Second Thoughts on The Wall

I love Tucson and living in Southern Arizona. Everyone knows about our fabulous weather and cowboy history, but we also have an incredible culture. There is a Anglo/Hispanic/Native blend in which nobody is really dominant. There is no majority race or culture; no race/gender combination can claim more than 50% of the population.

And best of all we pretty much get along. There is very little racial or cultural animosity here.

I think that is one of the reasons there is so little support for a wall on the border. There just isn’t much point to it.

If the intent is to stop smugglers, a wall just isn’t the right tool. Smugglers move very expensive illegal goods across international borders. It is dangerous work, but that is why it pays so much.

Think about it.

Smuggling drugs is so profitable that it’s easy to afford to go over, under or around a wall.

Drug cartels buy custom-made submersible boats that go around the wall. The cost of digging tunnels under the wall and buying airplanes to go over it is small change for them. And remember, these expensive tunnels, submarines and aircraft are often used only once. Drug smuggling is so lucrative that cartel accountants write these losses off as operating expenses.

Walls do one thing exceeding well – they keep large numbers of people at bay.

And that is why I’m giving a wall a second thought.

Mexico is approaching its next election on July 2. So far, there have been over 113 assassinations of candidates running for office. You might find this surprising if you have been following the success of the anti-cartel police operations in Mexico. Government efforts have had some unanticipated results.

First, every time a drug kingpin goes down a violent competition ensues to fill the void. These are not old-fashioned gangsters with guns – although they are plenty of them, too. Many times, they are government officials working with criminal organizations.

For example, in 2014 police in Iguala seized 43 students who were protesting the local mayor. It is thought that the police turned the students over to a local criminal gang with which the police were affiliated. That group murdered and disposed of the bodies. Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda were eventually arrested for ordering the killings.

Violent drug cartels are undermining the legitimacy of the Mexican government. The presidential election will be held on July 1, and so far, 113 candidates running for a range of offices have been killed and 300 injured. Hundreds more have backed out of their races, leaving only Cartel approved line-ups. Although police escorts are available, many candidates decline them because local law enforcement are often allies of criminal groups.

The drug cartels are competing for the political reins of power. That is something to worry about.

These illegal organizations are challenging the legitimacy of the Mexican government. Once the legitimacy of a government comes into question in the eyes of its people wide, spread social collapse becomes a real possibility in the face a crisis.

But something far more disturbing with the potential for international chaos is also emerging.

Political instability is common across Latin and South America.

Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht is in the center of an international corruption scandal spreading to high officials across South America. Peru’s president now sits in jail on charges of illegal campaign contributions, the son of the Chilean president is facing unrelated corruption charges, the economies of Argentina and Venezuela are in such ruin that even the International Monetary Fund, (IMF), and World Bank want nothing to do with them. Conditions in Venezuela are so bad that neighboring Columbia fears a flood of refugees if Venezuela descends into anarchy.

Why am I having second thoughts about a wall on our southern border?

Consider this…

So many South American countries are facing economic calamity and loss of faith in their political systems that the fall of one could trigger crises in neighboring countries. If that economic and political unrest spreads to Mexico, it is conceivable the government could collapse. In that event, we could see thousands or tens of thousands of displaced people massing at our southern border, just 60 miles south of Tucson.

You have to remember these people have relatives here in Southern Arizona, and it’s completely understandable they would look to them for refuge.

At that point, there are no good alternatives. We’ve seen the results of panicked mobs crossing borders in other countries, just as we’ve seen the tragedy of refugee camps and soldiers guarding borders from behind walls. If there were a solution to these tragedies, they would not be happening.

The only answer is to prevent these things from happening in the first place.

Instead of going to the other side of the world on nation building missions, maybe we should look a little closer to home.

President Trump makes no secret of his negotiating skills, and to be fair he has met with some success. Why not underwrite modest deals with the IMF and World Bank to bring economic stability to the southern hemisphere?

I’m not suggesting throwing money at these countries, but creating opportunities for American business to serve the needs of these struggling economies.

Or consider this…

There is currently a global shipping crisis – cargo ships sit at anchor all over the world because the global economy is barely perking along. While the media hyper focuses on China the United States and the EU, the rest of the world is in a logistical crisis.

What better time to invest in port infrastructure needed to accommodate the new super container ships with an eye to redistribute cargo to South America?

I’m not an international trade expert, a financier or an economist, but if I can come up with idea, certainly people who know what they are talking about could do the same.

There is a solution to this issue, and we have the people who can find it.

We could do that, and maybe bring peace, tranquility and propriety to the entire South American continent.

Or we could build a wall.

NOGALES, AZ – JUNE 02: A fence separates the cities of Nogales, Arizona (L) and Nogales, Sonora Mexico, a frequent crossing point for people entering the United States illegally, June 2, 2010 in Nogales, Arizona. During the 2009 fiscal year 540,865 undocumented immigrants were apprehended entering the United States illegally along the Mexican border, 241,000 of those were captured in the 262 mile stretch of the border known as the Tucson Sector. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) 

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