Should governments stop drug cartels handing out support packages? – Liberal Article
As governments struggle to provide the aid their citizens need in the coronavirus crisis, organised crime groups and cartels are gaining local support and power by distributing free food and financial aid to families and businesses in need.
The daughter of the most powerful drug lord in the world, El Chapo, has been seen handing out food boxes with her father’s face printed on them.
One Mexican cartel even released a video of their leader handing out goods set to the tune ‘no soy ton malo’. In English, this translates to ‘I’m not so bad’. If you saw this in a movie you might think it was a little unrealistic, but you can watch it, in real life, here.
It may seem unsurprising that this is happening throughout Central and South America, but it doesn’t stop there. In Italy, the Mafia has been delivering essentials in Naples and Sicily.
There are around 3.3 million Italians who work ‘off the books’. None of whom can get government support. Instead, the Mafia have stood in to offer help.
The old adage ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ fits very well here. Coronavirus and the ensuing vulnerability this places people in has offered criminal organisations a unique opportunity to bolster local support and increase their power.
It might be hard for those who have been lucky enough to benefit from fairly comprehensive welfare states to understand. If a drug cartel helps you feed your family whilst your government lets you starve, the choice between who you support becomes easy.
Mexico’s president has called for drug cartels to stop handing out aid packages. Preferably, he says they should help by ‘stopping their bad deeds’.
The reason President Obrador, and other leaders alike, have reprimanded these groups is not because they don’t want the vulnerable citizens they’re supporting to get help. It is because they fear the power this is giving the cartels.
If most of your country support cartels it is going to be much harder to get rid of them. No one is going to report cartels’ activity to the police if it is the cartel that gave them the support needed to survive.
Now I am not saying that the leaders of these countries should openly support what the cartels are doing. This problem is more complex than that.
There is no easy answer. Clamping down on this activity (if that is even possible) seems like ‘cutting off the nose to spite the face’. Equally, allowing it is seemingly offering implicit support or admitting a government’s lack of power.
Neither are particularly appealing approaches.
This phenomenon highlights the magnitude and complexity of the problem that these countries face.
It is clear at this point that policing, no matter how forceful, is not successful in bringing down drug cartels. When they are acting as a state within a state we need to accept defeat.
The only way to reduce the power of cartels is to take away their source of income and power. This article isn’t about whether or not we should legalise drugs. Although this is obviously one potential solution.
I am just trying to highlight the completely bizarre situation that we find ourselves in. Criminal groups are helping people more than their own governments are. This exposes the distorted and dysfunctional situation countries are in due to the war on drugs.
This should be another opportunity to open debate around drug policy. Not an opportunity for governments to try and stop cartels handing out aid which they are failing to provide.
Written by Chief Liberal Writer, Olivia Margaroli
Point of Information
Food parcels for cartel loyalty – a Conservative response
I found this read very informative. So much so, I then had to go away and look into it further for my own satisfaction. Miss Margaroli highlights both the short-term issues and long-term impact of cartels organising care packages. I believe she is right to point out the difficulty posed by tackling this problem head-on. Are we best to let our people be helped, even if our authority is undermined and possibly worse in the long-run?
However, this is something not explored enough. While it is food parcels today, cartels have had large networks of dependents for years. Many are pseudo-states who know the many benefits they can claim-back if they provide the support that the state cannot. The need for this support has been exacerbated in recent months, of course, but some cartels in Colombia were looked on with adoration and favour before such times.
There are definitely a number of takeaways from this provocative article. In these unprecedented times, it is important that we look out for the more vulnerable members of society.
In the UK, I consider cyber-crime targeting the elderly to be something to raise awareness about. For countries with large organised-crime groups, it is more pressing to ensure their power-bases are not allowed to develop too much.
Overall, I find myself pausing so that I do not condemn the ‘humanity’ shown by cartels. By no means do I think this is wiping their slates clean, their sins away. So, Miss Margaroli is right to point out the bizarreness of this all.
Written by Conservative Writer, Joshua Tyrrell
This isn’t free food; it comes at a price – a Labour response
El Chapo and his associates are the latest in a long line of powerful gangsters to perform a “Robin Hood” role in times of crisis. They also won’t be the last. As Miss Margaroli points out; this phenomenon is evident across the globe. The situations in Mexico and Italy are being echoed in the current truce between gangs in Cape Town, and the strict curfews imposed by drug traffickers in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.
This kindness is sinisterly superficial. The lockdown has affected illegal business just as much as legal business. Cartels are investing in local loyalty at a time where their usual income has been disrupted. It is simply a business strategy.
The huge decline in air and marine travel has made the transportation of illegal cargo far easier to spot. The slump in oil prices has severely affected the lucrative petrol smuggling rackets.
Make no mistake, the mafia, the cartels and the gangs around the world do not care about the well-being of the public. They only care about profit. Governments may have their hands tied in the short term. The well-being of the people should be their absolute priority, regardless of the source of support.
However, this will have a worrying long-term impact. In times of crisis, uncertainty reigns supreme. But we must not allow this temporary kindness to distract from the severe harm caused by organised crime globally.
Written by Labour Writer, Max Ingleby
I am second year student reading Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Exeter. Next year I hope to study abroad in Washington DC, a dream for any political student.
‘Hold a flexible mindset’ was a piece of advice I once heard and I find it appropriate to mention when introduction myself as a member of the POI team.
A late bloomer when it comes to politics and current affairs, I first dipped my toes in the political pool at the tender age of sixteen with a bracing submersion into the AS politics syllabus, and I have been hooked ever since.