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6 April 2010

I’ve had my differences with Malcolm Beith, but I can’t argue with him here:

Narcos like El Mayo do not like living on the run. They don’t really even consider themselves outlaws; for decades, their business was all but legal. The government changed the rules of the game, not the narcos. El Mayo would probably even prefer to clean up his money and invest in something else that could prop up Sinaloa’s economy if given a chance to do so. So here’s an idea, Calderon administration: open up a dialogue. Replace the drug economy with something else that Mexicans could profit from. Can’t be a crop, that’s not financially viable. But there must be something Mexico could produce en masse with a billionaire backer like El Mayo.

I’ve been saying essentially the same thing for some time.  The narcotics export business is in most ways no different from other Mexican businesses.  It is an extractive business that returns very little to the Mexican producers: of the billions supposedly earned by the management of the enterprise, very little of it comes back to Mexico.

Sinaloan entrepreneurs like “El Mayo” and Chapo Guzmán are not quasi-mythic figures because of their business acumen, particularly.  But there is a grudging respect (and even admiration) for “captains of industry”, even if the captain is a pirate.  Nor, because they are major employers in this state, although speaking well of local employers is not unusual.

Obviously, El Mayo and Chapo can’t, like other businessmen who have made more than obscene wealth, polish their image through charities and good works.  At least not overtly, given the sensitivities of the consumers of their products.  But they do their bit, and everyone knows it.  For some reason, Carlos Slim is celebrated when he endows an art museum, yet when a narcotics exporter pays for  a local children’s party, or pays for a church bell, it’s “corrupting”.

The profitability of the narcotics export business depends upon it’s criminality, which does make the business unique.  The money that does come back to Mexico (and you’re fooling yourself if you believe these guys are sitting on wads of cash or spending the loot on humvees and AK-47s, though the overhead is tremendous in that business … it’s in U.S. and European banks, underwriting those banks that are “too big to fail”) isn’t all that much, but is about the only LOCAL cash around in rural Sinaloa.

From that perspective, the criminality of the whole enterprise is, perversely, a good thing.  Were it legalized in the United States, how long would local Sinaloan suppliers have control of the sales and marketing, and would the new bosses (presumably foreign mulitnationals) have the same concern for the local population?

And, no one is going to write a corrida about the adventures of Montsanto or Archer-Daniels-Midland.

More, when Proceso shows up on newsstands here in Mazatlán (said to be coming in  this afternoon… I’m not the only one asking).

One Comment leave one →
  1. 6 April 2010 12:44 pm

    fascinating idea. makes pragmatic sense.

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