- - Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The capture, extradition from Mexico, trial and imprisonment of Joaquin Guzman, better known as El Chapo (Shorty in Spanish), was a major blow to the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel. The drug lord will spend the rest of his life in an American Supermax prison.

Those who advocate an end to America’s war on drugs say the effort to combat drugs is pointless and fruitless, and the imprisonment of Guzman will not stop or even slow drug trafficking.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, as the saying goes. Or perhaps not.

Guzman was an extraordinary criminal. He was brutal, inspirational, clever, ruthless, organized, innovative and murderous. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the evidence at his trial showed that he was responsible for importing and distributing more than a million kilograms of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin into the United States.

Guzman used fishing boats, submarines, carbon fiber airplanes, underground tunnels and other methods to bring in the drugs, which were then sold to wholesale criminal distributors in New York, Miami, Atlanta, and other major cities and centers.

Guzman used violence to solidify his power. Witnesses testified that he ordered his hitmen to kidnap, torture and slaughter people who stood in his way, and he performed violent acts personally as well. In addition to spreading poison, Guzman also corrupted government officials.

We can hope that his replacement will be far less efficient.

Facing rampant drug abuse and increasing drug-related crime, President Richard Nixon announced at a press conference on June 17, 1971, that drugs were “public enemy number one.”

“In order to fight and defeat this enemy,” the president said. “It is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.”  

And so the war on drugs began.

The ACLU has repeatedly called for an end to the efforts to curb drug trafficking and the use of dangerous narcotics. The ACLU states that the war on drugs has cost more than a trillion dollars over the years and has had little or no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs in America.

The ACLU believes drugs should be a health issue rather than a crime. The ACLU believes America should use the money spent on fighting drugs to treat drug addicts. They and others state that the war on drugs is a failure, as after all these years, we have not eliminated drug trafficking, drug dealing and drug using.        

This, to me, would be akin to the idea of legalizing homicide simply because some people continue to get away with murder.

In addition to the imprisonment of Guzman, there have also been other recent success stories. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced a historic drug bust at the Philadelphia seaport on July 21.

The CBP and other federal law enforcement agencies performed the largest cocaine seizure in the 230-year history of U.S. Customs and CBP when they confiscated more than 17.5 tons, which has a street value of about $1.1 billion.

After a boarding at sea, the feds and the U.S. Coast Guard examined shipping containers aboard the MSC Gayane, a 1,030-foot Liberian-flagged container ship. The feds escorted the ship to a dock in Philadelphia, where they discovered 15,582 bricks, totaling more than 35,000 pounds of cocaine. CBP seized the cocaine as well as $56,330 found on the vessel believed to be proceeds from illegal activity. 

And there was another recent significant and dramatic drug bust caught on video.

A video released by the U.S. Coast Guard showed an interdiction team at sea on June 18. Coast Guardsmen from the Coast Guard Cutter Munro shouted in Spanish as they boarded a homemade submarine thought to be carrying thousands of pounds of drugs. In the video, Guardsmen leaped aboard the submarine as it tried to escape. They pounded on the hatch until finally one of the suspected smugglers emerged with his hands held high.

Those who advocate ending the war on drugs state that we should simply legalize hard narcotics and tax the legitimate drug companies that will then manufacture heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other dangerous narcotics.

But that would only propel our opioid epidemic and increase the harm done to drug addicts, their long-suffering families and other drug-related victims.

I recall accompanying police officers out on a drug raid a while back. A sergeant told me that drugs had made life in this poor neighborhood almost unbearable. Many decent people could not afford to move, he said, so they suffered from the drug users who broke into cars and houses, and held up people on the street.     

The war on drugs is a war on drug lords as well as on street criminals, so the good fight must go on.

• Paul Davis covers crime, espionage and terrorism.

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