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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 07, 2016
Michael Schwalbe
What We Talk About When We Talk About Class
Karl Grossman
The Next Frontier: Trump and Space Weapons
Kenneth Surin
On Being Caught Speeding in Rural America
Chris Floyd
In Like Flynn: Blowback for Filth-Peddling Fascists
Serge Halimi
Trump, the Know-Nothing Victor
Paul DeRienzo
Flynn Flam: Neocon Ex-General to Be Trump’s National Security Advisor
Binoy Kampmark
Troubled Waters: Trump, Taiwan and Beijing
Tom Clifford
Trump and China: a Note From Beijing
Arnold August
Fidel’s Legacy to the World on Theory and Practice
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
John Kirk
Cuba After Fidel
Jess Guh
Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans
Eric Sommer
Team Trump: a Government of Generals and Billionaires
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Reactions to the Death of Fidel Castro
John Garvey - Noel Ignatiev
Abolitionism: a Study Guide
Clancy Sigal
Caution: Conspiracy Theory Ahead!
December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewable of Iran Sanctions Act
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
CJ Hopkins
Manufacturing Normality
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
Mark Weisbrot
Castro Was Right About US Policy in Latin America
David Swanson
New Rogue Anti-Russia Committee Created in “Intelligence” Act
George Ochenski
Forests of the Future: Local or National Control?
December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail