FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Convicts, Collateral Damage, and the “War on Drugs”

by JOSEPH NEVINS

Two recent court cases in southern California provide insight into the identity of those smuggle drugs across the international boundary between the two countries. But more importantly what they do is highlight how the ludicrous “war on drugs” produces casualties of many sorts.

Eugenio Velázquez, 51, is a U.S. citizen who resides in Tijuana. He is also one of that city’s most prominent architects. U.S. border authorities arrested him in March while he tried to enter the United States from through the official port of entry in San Ysidro (part of San Diego), California, after finding more than 12 kilos of cocaine concealed in his vehicle.

In June, he pleaded guilty “to knowingly and intentionally importing the cocaine,” reports the San Diego Union Tribune and is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

Maximino Melchor Vázquez was, until recently, a member of Tijuana’s classical music community. Sheriff’s deputies arrested the 23-year-old trained tenor who enjoys singing opera and traditional Mexican music, in September near Camp Pendleton, a U.S. Marine base north of San Diego. They caught him transporting 44 pounds of crystal methamphetamine.

The young man, a member of the Tijuana musical ensemble, Opera Ambulante, pleaded guilty in November to drug trafficking charges in San Diego Superior Court. According to the Union-Tribune, he received a nine-year sentence, at least half of
which he will have to serve in prison.

In addition to challenging the stereotype of who smuggles narcotics, what the two men share is that both might very well be victims of the very drug trafficking syndicates that the authorities who arrested, charged, and convicted them claim to combat.

Melchor has remained tight-lipped about the circumstances that resulted in his transport of the drug. But his lawyer, John R. Rodriguez, asserts that his client acted under duress, and did so to protect himself and his family. According to his attorney, “He was propositioned in a way that it would put everybody at risk if he simply walked away.”

Velázquez, for his part, has been more forthcoming. In a recent letter to the news media in Tijuana, he explains that his actions were “the result of a situation of high risk, threat, and intimidation.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson Lauren Mack coldly says that such claims are to be expected: “It’s very common for drug smugglers to claim coercion after they’ve been caught.” She uselessly advises those who feel that “they are in harm’s way if they don’t smuggle . . . .  to contact authorities and let them know before they get caught.”

While one can’t know for certain what actually transpired in the events that led to their arrests, Eugenio Velázquez and Maximino Melchor Vázquez appear to be among the more sympathetic individuals tragically ensnared by the seemingly endless drug war. Regardless of what they did and why, their cases demonstrate that it is the war itself that is the crime. It produces countless victims—whether “innocent” or “guilty”—while fueling the very practices that allegedly necessitate the “war” that is supposed to extinguish them.

Joseph Nevins teaches geography at Vassar College. He is the author of Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid (City Lights Books, 2008) and Operation Gatekeeper and Beyond: The War on “Illegals” and the Remaking of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary (Routledge, 2010).

This article was originally published by NACLA.

More articles by:
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail