02/28/10 - Dane Schiller

Century of Lies

Dane Schiller, reporter w/Hou Chronicle covers Mexican war + Aaron Houston, Dir of Govt Relations for Marijuana Policy Project

Audio file

Century of Lies, February 28, 2010

The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more, now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.


Dean Becker: Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I am glad you could be with us. Today we are hoping to speak with Mr. Dane Schiller. He’s a reporter with the Houston Chronicle. He handles the Mexican beat if you will. Had a story published this week talking about the secrecy involved in the prosecution of a drug king pin and how it was more secret than the military tribunals in Guantanamo. It was right here in the gulag city that no reporters were allowed. Nobody knew when it was happening. Nobody knew exactly just what was going on.

I’ll read part of it here. Behind armed guards and locked doors in a secret hearing of judicial privacy not even given to some 9/11 terrorists or east coast mafia dons. Osiel Cardenas Guillen, one of the most feared drug lords in history, was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison on Wednesday.

In a Houston courtroom sealed to the public, he was also ordered to forfeit fifty million dollars, a small slice of his estimated earnings. Cardenas surrendered at least twenty-three million in cash seizures quietly made over the past year by federal agents.

He’s a forty-two year old native of the border city of Matamoros, Mexico. He moved tons of cocaine and made millions of dollars as he ruled the Gulf cartel drug empire with a viciousness and hands on style seldom before seen.

Quote Osiel Cardenas Guillen had one of the most prolific and certainly most violent drug trafficking organizations that Mexico has ever spawned said Mike Vigil a retired drug enforcement administration agent who was based in Latin America as the agencies chief of international operations. He ruled very much like Stalin in that he used massive amounts of violence against his enemies both in the government and those that opposed him in other criminal organizations he continued.

The famed drug lord has not been seen publicly since he was ushered in shackles in to a Houston court room in 2007 to be read his rights when he arrived in Texas. Despite a protest from the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday that the public had a right to be present for this sentencing of one of the most hunted men in recent times indicates that has cost American tax payers millions of dollars, the US district judge Hilda Taggle kept the hearing closed without explanation. Now that’s been patched up if you will. There was a transcript released of the hearing. And I am told that we do now have Dane Schiller on line. Hello Dane.

Dane Schiller: Hi how you doing?

Dean Becker: I am well sir. I was just kind of recounting your original story talking about the lack of transparency in that hearing. But they did at least release a transcript am I right sir?

Dane Schiller: Yes they did with a little encouragement from our lawyer.

Dean Becker: Yeah I mean they kind of miffed one of your editors kind of slighting the constitution a bit weren’t they sir.

Dane Schiller: That’s how he sees it absolutely.

Dean Becker: Right now…

Dane Schiller: That’s a good way to put it.

Dean Becker: You have got to be careful with what words you use sometimes. But yeah I Dane I appreciate you coming on the show with us. I think it’s important that people recognize that the Chronicle has a good focus on what’s going on south of our border. That you that I kind of indicated that’s kind of your beat is it not, what’s going on there in the Latin American countries?

Dane Schiller: Sure well we’re trying to connect the dots. We’re saying like what’s going on down there and how does it relate to us here? Where’s the connection, the connection inward and outward?

Dean Becker: Yes and the the the transcript indicated you know that they allowed certain DEA agents that a couple of members of the drug king pin’s family were allowed to attend the proceedings as well but there still wasn’t a lot of information that’s useful in determining how this guilty verdict was brought together and you know how they they they actually convicted him right.

Dane Schiller: There are a whole bunch of questions. You have to remember this man has had four lawyers for three years, four expensive lawyers for three years and he didn’t even go to trial. Their mission was cutting a deal.

Dean Becker: Yes and the details of that deal are really the proof of the pudding right what did it, what was in it right.

Dane Schiller: Exactly in the judge on Friday ruled that those details should stay sealed for ever. Not for ninety days, not for sixty years, forever.

Dean Becker: Forever yeah I was talking about how this, compare it to one of the military tribunals in Guantanamo. What goes on in Guantanamo is a lot more transparent right.

Dane Schiller: It seems to me. They have built special chambers so that press can observe the trial. And when there are things that are sensitive to national security they close the video down and unplug the sound that sort of thing from what I am told. But in this case it’s just closed court room doors, US marshals throw you out, documents sealed, you can’t handle the truth, that’s it.

