When Donald Trump promised his famous wall on the border between Mexico and the United States, he argued that among the Mexicans who cross it are “rapists”, who carry “drugs” and commit “crime.”
The then candidate did not mention what the United States, in turn, sends to its southern neighbor.
Nor did he address the role that his country plays in the phenomenon of violence that has been punishing Mexico for years.
The Mexican poet and novelist Carmen Boullosa and her husband, the American historian Mike Wallace, set out to answer these questions.
And the result of his research is a book with an eloquent title: “Narcohistory: How the United States and Mexico together created the war against drugs.”
The study was born out of anguish, Boullosa explains to BBC Mundo, as part of the Hay Festival Cartagena, which takes place this week in the Colombian city.
“I was obsessed, amazed and scared by what has happened in Mexico in the last decade,” he says.
The author wondered ” how we had fallen, apparently so suddenly, into a nightmare “.
And when it began to be documented, he realized that ” every time he came across a relevant date or event, it coincided with something that had happened in the United States in relation to the illegalization of drugs.”
His study ended up taking them to the conclusion that bases his book.
“The very name of the Mexican war on drugs is deeply misleading, because it diverts attention from the role played by the United States.”
The two researchers found the American footprint in the genesis of the problem of narcoviolence in Mexico. “It was appreciable in different aspects and critical moments”, stresses Boullosa.
The main market
Boullosa and Wallace denounce that the American public is well aware that most of the banned narcotic substances that are consumed in the United States. They come from their neighbour to the south, but they ignore other elements that need to be taken into account.
As documented in their study, since the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the huge demand in the US market led many growers in the states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango to plant their fields of psychoactive plants .
At a time when the border between the two countries could be crossed freely, US consumption became an irresistible incentive for the drug trade, they explain.
The first immigration restrictions would be an incentive , they reveal.
When the Congress of the United States approved in 1882 the expulsion of the Chinese from the country, many of them settled in Mexico, where they dedicated themselves to the cultivation of opium opium.
Los Angeles and other US points They became the main destination of their crops.
A lucrative business route was born. But this was only the beginning, they indicate in the book.
The weight of the prohibition
The Harrison Act of 1914 prohibited all non-medicinal use of opiates and cocaine in the United States.
It was the first step of the prohibitionist policy that, up to today, Boullosa and Wallace consider to be the cause of a large part of Mexico’s problems.
On the black market, the price of drugs skyrocketed and various criminal organisations launched fierce competition for their control.
Something similar happened, they say, with the prohibition of alcoholic beverages, known as L ey S eca .
According to Boullosa, the alcohol veto “strengthened the mafias, corrupted public officials and filled the streets with violence.”
When the revolution finally triumphed in Mexico and the Constitution of 1917 was approved, following the wake of the US, the prohibition was also imposed.
Then came the charge against marijuana from the north, which had not yet been outlawed because it was considered harmless, they say.
The campaigner for the campaign against the grass was Harry Anslinger, commissioner of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
For Boullosa, “he is a novel character”, who feared to lose his job with the decriminalization of alcohol consumption. For that reason, he began his crusade against Mexican immigrants who worked in the fields of southern states and consumed “the killer herb,” he says.
Boullosa believes that “the criminalization of psychoactives has always been linked to racist attitudes and policies.”
“Anslinger was at the center of all this,” he says.
If, when the Chinese were expelled, they were accused of using their opium to turn white Americans into sex slaves, the Mexicans of the 1930s were also discredited .
In those years of serious economic crisis, coinciding with the criminalization of marijuana, USA deported hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, remember the authors.
” It was said then that the marijuana consumed by the Mexicans was turning violent people in. Today we know perfectly well that marijuana does not have that effect, ” Boullosa concludes.
He attributes the prohibition of marijuana and mass deportation to “the racist narrative” that was imposed on Mexicans.
In recent years, while more and more US states have decriminalized the cultivation and use of marijuana, Mexican voices claimed steps in the same direction.
The flow of weapons
Boullosa assures that “the profit produced by the prohibition also goes to the US, the arms manufacturers and the banks”.
According to his calculations, between 75% and 90% of the arsenals confiscated from assassins in Mexico come from the United States.
In his opinion, it is data like this that has led many in Mexico to begin to think that the wall on the border may not be such a crazy idea.
Although for reasons different from those of Trump. “Maybe we are the ones who have to protect ourselves from them,” says Boullosa.
The researcher regrets that on the US side of the border, there are many shops where anyone can get firearms without any restriction.
Phoenix, in the northern state of Arizona, is one of the most popular outlets for members of the Sinaloa cartel of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
The arms flow worsened in 2004, when the US Congress lifted the Clinton era ban on the manufacture and sale of semi-automatic assault weapons .
The Senate also blocked the ratification of the CIFTA Convention, signed by Clinton and approved within the Organization of American States (OAS) to limit and control the sale of arms across the continent, experts say.
Mexican criminal groups began to equip themselves with increasingly more and more deadly weapons, increasing their firepower until they rivaled that of the Mexican Federal Army.
When Felipe Calderón came to the presidency of Mexico in 2006 and declared his “war on drugs”, they were a much more fearsome enemy .
Boullosa blames that on the “arms lobby” in the United States and the National Rifle Association (NRA, for its acronym in English).
“Americans who are enriched by the sale of weapons are very aware of the huge profits that this market produces.”
That is why, he says, “they have made a great campaign to obtain the votes of the senators that allow murderous legislation .”
According to her, the US arms manufacturers “They have enormous power and are responsible for the Mexican tragedy, as they are for the massacres in schools and churches in their country.”