07/17/11 John Gibler

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John Gibler author "To Die in Mexico - Dispatches from Inside the Drug War" + Terry Nelson of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition & "Ode" to the drug czar

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Cultural Baggage / July 17, 2011


Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”

DEAN BECKER: My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.


DEAN BECKER: Thank you for joining us here on Cultural Baggage. I thank you for this privilege, this chance to share what I consider to be very important information. Today we’re going to be talking with an author, fellow journalist who works at KPFA. He’s written a couple of books, “Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt”. A couple of others. I guess they’re in French, I can’t really tell. He’s written for several magazines, in the U.S; Left Turn, Z, Color Lines, Race, Poverty and the Environment. He’s author of a great new book. Look, I tell you every week, “this is a great book”, I think. But, today, I’m telling you, this is the one to get. If you want to understand what’s going on in Mexico; the horror, the impunity, the situation – I urge you to pick up a copy of his book, “To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War.” And, with that, I want to welcome John Gilbler. Hello Sir.

JOHN GIBLER: Hello Dean. Thanks, so much, for having me on the air.

DEAN BECKER: Well John, my hat is off to you. I have been to Mexico only briefly in the last 20 years. I don’t think I’m going back anytime soon. What you have recounted in this book gives me no confidence or any reason to think it’s time to go back. It’s a madhouse over there, isn’t it?

JOHN GIBLER: Well, it’s important to say at the beginning that Mexico, as a territory, is an incredibly complex and largely, geographically beautiful zone. It’s an incredible diverse climate and culturally it’s also an incredibly diverse and rich, I think, beautiful country that has much to offer the world. Sadly, right now it’s a beautiful country that has been bludgeoned and plagued with the violence and impunity related to the so-called drug war.

So, the blame, as I’m sure we’ll be getting into, falls squarely not on Mexico as a nation or even the majority of Mexicans born and raised and living in country, but on the largely, completely misguided and failed United States policies as well as, of course, the criminal drug trafficking organizations in Mexico as well as in other countries and the operators, so to speak, that they have working inside the institution of the state.

DEAN BECKER: Well, again, I want to say, John, that I will be using this book quite often as a reference point, as a way to underscore/underline/justify certain statements I make in the future and perhaps even to support those I’ve made in the past. But, I guess…reading from your book:

“When a person’s ruined body is crafted into a message the meaning is clear; this could happen to you. The dead must have done something to end up like that – crossed the line, spoken up – so better to do nothing, better to look away.”

That’s a horrible situation, isn’t it?

JOHN GIBLER: Absolutely and it goes to what I think is one of the most insidious and dangerous myths of this so-called drug war and that is, “If you’re dead – you’re dirty.” And, as soon as you end up, as in the description you just read, executed, you’re body discarded on the side of the street, often times with grotesque, theatrical displays of being wrapped up in tape or blankets or dismembered, hung from overpasses, that ritualistic, theatrics of execution leads everyone who sees to just assume, “Oh, this was an act of drug violence.” So-called drug violence. And, thus, anyone who fell victim to that kind of violence must have been in the game, must have been in some way involved. But we don’t know that. You can’t know that if you don’t investigate a murder, right?!

In here we can look at two key statements. One is Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico, told CNN in an interview that 90% of the victims of the so-called drug war were people directly involved in drug trafficking. He doesn’t cite any sources. He gives no backup information or studies to justify his claims. He just said it in the interview.

However, there is a second revealing claim that is backed up by documentation. And, that is that the Mexican Attorney General’s office fully acknowledges that it investigates less than 5% of homicides that take place in contact with this drug war. So, in four and one-half years more than 41,000 have been executed – 95% of those murders are guaranteed impunity.

And here we can really see what’s at work with that logic of, “If you’re dead – you’re dirty.” That’s just an assumption put forth and, in this case, with Felipe Calderon’s statement, it’s the highest official elected in the nation putting this out there, this 90% figure that he has no support for as if it were fact. But, the actual fact is the government doesn’t investigate anything and if there’s no investigation, if no one’s looking into trying to find out what actually happened – you can’t know. And in the few cases where journalists or family members in Mexico have pushed forward their own independent investigation – the facts have been widely different than this assumed logic.

We’ve seen cases of people who are kidnapped, held for ransom, their families paid the ransoms and then they were executed and their bodies dressed up to look like these drug land murders even though they were simply a victim of another type of crime which is that of kidnapping.

Seeing cases of drug execution squads committing massacres in public places simply to bring down federal pressures or ‘seat’, they say, against an enemy/rival cartel structure. So, what you know is you got up on Sunday morning and took your family to your brother’s birthday party at a hotel conference room and the next thing you know an armed commando squad bursts in and kills 18 people and then the national media assumes someone there must have been dirty.

DEAN BECKER: Right, mistakes are not made by the cartels. I’ve heard it said that when they do make mistakes somebody dies to make sure it is not known.

JOHN GIBLER: Indeed and what’s happening…the drug trafficking industry, this incredibly lucrative, illegal industry, does necessitate murder. Murder is a part of just the everyday working of this industry because people are dealing…their business accounts deal with so much money and since they can’t go to the courts and they can’t call 911 to say, “Somebody just stole my stash”, their conflict resolution method of choice appears to be execution.

But that is only one feature of this overwhelming culture or political climate of impunity that is bludgeoning Mexico right now. Since the authorities, the state does not in any way investigate, much less prosecute and sentence…bring to justice… some modicum of justice to the perpetrators of these executions – that unleashes all manner of copycat forms of violence; kidnapping gangs, street gangs. Or even just cases of individual murder/homicide that gets dressed up to kind of cloak it in the impunity of the so-called drug war.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Let’s talk about who’s waging this war. Now I know that at the top there’s billionaires like Shorty Guzman and other high echelon owners, if you will, of these cartels. But, the ones out there doing the dirty work, the ones dying...If I may kind of paraphrase you’re book. They range from age 14 – 25, they’re destitute before they get invited into the gang and they’re pretty soon used up/thrown away, right?

JOHN GIBLER: Totally. In reporting during the past couple years, they are basically disposable assassins. People coming from the marginalized, working classes often who are hitting out of lessons at a time when it’s becoming common to see an execution or to see a dead body in your town. And also, importantly, to see that nothing happens afterwards- that there’s absolute impunity. With little economic opportunity, all the sudden you have a booming industry which happens to be illegal drug trafficking hiring people with cash and promises from those with access to drugs…

DEAN BECKER: If I could interrupt with a thought…You said before that this current 6 year war, escalation of the drug war in Mexico…that it was common that people would pay a few thousand dollars for a hit but under the current circumstance they just pay a salary of $300 per week or so for these murders, right?

JOHN GIBLER: Indeed, I reported that in Cimarron and that speaks to the escalation of the violence itself. If you think in kind of simplistic, economic terms, the market is now saturated with potential killers and so the price of murder has gone down.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Now let’s talk about one of the primary focuses of your book. And, again, let’s remind folks, we’re speaking with Mr. John Gibler. He’s author of “To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War.” And if you want to understand what’s going on in Mexico, please pick up a copy. As I said earlier, I’m going to use this as a talisman, a means to better understand what’s going on in the future.

John, one of the primary focuses of this book deals with the plight of journalism in Mexico. Do you want to talk about that a little further? How far it reaches or how much it squelches, maybe is a better phrase.

JOHN GIBLER: Absolutely. I think Mexico is one of the single most dangerous country in the world for journalist, those journalist covering the drug war more particularly, than in any other country. The majority of these journalists are those who work in local media outlets – newspapers, radio stations and also television stations. In provincial cities and not the nation’s capital but in the state capitals or the mid-sized and even some smaller towns in states outside the capital and they’re the reporters who live, raise their families, work and publish all in the same city and they are those running the highest risk.

The drug trafficking organizations, including, of course, all of the police that are on the take, all the government officials that are involved, have such incredible power there. As we’ve already discussed, the impunity rate is so absolute that if a reporter publishes information that offends or jeopardizes or insults or in some way urks one of these drug trafficking cartel members inside or outside of the state – then it seems it’s much easier to assassinate that journalist than to try weather the consequences of the information being made public.

DEAN BECKER: I want to skim through a section here:

“El Diario published a front page editorial with the following headline: What do you want from us?” The question was not addressed to the array of federal, state, local officials ostensibly tasked with safety in the streets of Juarez but to the members and directors of the death squads and assassination crews.”

Tell us how that panned out.

JOHN GIBLER: That was an incredibly powerful statement. Again, the editors published this front page, “What do you want from us?” The reaction from the world media was immediate. Not only of that editorial itself – a major news story in Mexico – but also dominated the headlines for a brief moment across the world.

I interviewed one of the editors who wrote the editorial who told me his cell phone started ringing at 3 in the morning and didn’t stop for 24 hours. Getting calls from Japan, from all across the United States, Columbia, Chile, Israel, London…and, while the world media took this on, this incredible statement of the desperation of the journalist in these undeclared war zones of the so-called drug war but what the editors were really hoping for was that the Mexican federal government would have some proactive response of saying, “This situation’s out of control. We need to change our tactics. We need to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of journalist, the institution of journalism in our country.” But, the opposite happened. The Mexican federal government never called or wrote to the editors of El Diario and, instead, held their own press conference in Mexico City simply denouncing the editorial. Saying it was incredibly irresponsible to try to write to criminal gangs.

This is detailed in the book but when I interviewed the editor of the newspaper he told me that what they were really after was to just shock civil society and the government into some kind of reaction because the situation had become untenable Of course the context of that editorial was that a second journalist of that newspaper had just been assassinated. The first was an excellent investigative journalist who worked at El Diario for 10 or 15 years. The second one was a young photographer who was just starting out at the paper. Two days after that photographer was killed, the editors had already gone through over one year and a half of the experience of impunity and pushing for an investigation into their reporters’ assassination – that was in that context that this editorial directly to the cartels.

But, while, again, the direct address was to the cartels and the death squads, the subtext was to civil society at large and the government. And, with that respect, the civil society through the world media or a significant number of media outlets across the world responded very positively with solidarity and just direct news coverage of the story. And the government, quite the opposite by holding their press conference denouncing the editorial as irresponsible.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Kind of like…I don’t know…people saying that the Global Commission on Drug Policy was misguided. It’s just crazy. OK, now you talk about the people seeing these caravans driving around. 10/20 machine guns pointing out the window with CDG which is Cartel del Golfo, I guess, if I remember right, license plates actually advertising who and what they are as they pull into town, go to the finest restaurants and, again, impunity. It’s like the police cannot see their existence, am I correct?

JOHN GIBLER: Correct. That concretely is about the city of Reynosa in Tamaulipas state. In the context of interviewing a young journalist who he and a colleague were actually kidnapped and interrogated for several hours, beaten and interrogated by members of the Golfo cartel. And they were able to witness up close the absolute impunity with which these death squads, so to speak, were able to drive around the city and through the city where at the point they were abducted was only blocks away from city hall.

DEAN BECKER: Let me ask you something here, John. Now we got just a few minutes left here and I want to go into maybe some of the positives that are coming out of this book or the potential for positives. I can’t find her name but I’ve got seventy tabs, I bet, on this book – it’s so good, folks. It’s “To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War.” It’s written by Mr. John Gibler, our guest here.

Now, John, I guess what I’m saying is this one lady whose son was killed set out to prove that all these governmental and army, you know, all these legislatures were just inept and if they were inept and unable to do anything about it why do they have their jobs, right?

JOHN GIBLER: Absolutely. And after one of her sons was killed another son survived a massacre in Culiacan in 2008. That experience turned her into an unwitting activist of sort in which she demanded justice for her son’s murder and since that investigation did not come and at every level from the local police to the state police to the judge to the state’s human rights commission…everybody just tried to obstruct her, telling he to go home and just mourn on her own and she refused to do that. She refused to let the officials get away with simply not doing their jobs. They say they’re there to protect, they say they are there to investigate…well, then they need to do it.

She had that just incredibly hard working class logic of, “OK, wait what is your job? You’re a judge – OK you need to try a case. OK, you’re a police officer, you go and investigate. You’re a detective then that’s what you do.”

And her intense spirit motivated obviously for a profound love for her son and the pain of her loss turned her into a profound inspiration and she’s one of many. There’s several families of people who have been killed this violence related to drug trafficking in this so-called war on drugs who have taken to the streets, who have taken to the public eyes through interviews and acts before the media to call for an end to this misguided war.

And there are people like Javier Sicillia, the poet whose son was killed in Cuernavaca. Also the mothers of the young students killed in (? )Juarez. And I think that presents…one of the points is it’s so hard to find hope in such a devastating problem but there are points of hope and the incredible courage of the family members and those who stand with them and are taking to the streets and trying not to let the government simply get away with this either impunity or ineptitude or whatever ends most apt description or a combination of those terms to describe their absolute inability to address or investigate the murders and bring people to justice.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, it’s just tumbling down the hill and somebody needs to stop it. Friends, we ‘ve been speaking with Mr. John Gibler, author of “To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War.” John, we’ve got about a minute or so here. I wanted to ask you…KPFA uses you as a correspondent, you guys report on it. With just a few seconds left, why…I mean, we talked about the problem with journalism in Mexico and here in the U.S. major papers and broadcasters are beginning to turn to more focus towards this problem, the failing of the drug war. I just wanted to turn it over to you. We got about 15 seconds. If you would, point folks in the right direction. Where can they learn more to help end this madness.

JOHN GIBLER: Well there are definitely a lot of sources in the book to newspapers in Mexico and magazines. There’s also some in the United States that have done good work. But also community radio has done excellent work – shows like yours. And also as kind of a parting statement, I think folks in the United States desperately need to learn, understand and fight against the ways in which the United States’ misguided drug policies have unleashed all of this violence and turmoil on other countries.

DEAN BECKER: Alright we’re going to have to let it go right there. John, I want to invite you back soon if you’ll do it. Once again, John Gibler, “To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War.” Thank you so much.

JOHN GIBLER: Thank you very much, Dean. Take care.


ANNOUNCER1: Some of the most dangerous drugs aren’t on the street. They are under your sink. Household products can be sniffed to get high. Protect your kids. Tell them to never sniff inhalants because the first time can kill.

ANNOUNCER2: A message from the Partnership for a Drug-Free Texas and America.

DEAN BECKER: The Partnership for a Drug-Free America is an enormous, fraudulent enterprise but in this one instance – they did get it right.


(Game show music)
DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.
Permanent damage to the liver, eyes, bone marrow, heart vessels, convulsions, impaired mental function, neurological damage, kidney damage, irregular heartbeats, unbearable stress, sudden sniffing death…

Time’s up!

The answer: Lucy, gasoline. There’s a vending machine in your neighborhood.


TERRY NELSON: This is Terry Nelson speaking on behalf of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. The most recent attack by the government on medical cannabis comes almost nine years after the DEA was petitioned to remove cannabis as a Schedule I drug that has no medicinal use.

As many of you know there are now 16 states plus the District of Colombia that have medical cannabis. Ironic that D.C. has medical cannabis yet the raids on medical cannabis growers are mostly outside the District.

This recent move could be a direct attack on cannabis growers in states that now have medical cannabis laws. It could also be that the government wants to have an appeals court showdown and if the courts come down on the side of the cannabis supporters then they will have political cover to cease and desist in their draconian efforts to prevent the public from having access to medical cannabis.

Since most things that are political have consequences of the supporters of the people in power do not do as requested then they will have cover by being able to point to the courts and say, “We were overruled and it’s not our fault.”

The states of California and Colorado will probably have cannabis on the 2012 ballot and voters will decide to legalize it or not. The court of public opinion is moving towards legalizing cannabis and making money off it instead of throwing money away trying to stop people from doing what they are going to do anyway.

LEAP is still working for the legalization of all drugs as we think that is the only way to reduce the crime and violence and greatly reduce the power and reach of the drug cartels and violent street gangs. Without the money from prohibited substances their influence will be reduced significantly.

But the Drug Czar and state department have recently returned from drug conferences in Central America where another 2 billion dollars was promised to help fight the violence and corruption that has sprung up there as a result of the failure of this drug policy.

When will we learn that throwing money at a problem does not fix the problem?

With our politicians fighting over spending cuts and cutting our wasteful spending the policy makers are just pouring more and more money down the abyss called the drug war. The most economical, the most humanitarian, the most logical approach would be to scrap the failed policies that have brought us to this poor financial situation and begin a common sense approach to problems. A great place to start would be to legalize all drugs, regulate and control their distribution and provide credible education and sane policies to reduce consumption of dangerous substances.

Let’s all work to change this failed policy and help protect ourselves and future generations from the violence that we have had to endure due to this failed policy. Stay Safe. This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, http://www.leap.cc, signing off.



DEAN BECKER: He’s the king of the cowboys - of the terrorists, cartels and gangs.

He’s the purveyor of madness yet the masses his praises do sing.

He is our only salvation – the way and the light.

Bow down before his logic for only he knows what is right.

He’s the Drug Czar. Wages an eternal war on free will.

He knows all - the Drug Czar knows all.

He’s in charge of the truth so he tells nothing but lies.

He professes such great sorrow for the thousands of his minions who die.

He’s the Drug Czar waging his eternal war on our free will


DEAN BECKER: Ah yes, an eternal war on our free will. That’s what this is all about. It’s a minority report made worldwide. Please be sure to join us next week on Cultural Baggage. Our guest will be Annette Fuentes. She’s author of “Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse.” This week’s Century of Lies will feature Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado. And, as always, I remind you because of prohibition – you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.


DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

Dean Becker Wants YOU to Call the Drug Czar