Jeff Norman is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog.
60 Minutes, the highly acclaimed televised news journal, recently composed an incendiary feature on Mexico's drug cartels entitled Bribes or Death. Before watching the feature, I literally had no idea just how harrowing the situation South of the border was for the integrity of Mexico's government and societal well-being. What enticed my viewing of the roughly fifteen minute story was its subtitle, "silver or lead." The choice between a lucrative precious metal and its meaningless, potential toxic counterpoint seemed obvious to me. As the video proceeded, it became evident that leaders of Mexico's most feared cartels felt similarly.
The video piece, helmed by Byron Pitts, opens with a tearful widow. The city of Santiago, Mexico recently grieved alongside her as news of her husband's loathsome demise swept through the country. His name was Edelmiro Cavazos; his was a grand and majestic name that spoke to the sense of virtue and decency he sought to infuse into his community. Upstanding and brave, he opted to deal with the drug cartels head on. The leaders of these cartels had grown incredibly comfortable in Santiago, a town whose prime location linked southern Mexico and South America to Monterrey—where drug pushing into the United States is rather facile. Santiago, therefore, represents the best method to link drugs to a body of consumers. And Cavazos stood as an irritating wrinkle in that smooth path of drug money.
Eventually, Cavazos was murdered by a gang of disconsolate cartel members. One person in that gang actually masqueraded as one of Cavazos' bodyguards. Shrewdly, 60 Minutes clarifies how such deceit has become part and parcel in the war against the drug cartels. Towns such as Santiago provide relatively limited employment, the best of which comes from either the government or the cartels. The cartels pay more and provide assurance of security for one's family, something that the police can't provide. But cartels will frequently position one of their members into the police community, so as to have an effective, downright Machiavellian way to keep tabs on the law.
When the law, like mayor Cavazos, grow too vocal for the cartels' taste, this current system allows the cartels an easy way to off their competition.
The video feature concluded with some insight into the meaning of that simple comparison, "silver or lead." Byron Pitt's interview revealed this to be far more perilous. Silver implies payment, bribery. Lead connotes bullets, guns, death.
The drug war is currently held sway by the cartels, whose ample money and weaponry force everyone who encounter them to pick a side, to pick their existence.