Patrick Radden Keefe, writing for the NYT Magazine, takes a different tack than I’ve usually seen in stories covering Mexico’s Drug War: examining the business practices and supply-chain logistics of the illegal drug trade rather than its violent consequences.
If the subject didn’t have the tragic context of 50,000 deaths in six years, it’d be a guide for entrepreneurs on how nimble and simple can outrun top-heavy opponents.
From the article, “Cocaine, Incorporated“:
Moving cocaine is a capital-intensive business, but the cartel subsidizes these investments with a ready source of easy income: marijuana. Cannabis is often described as the â€œcash cropâ€ of Mexican cartels because it grows abundantly in the Sierras and requires no processing. But itâ€™s bulkier than cocaine, and smellier, which makes it difficult to conceal. So marijuana tends to cross the border far from official ports of entry. The cartel makes sandbag bridges to ford the Colorado River and sends buggies loaded with weed bouncing over the Imperial Sand Dunes into California.
Michael Braun, the former chief of operations for the D.E.A., told me a story about the construction of a high-tech fence along a stretch of border in Arizona. â€œThey erect this fence,â€ he said, â€œonly to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and theyâ€™re flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side.â€ He paused and looked at me for a second. â€œA catapult,â€ he repeated. â€œWeâ€™ve got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology.â€
Read the rest of the longform piece here.