Dean Becker: And it brings to mind you know I mean over the years there’s been this ah careful how I say this there’s just been a certain hysteria associated with use of drugs and the crime involved and all of this that oft times leads ah boy it doesn’t give the opportunity to discuss other possibilities. Other alternative approaches. You’re thoughts on that.

Dane Schiller: You’re saying it doesn’t give much room for alternative discussion. Is there a better way? Should we take another look at this? Is this working?

Dean Becker: Yes.

Dane Schiller: I would agree with you.

Dean Becker: OK, OK yeah and you know it Dane I I see it like this that you know you’ve covered the horrible stories coming out of Mexico. The absolute barbarism that’s going on down there now kind of puts the Al Quaida to shame in some ways. Am I right?

Dane Schiller: Sure I have often ask myself if you look what’s going down in Baghdad or in Afghanistan and you look at the body count in Mexico you say, oh when are we going to decide that Mexico is at war? Just because these aren’t armies like nations have armies or terrorists groups or however we define them. When do we decide that Mexico is at war?

Dean Becker: Right. Now now this gentleman that we were talking about earlier that was tried last week Mr. Cardenas. He came up here with fourteen other king pins if you will from various drug organizations and there hasn’t been much open disclosure of what happened to them either. Am I right?

Dane Schiller: You’re right. The records were very unclear. We could just take a few cases there. There were two brothers that were top echelon members of the Tijuana cartel. They the newspaper in California and San Diego fought a little battle there and they found out that these guys got thirty and forty years in prison. Even pushed the government in to putting out a press release on that.

And I followed up and went to the federal bureau of prisons and they say we don’t have them. We never got them. Gave everybody a chance to say well off the record are these guys serving under another name somewhere in another part of the country, something? No nope we don’t have them.

And it makes you wonder another person on that same plane when you boil down the deals that were made and the good time that was given. He’ll be out in like six years.

Dean Becker: You know Dane I know a guy who up based in Philadelphia that was caught with about three tons of marijuana. He was given life without parole. And he’s been in some twenty-seven years now. Makes you wonder, just makes you wonder.

Folks we’re speaking with Mr. Dane Schiller of the Houston chronicle, covers the Mexican beat. Dane there was a story I guess it’s been three weeks back that really exposed the horror. There was a five or six SUV’s pulled up in a neighborhood jumped out and machine gunned a bunch of teenagers at a party. It just shows that these guys aren’t afraid. Your thoughts on that.

Dane Schiller: They are fearless. They are fighting a war and they don’t care who they kill. You can’t ignore how they do it whether it’s mowing people down like that or as we have seen out in the desert.

In Sonora there was the SUV that had seventeen people packed in it. Of course they were cut up like meat in a grocery store. Stacked like cord wood actually, their limbs and torsos and heads and things. These guys are brutal and fear no one. The rule of law is in serious danger down there.

Dean Becker: Now Dane I know you’re based in Houston but you know I guess it was back in November, I went in to Ciudad, Juarez for a short while with a bus load of people. I felt somewhat comfortable doing that. But do you ever have chance to go down in to the remote areas or…

Dane Schiller: O sure. I was based for five years in Mexico City traveling to every state in that country out of Mexico City. And I have been stationed along the border from Brownsville over to the Pacific Ocean. I think I got my hands on it pretty good.

Dean Becker: Yes.

Dane Schiller: And there’s some scary spots. There are some spots where it’s very, very normal and there is no fear. but there are other zones where I think people are terrified.

Dean Becker: Well let’s talk about the city of ciudad, Juarez. I mean they that one city has a bigger death toll than Iraq and Afghanistan put together. The businesses… go ahead sir.

Dane Schiller: I just said that’s scary, sorry.

Dean Becker: No and the businesses are shutting down due to extortion and so forth from the gangs. Basically the gangs are running everything. And using the money derived I guess from the drug trade to gain their power basically. It’s really destroying their economy. It’s a desperate thing right.

Dane Schiller: I’ve heard of gangsters even getting in with the power companies and finding sort of a new twist on the extortion game saying pay you know how ever many hundred dollars a month from your small business or you’re not getting electricity. Or play ball with us and you may get some electricity at cut rate.

