El Chapo, in the opinion: the myth of the narco and the narrative of national security – EL PAÍS


Less than a trial to determine his guilt in the commission of serious crimes, the trial against Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán is the space in which two radically opposite perceptions are debated: on the one hand, Mexico appears as a country besieged by traffickers who they threaten "national security", a potentially failed state, in which corruption and official homicide guide the daily life of the government and civil society. On the other hand, the authorities of Mexico and the United States, far from combating the phenomenon of drug trafficking, seem to exploit it, manipulate it, and finally transform it into a complex network of geopolitical interests.

What is at stake is to affirm or deny the size and relevance of so-called "drug cartels" and their ability to intervene in the political and economic structure of Mexico. Of course, the goal of the trial is to determine Guzmán's guilt, but to do so, both the prosecution and the defense have had to resort to seemingly divergent narratives around the spectacular criminal world where Mexican "narcos" are capable to control the world market for cocaine, but where they also have to bribe the highest officials of the ruling class in Mexico to survive, all driving a vast network of traffic in states like Texas, Arizona, New York, Illinois and New Jersey and succeed to kidnap, torture and kill thousands of rivals and competitors.

In the indictment, Guzmán is accused of 17 counts of charges, the most important of which is to direct a criminal enterprise that, under his supervision and that of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, has introduced more than 200 tons of cocaine in the United States between 1999 and 2014. According to the indictment, Guzmán is guilty of having conspired to trafficking drugs since 1989, generating personal gains of over 14,000 million dollars. According to a press release from the United States Department of Justice on January 20, 2017, that sum of exorbitant money would be "recycled" and transported in cash from the United States to Mexico. And although it is not included in the allegations, El Chapo is also accused of personally ordering the murder of thousands of "drug traffickers" on the border between the two countries "approximately" between 2007 and 2011.

The evidence so far is based primarily on the sayings of other traffickers who in turn receive reductions to their prison terms. Recently, a lot of cocaine "bricks" have been shown to the jury, which is said to come from the 200,000 tons trafficked by El Chapo but destroyed by the US authorities during 15 years of convulsions. Among the 300,000 pages of documents, 117,000 audio recordings and thousands of photos and videos, the accusation highlights the video of a seizure of 7.3 tons of cocaine hidden in hundreds of boxes of jalapeño peppers. There is also another in which Guzmán himself interrogates an alleged trafficker rival.

Note, however, that beyond the narrative and the effect of drugs as a theatrical object, the accusation is far from proving that the sixty-nine Sinaloense is a trafficker who "terrorized communities throughout the world ", he says. the Department of Justice in the declaration above. Something similar happens with the 14,000 million dollars that the accusation attributes to the loot of El Chapo if we remember that Forbes magazine has speculated that his fortune does not exceed one billion dollars when he included in his list of billionaires between 2009 and 2012.

It is unlikely that thousands of kilograms of cocaine can reach the noses of lawyers or business men who consume it in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, without the mediation of US traffickers or corrupt local authorities, as it is ridiculous to imagine the thousands of trucks of goods that would be needed to transport $ 14,000 million in cash from the United States to Mexico and that until the last dollar arrived in the hands of El Chapo in the mountains of the gold triangle. (On one occasion, as a journalist in Ciudad Juarez, I had to report a freight truck that turned into a bend at the exit of an international bridge with $ 6 million in cash.) But that truck had already passed the border with the United States. , where money laundering is a more normalized business thanks to the laws that protect banking secrecy, in addition to the endemic corruption of the global financial system that I do not need to detail).

It also draws attention to the fact that, despite thousands of documented accusations of atrocities committed by the Mexican armed forces during the alleged "war on drugs" against innocent civilians in places like Ciudad Juárez, Tijuana and Monterrey, the office of the New York prosecutor has no greater scruples in pointing out El Chapo as directly responsible for thousands of murders and only "rival traffickers". This story tries to persuade the jury that this is the head of the same organization that took weeks to translate the American actor Sean Penn's questions after the famous Rolling Stone interview, and the same boss who became obsessed with English. from a soap opera actress to the point of inviting her to his hiding place probably at the cost of her capture. How to reconcile in the same person the CEO of a multimillion-dollar organization that scares the cities of the whole world, but that has only monolingual logistic staff? Or the one who literally had to give thousands of murderous orders, but who risked his life to meet the "Queen of the South" that he saw on television?

Less conspicuous, the defense team's strategy has so far consisted in showing Guzman a second-row trafficker, and beyond, as a myth fabricated by Mexican and American authorities. According to the lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman, the real leader of the "Sinaloa cartel" is "El Mayo" Zambada, who would have been at liberty offering millions of dollars to some former Mexican presidents such as Enrique Peña Nieto and Felipe Calderón. These payments, rather than bribes to facilitate their criminal actions, appear to be the product of extortion by the federal government that exploits the traffickers in exchange for delaying their imminent fall. But the explosive declarations of El Chapo's lawyers were not only dismissed by Judge Brian M. Cogan, but much of the information contained in the trial was kept secret. What else is hidden in this censored dialectic?

No doubt the accusation can show that Guzman has trafficked with drugs and that he may have ordered several murders, which are probably sent to prison for life. But how can we prove that Guzmán realized an armed conflict similar to a war of extermination – which caused 121,000 murders and more than 30,000 forced disappearances – in the same years in which he presumably led an organization that alone produced a fortune worthy of the main magantes of the planet? Why, in the era of mass surveillance in which the National Security Agency probably spies on my computer as I write, was it not possible to identify the $ 14,000 million attributed to El Chapo?

The contradictions in official narrative should discredit the process by itself. But the serious thing is that the opposite will happen. The fantasy that presents us to the greatest trafficker in the history of the earth will be sustained because it responds to a discursive hegemony, that is, a story that we have all learned to try to explain the violent reality in which we live and separating the world between " narcos "bad and good policemen and governors, especially if they are US policemen and governors. This narrative generates a consensus that excuses the Mexican armed forces from their crimes against humanity and legitimizes the militarization strategy. It also assumes the rectitude of US authorities and that cocaine reaches that country there because of the sophisticated naivety of Mexican traffickers who mocked the DEA, the CIA, the FBI, the police corporations, the gangs and even the most merchant. pedestrian who, although being a white boy and not speaking Spanish, somehow works for the "Sinaloa cartel".

I notice another story that comes from the process and that begins to interrupt the power relations between Mexico and the United States: the narcotics trafficking as a criminal created by American prohibition, used by the Mexican state and then manipulated by a grotesque judicial process to support the Fantasy of the fight against drugs. In this narration the "leader" of the "Sinaloa Cartel" is a subordinate of the official US and Mexican power, betrayed and pursued by themselves. And when the process is over, it will prevail a state of exception, which continues to impose its monopoly on "legitimate" violence, its senseless prohibitionist policy and the brute force of its "national security" assassins apparatuses. We hope that one day they will be tried.

Oswaldo Zavala is a journalist and professor of Latin American literature and culture at the City University of New York (CUNY). His most recent book is The cartels do not exist. Drug and culture trafficking in Mexico (Malpaso 2018). Twitter: @oswaldo__zavala.



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