Since the Harper Government lost Canada’s bid for a position on the United Nation’s Security Council (for the first time in 50 years) and has gradually been pulling troops out of Afghanistan, it appears that the government is shifting it’s focus closer to home, which means they’re upping their tough on drugs and crime policy on an international level.
While Canada has consistently maintained a presence in the Caribbean basin, providing aid and support to countries like Jamaica and Haiti, Central America has emerged as the stage for an increased military endeavour, and another opportunity for Harper to re-brand Canada as a nation willing to take sides and flex biceps. The enemy in this case, is cocaine and the Mexican Drug cartels.
Partnering with military juggernauts Belize and Guatemala (oh, and Mexico and the United States, too), Canada has committed its military mind-power, as well as money and resources, to combat Central American instability and keep the devil’s dandruff out of our seaports, off of our streets, out of our youth, and former Conservative MP, Rahim Jaffer’s nostrils.
Since meeting last year with U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta and Mexican Secretary of National Defence Gen. Guillermo Galvan Galvan (‘Gen. G3’ to his buddies), Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay has since taken a much keener interest in the ‘precarious’ situation percolating in Mexico and Central America that has been initiated by the Mexican cartel’s increased presence, influence, and mobilization in Belize and Guatemala, and MacKay is quoted as saying, “If it’s a problem for Mexico, it’s a problem for us.” Defense officials speaking on anonymity to the CBC have also stated that, engagement in the Americas has been an evolving economic and security priority for the Harper government.”
Belize borders Mexico, and its long coast, inlets, and rugged jungles, provide perfect cover and checkpoints for narco soldiers and their boats, running cocaine up the coast from countries like Columbia. Apparently 80-90% of South American made cocaine makes a stop, at some point, in Belize or Guatemala. With the Belizean defence force employing a mere 1,500 troops, and Guatemala boasting a military of 15,000, it’s no wonder that the cartels see these countries as easy pickings to de-stabilize, corrupt, control, and then work hassle free out of, running drugs up the coast in speed boats, or even in something like these little Columbian contraptions.
Although not yet providing any combat support, Canada has spent millions of dollars in Belize, providing equipment and training to their defence force, and more significantly, has helped construct a “modern military operations centre.” Belize has returned the favour by letting our troops train in their jungles… (a lot of good that will do for our Arctic sovereignty). The extent of spending and military operations in Guatemala is shadier, but a release on the Canadian Forces website states that Guatemala joined this ‘capacity building program’, in 2008, and we have provided them with military training in ‘peace support operations’.
But is this new focus really just about cocaine? If the federal government was so concerned about Canadian citizens powdering their noses, surely there are more health conscious, domestic ways to spend millions of dollars. I get the argument – stop it at the source, and it isn’t a bad thing to want to keep the cartels out of peaceful countries – but does dense jungle training really help an individual struggling in their locked room at CAMH in Toronto? Does enhanced shipping container screening keep an eye on heroin hotels and the alleyways of the Downtown East Side in Vancouver? When former Chief of Defense General Walter Natynczyk, met with senior Guatemalan defence officials in 2011, were they discussing strategies on how to ease drug-related violence and addiction issues in Winnipeg’s North End?
Of course Canadian intelligence agencies should keep themselves well aware of situations south of the border, and it would be naïve to think that the cartels don’t already have some kind of criminal footprint in Canada. But cocaine will be cocaine. The demand will never be curbed, and it will keep being imported. Everybody knows the War on Drugs has been a colossal failure and a gaping, festering money pit filled with dead bodies and suffering. So the question is, why are we now embroiling ourselves in the never ending, “War on Drugs”, riding shotgun with the U.S. in that futile fight they have been waging, and losing, since Pablo Escobar?
This all just seems like more political posturing by a government attempting to internationally portray Canada more and more, as a country that is increasingly willing to fight Islamists (most recently in Mali), staunchly support everything Israel, and further align itself with U.S. foreign policy.
Domestically, this is typical Stephen Harper. A closer and more public military partnership with the U.S. is just playing to his usual base of drug and crime hating, older white male conservatives. Hey, he may even win some younger, angry white male conservatives out of it. Sure, They’re all out of work, but that means more Call of Duty. And is there anything more badass than fucking up the cartels?
- Call off war on drugs, leader of Guatemala tells the west (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- Belize asks for Canada’s help battling spillover from violent Mexican drug war (vancouversun.com)
- War On Drugs Draws Canadian Military Focus In Central America (12160.org)
- Military puts new force into drug war (charlotteobserver.com)
- US military expands its drug war in Latin America (usatoday.com)
- US Expands Military Reach in Latin America (antiwar.com)