Dean Becker: Wow.

Dane Schiller: They they’re, they’re involved in this thing in ways that we haven’t even thought of. It’s not just a question of the tough guy going in the front door and saying pay us or, or else. Or it’s not just a question of we killed five people down the street now you’re customers are scared to show up. I think there’s many more layers to this than we’re realizing.

Dean Becker: Right and you know there have been leaders former leaders of certain Latin American countries who have talked about you know legalization or changing our stance to deprive the cartels of their, their monies. It seems that we do have to at least open the dialogue.

I know that politicians in Texas are relatively closed minded about even opening that discussion. But the Chronicle is giving sufficient information I think we should at least talk about it. Your thoughts there sir.

Dane Schiller: I think any time you close the door on evaluating whether what you’re doing is working that’s not the way to go. They should always be open to take another look and saying is this going to work or is this a failure.

And I think when you point out that you know someone who is serving life for three tons for instance and others such as Mr. Osiel Cardenas is getting twenty-five years probably much less in the end, for doing so much more. That’s just that’s just some smoke telling us about the fire.

Dean Becker: Yeah. Good point. Once again we are speaking with Mr. Dane Schiller of the Houston chronicle. Dane we have got a couple of minutes left here and I want to you know ask you if you would to, to give us your interpretation. Are you seeing any positive change, any nuance that would indicate an improvement you know somehow this is getting better?

Dane Schiller: Are we talking about the enforcement of the drug laws or are we talking about the mayhem committed by the cartels or are we talking about their blending in to our society up here.

Dean Becker: Well if you could address all three of those for me I’d appreciate it just rather quickly.

Dane Schiller: OK looking at looking at enforcement no I don’t see any change. Of course we do see some states that are saying you know we’ll give you a ticket now instead of prosecuting you and that sort of thing at the local level. But at the federal level which is where I have more of my experience I don’t see I don’t see any change at all. I still people going down, the mules as they say go down heavy and the bosses don’t seem to fall too hard.

If you’re talking about the cartels I just think they are involved in society. I think they are blending in here. And I think that they’ve they are getting smarter and they have gotten smarter. And they have gotten smarter at how they do their business. They are keeping a lower profile.

But when you look at the quantities their being busted and you start doing the totals you say ok how many joints is that fifty pounds hundred pounds thousand pounds, five tons. How many joints is that? Or you know five thousand kilos some of these groups have moved. How many lines is that? And you start looking at how many people are using these drugs and how much demand there is out there it’s staggering and it does force you to go wait, wait, wait what’s happening here.

Dean Becker: alright well friends we have been speaking with mr. Dane Schiller. I have got my Chronicle blog shirt on today. Every once in a while I post a blog there on Huffington Post but it’s a good thing that you joined us Dane. I hope we can do this again in the future and you know just keep up the good work. Folks check out his reports. You can find them at chron C-H-R-O-N dot com. Dane Schiller thank you so much.

Dane Schiller: Sure keep me in your rolodex.

Dean Becker: I’ll do it sir. Bye bye.


Dean Becker: Each year we arrest one point eight five million people because it feels so right. We give three hundred eighty-five billion dollars to terrorists and gangs because we just love to fight. It’s insane and ineffectual, by no means intellectual. It’s that patriotism of our puritan past.


This is Gusatavo [ ] a former general attorney of Colombia talking about the drug problem to the Drug Truth Network.


Dean Becker: Alright my friends you are listening to Century of Lies on the Drug Truth Network. We have with us on line now Mr. Aaron Houston. He’s the director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. Aaron, are you with us?

Aaron Houston: I am thank you.

Dean Becker: Aaron, thank you so much. It’s, it’s a great to hear you on the other end there. Yeah you…

Aaron Houston: it’s nice to be here.

Dean Becker: you have I don’t know earned my respect over the years. You’re a man…

Aaron Houston: Why thank you.

Dean Becker: …who works for the Marijuana Policy Project but who obviously understands that the whole of prohibition is off track.

Aaron Houston: Yes.

Dean Becker: And for that I want to thank you. You just had a piece you posted just the other day. I’ll read the headline: US Mexico drug summit fails to acknowledge obvious solution to violent drug gangs.

Aaron Houston: Yes.

Dean Becker: You want to expand on that sir.

