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The Drug War Is a Sham

On August 4, 2011, in Drug War, by John Payne

The federal government is once again accused of complicity in the drug trade:

Lawyers for the drug- trafficking son of one of Mexico’s most powerful kingpins contend he helped run the Sinaloa Cartel — and was a fugitive from charges in the United States — while at the same time acting as an informant for U.S. agents.

Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla’s legal team is launching the bombshell contention as part of an effort to convince a U.S. judge that charges should be dropped. They claim agents allegedly told Zambada he could keep breaking the law, and be immune from prosecution, in return for tips on rival cartels.

Federal prosecutors and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration declined to comment on the case, which is playing out in Chicago. U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo on Wednesday gave the government until September to respond to the allegations.

Granted, this is an allegation coming from an admitted drug lord, who has undoubtedly committed many reprehensible crimes. That said, the DEA’s silence is pretty damning. If there was no truth to Zambada’s story, the DEA would probably deny it immediately.

And it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Law enforcement agencies strike similar deals all the time. Whether it’s by letting high-level drug dealers walk in exchange for information on their subordinates or patrolling for assets to seize instead of interdicting drugs, the principle is the same: create an illusion of fighting the drug war–something even the cops know they can’t win–and keep the public dollars flowing in.

The drug war is a business like any other, but the consumers are politicians, not the general public. What the politicians want are high publicity busts, large asset seizures, and the photo-ops that come with them, and they set the financial stakes high enough that most law enforcement agencies will do whatever it takes to provide them–even if it means condoning drug sales and mass murder.

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