It's A Gray Area: A view of the U.S., as seen from Mexico

I have been speaking out for more than 19 years against our nation's policy of drug prohibition, but recently I encountered a view from Mexico that I had not heard before.

It was titled "Drug Trafficker's Paradise," and was written by Francisco Martin Moreno in a column published on the Internet. Here is a summary of the questions he asked and what he wrote.

Do you know the name of a single American drug kingpin of our times? I am, of course, not referring to the infamous "gangsters" of the Prohibition era in the United States, such as Capone, Dillinger and Frank Nitti (among so many underworld characters) who found in the United States the fertile ground necessary to develop and reach international "prestige."

We knew García Abrego, Caro Quintero, "El Güero Palma," the Arellano brothers, etc. among other leaders of Mexico's meager underworld. But in the U.S., the most coveted drug market on Earth, are there no drug kingpins when they deal in a drug business worth more than $500 billion?

Is there no last name that stands out for its efficiency and popularity? Or is it simply that there are no drug traffickers to share the long-standing American criminal tradition?

I know! In the U.S., drugs are dealt "by themselves." The drugs are dropped off at the border by Mexican or Latin American "mules" and reach (as if by magic) the hands of consumers without any further effort.

Of all the marijuana that is consumed in that country, for example, 35% is produced in Texas, Arizona and California without the authorities ever finding a plantation, any drugs incinerated in public, or anyone being placed in federal prison, and their assets sold at auction to the highest bidder.

I guess the marijuana was planted by itself, harvested by itself, distributed by itself and the resulting proceeds laundered by themselves ...

Is this not truly amazing?

We never hear of a harsh blow being dealt to drug trafficking in the United States as is commonly done in Mexico. We never see photographs of American drug kingpins arrested and covered in blue FBI jackets, hands and feet in shackles, wearing bulletproof vests and helmets, and with a huge police escort to prevent attacks on their lives that could prevent them from informing on the identity and activities of their associates ...

In Mexico, the capture of "famous" drug kingpins occupies the front page of newspapers, besides receiving ample radio and television coverage. We publicly display the incineration of narcotic drugs as soon as they are found, and we publish photos of heroic soldiers fallen while fighting thugs. We also publish pictures of former state prosecutors massacred at their doorsteps while engaged in private law practice after retiring from fighting crime.

The multiple and ostentatious properties seized from the kingpins are also matters of public knowledge. The efforts of Mexican soldiers to win this battle against the production and sale of drugs are evident.

Only that battle will hardly be won if in the U.S. the unhampered sale of $500 billion worth of narcotics in the streets continues with no one seeing or doing anything. Since our "Puritan" neighbors never catch a kingpin, no arrests are announced, no soldiers or drug agents or judges or prosecutors die, no assets are seized and no names of corrupt government officials are published.

Nothing, no one knows anything ...

Why doesn't anyone know? Very simple: because an incredible number of members of the state and federal executive, legislative and judicial branches of government are on drug kingpins' payrolls.

If nothing is done and nothing is known it's because from the U.S. secretary of state on down, governors, legislators, senators and especially judges, journalists, police officers of all kinds, FBI and DEA agents up to and including the famous and not the least feared border patrol, everyone could be deeply involved with drug traffickers and making juicy profits, just as they did during prohibition. There is nothing new under the sun.

Even less now, when a group of thugs has more power than the state itself. Never in the history of mankind has a gang of criminals had so much money as to enable it to buy authorities, journalists and whole countries if it so decided. All this thanks to the U.S., who provides the dollars to make this possible.

What do drug kingpins prefer in exchange for heroin, Mexican pesos or American dollars? It's quite clear, isn't it? What sovereignty does a state have when a drug kingpin can't be judged in his country of origin because doing so could bring about the destabilization of the country with disastrous consequences for millions and millions of people?

Are we not facing a newfound power phenomenon in the hands of a single individual? Where are North American drug kingpins? Why not start the prosecution of major drug traffickers in the United States? I know: because neither consumers nor authorities nor the kingpins nor the press want you to know who they are.

This is good business — for everyone. Everyone is involved.

So, Moreno concludes: Better, much better, to blame Mexico for all of America's problems ...

Personally, I have some substantial problems with Moreno's assessments and conclusions because there are many prosecutions and drug seizures in our country, and I have never felt that any of our high level officials were on the take.

But, then again, I am hard-pressed to name any non-Hispanic kingpin drug dealers that have been prosecuted in this country for a very long time. And that certainly provides ammunition for his way of thinking. And that is troubling.

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It," (Temple University Press, 2001), and can be contacted at or through his website at

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World