como un "estado fallido" o a punto de serlo.

Él me lanzó esta pregunta: Si México es un "estado fallido" por la cantidad de droga que entra de allá, luego entonces ¿los estadounidenses son un "pueblo fallido" porque son ellos son quienes la consume? Le prometí que les haría esta excelente pregunta a nuestros lectores y los retaría a que la respondan con honestidad.

Para responder la pregunta de mi lector, ninguno de los dos países es un estado fallido, pero ambos han fallado por no atender debidamente uno de los problemas más nocivos que cualquier país pueda enfrentar.