Aaron Houston: Well essentially at the marijuana policy project we see that the one solution that could actually ameliorate this terrible, terrible problem of, of violence as your last guest rightly pointed out, woven in to the fabric of Mexican society blending in to the fabric of American society.

Our marijuana laws have made Phoenix the kidnapping capitol of the world. And most Americans don’t realize this. They don’t realize that the cartels are in two hundred and thirty American cities. And it’s primarily because of our drug laws and because particularly of our marijuana laws.

And this isn’t me saying this, this is the DEA section chief for south America saying this. That marijuana funds all of the rest of the cartels activities. And so you see the cartels growing it and selling it in two hundred and thirty American cities making again Phoenix the kidnapping capitol of the world. That is an astounding figure. And that is what our marijuana laws have done.

So it’s very clear that if we were to allow states to decide their own policies on this and tax and regulate it if they wish much like alcohol that we would see the violence decrease in Mexico as a direct result of the cartels getting seventy percent of their profits cut off. They get seventy percent of their profits from marijuana sales right now in the United States. And that’s because they grow it here and they sell it here.

Dean Becker: Well you know I look at it this way Aaron that over the years and now decades god we’re going to sneak up on a century soon enough, people have kind of laughed up their sleeve about marijuana. They considered it to be a nuisance you know but a joke even at times. And yet they fail to really look at it that what our stance taken has created, what it has done for criminals worldwide. That our fear of this flower is empowering criminals across this planet. Your thoughts sir.

Aaron Houston: Well that’s right. You rightly pointed out that it is a flower. And I’ll put it another way. It’s a minimally processed agricultural commodity. A minimally processed agricultural commodity like marijuana is going to do a whole lot better in the market place than is a commodity like cocaine that needs to be highly processed.

The cocoa leaves come in from Columbia. They get processed in Mexico. But that is a disgusting process. I dont think most people realize that involves mixing gasoline as I understand it with the cocoa leaves, mashing up. You know I mean that’s what people snort in to their noses is this gasoline you know mixture. So that’s how they process. Methamphetamine, clearly highly processed. It’s cooked with battery acid and a lot of that stuff comes I the precursors now come in from China from Mexico.

But what we’re really seeing is the minimally processed agricultural commodity winning the day in terms of in terms of their profits. And is that any surprise of course because it grows in the ground. As you know it’s a flower. It grows in the ground. It gets picked and it gets dried and then it goes right to markets.

And so there is no other illegal substance to which you could point - including poppy seeds of course because those are highly processed as well - that is so easily grown and produced and then put to market. There’s not a single one.

Dean Becker: No there is not. And you know I wanted to back up a minute to your thought on cocaine. I understand that when the DEA busts a you know a new shipment coming across the border it’s usually about ninety-two percent pure and the other eight percent is gasoline and kerosene residue a little bit of lime.

And I understand they often stomp it with their feet, bare feet in in these big puddles. And or maybe with tennis shoes on. But there’s going to be foot fungus or tennis shoe residue in there as well, that other eight percent. It’s just… Well anyway folks, it’s another matter.

Aaron Houston: That’s some disgusting stuff. Yeah and you know I think I think that you know the biggest point to make here is it just can’t can’t be lost is that of course this minimally processed agricultural commodity is leading to the unraveling of Mexican society. And how outrageous and crazy is that? That the failure of our country to acknowledge our failed marijuana laws is leading to potentially the unraveling of our neighbors to the south cultural fabric basically the fabric of their civic life.

And by the way I would like to follow up on a theme that you’re last guest introduced. And that is the war in Mexico. We there is a war going on there right now. People don’t acknowledge it. Our officials don’t acknowledge it. They don’t like to acknowledge it because it’s a very messy reality.

And the fact is, this is the scary fact. Most people probably didn’t read the newspapers this weekend in to this event and see this. But we have now we’ve announced this week the United States, the one thing came out of this summit was that we’re going to have intelligence advisors going in to being vetted with Mexican units south of the border in Ciudad, Juarez. And now what does that mean? That’s that exactly how we got involved in Vietnam.

Dean Becker: Yeah advisors.

Aaron Houston: That was exactly the first step we took to get involved in Vietnam was sending advisors.

