Recently I have seen a number of discussions of the narcotics traffickers and their own brand of religion. Some of this might well be the echo chamber effect, but I have no doubt about it being a real cultural factor in the criminal organizations that are involved in narcotics smuggling. The Small Wars Journal had a recent article on this issue, titled "The Spiritual Significance of ¿Plato O Plomo?".
Conventional wisdom holds that narco gang and drug cartel violence in Mexico is primarily secular in nature. This viewpoint has been recently challenged by the activities of the La Familia cartel and some Los Zetas, Gulfo, and other cartel adherents of the cult of Santa Muerte (Saint Death) by means of religious tenets of ‘divine justice’ and instances of tortured victims and ritual human sacrifice offered up to a dark deity, respectively. Severed heads thrown onto a disco floor in Michoacan in 2005 and burnt skull imprints in a clearing in a ranch in the Yucatán Peninsula in 2008 only serve to highlight the number of such incidents which have now taken place. Whereas the infamous ‘black cauldron’ incident in Matamoros in 1989, where American college student Mark Kilroy’s brain was found in a ritual nganga belonging to a local narco gang, was the rare exception, such spiritual-like activities have now become far more frequent.In hearing this we should not panic. Neither should we assume that it is not a big deal. Change is sweeping Latin America and some of it is good, but some of it is bad. We are paying for our focus on Europe (and Asia) and for our neglect of Latin America. Part of this neglect I do attribute to the actions of Osama bin Laden, who did grab our attention on 9/11.
But, having quickly reviewed our past neglect, I hasten to suggest we need present action. Further, given that the survival of the narco-gangs is in large measure the result of our desire for and, at the same time, criminalization of drugs, the problem is in our hands. If we don't fix this we will both strengthen the criminal gangs and decrease, over the longer run, our own civil liberties. Thus, the first step in my plan to deal with illegal immigration is to bring illegal drugs into the free market. Such drugs should be regulated, as we regulate tobacco and alcohol, and there should be rules about use of such drugs and conducting business that impacts the public.
The short article finishes up with this paragraph:
Honest men are increasingly accepting bribes and embracing criminality over certain death, in some instances, along with the threat of the infliction of torture. Such is the reality of day-to-day life in many of the sovereign free and cartel controlled zones that now exist in Mexico and Central America. Who can say if those who are willing to compromise their values—and in a sense have already darkened their souls—are not willing to complete the transformational process taking place and accept criminally derived forms of spirituality and religion into their hearts? In the war over social and political organization now raging in the Americas, we must expect and prepare for these and other such contingencies.The authors advocate that we need to be thinking about "the war over social and political organization now raging in the Americas." Darn tootin'.
Hat tip to Chicago Boyz.
Regards — Cliff