Dean Becker: And look the the the point is soon enough those advisors will get in a scrape. There will be some deaths. There will be calls for escalation. There will be calls for more money, more troops and more war. It’s…
Aaron Houston: that’s right.

Dean Becker: And and and meantime look the the drug cartels they need a little violence. They need a little you know ongoing war to help justify their prices. They need this to last forever. They really don’t mind that this goes on because it helps insure their profits. Am I right Aaron?

Aaron Houston: That’s absolutely right. The illegal nothing has been better for the cartels than the illegal markets. They wouldn’t survive without them.

Dean Becker: Yeah, yeah. Well once again we are speaking with Mr. Aaron Houston of the Marijuana Policy Project. Aaron I think about it this way you know that across America we’re now up to fourteen states that have are providing for medical marijuana. And you know it’s not everything we want it be yet but it’s beginning to prove the point.

There are still no deaths associated from this. Occasionally children still get access because that’s you know if you’ve got a sneaky kid in your family he’ll find a way. But we’ve got to do everything possible to take away that easy access and to stop funding these cartels. As you say with seventy percent of the drug dollars going for marijuana to these cartels. There is a good solution that could begin to prove the point that prohibition is an absolute fiasco. Your response please.

Aaron Houston: That’s right and and there was there was a Washington Post article some number of months back that that basically the whole theme of it was that mom and pop marijuana shops are shutting down the Mexican cartels. They’re cutting in to their profits in other words. I should say rather they’re cutting in to their profits.

And that is because their mom and pop marijuana shops that are are actually legitimate medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives in some of the fourteen medical marijuana states and this is actually this legitimate market is actually cutting in to the profits of the Mexican drug cartels. So we already see that.

My I think the most powerful the most powerful observation perhaps that one could make about the fourteen states that you were noting is that people have said that that that this would be the end of civilization, that when medical marijuana came that there would be huge problems. And the fact is that since 1996 there have been medical marijuana laws on the books where now in fourteen states almost at the district of Colombia as well.

And and the fact is that marijuana teen use rates have actually gone down in many cases and stayed stagnant in others. So there’s really no appreciable difference. In fact it’s even arguable that that maybe marijuana use rate have gone down in the states that that have made it available for medical use. Perhaps because young people see that it’s a medicine. They see it legitimized rather than the ridiculous lies that the government has tried to feed them and feed us for decades now. And so the fact is that the opponents argue the sky will fall if this if we give an inch on this drug law and the fact and and and it has become very clear the sky has not fallen.

Dean Becker: No no not even a drop. Aaron if you will you know give us the the idea, the reason for existence for the Marijuana Policy Project. What is it you guys do?

Aaron Houston: Well we want to keep people out of jail for marijuana use. And we believe that particularly that marijuana laws are more harmful than the substance itself. And that’s we are trying to… I am attempting to work at the federal level to get legislation introduced that would regulate marijuana like alcohol. We would like to see it regulated like alcohol. Let the states decide. Allow the states to tax it and regulate it and help to actually control it in a real way that we’re not doing right now.

Dean Becker: No to better protect our children and what the heck our nation for that matter.

Aaron Houston: That’s right.

Dean Becker: OK well Aaron I want to point folks to the Marijuana Policy Project website and that is mpp.org. Please check it out. Lot’s of good information there to educate and hopefully embolden you dear listener. Aaron, thank you so much for being with us.

Aaron Houston: Thank you it was my pleasure.

Dean Becker: Alright sir, bye bye.


How many Mexicans will have to die before Americans stop getting high…?


Prohibition, take a pee realize you’re just not free.
Osama sells us opium and makes heroin to buy his guns.
I inject it to kill the pain because the price is so insane.
I imagine a better way.
Pee then trillions thrown away.
I investigate the intervention of official eternal inquisition.
Never more.


Dean Becker: Five hundred forty-five people. That’s a piece you can find out on the internet by Charlie Reese. One hundred senators, four hundred thirty-five congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices equals five hundred forty-five human beings out of the three hundred million. They are directly legally morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

Check it out my friends, they’re responsible. And I remind you once again there is no truth, justice, logic, no reason for this drug war to exist. Visit our website, endprohibition.org.

Prohibido istac evilesco.


For the Drug Truth Network this is Dean Becker, asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition.

The Century of Lies

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston