Extradite the imperialists! Stop the Extradition of “El Chapo”
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel has been arrested again. This marks the third time that Guzmán has been imprisoned in recent memory. Twice previously, Guzmán was serving lengthy prison sentences from which he made dramatic escapes. His amazing escapes added to his bandito image. However, they also have ensured that this time, Guzmán will be facing extradition to the United States. There, he will be convicted. He will be placed into a Supermax prison or worse. Far from home, he will be unable to escape. If he does not face the death penalty, he will most likely live out his days in a small cell. Just as in the past, voices across Mexico are condemning the attempt to extradite Guzmán.
Guzmán is a controversial figure. On the one hand, it is undeniable that the Sinaloa Cartel that he heads has contributed to the drug violence that has plagued the Mexican people. Many civilians have been caught in the crossfire. However, Guzmán’s Cartel is nonetheless loved by many, especially many of Mexico’s poor. This is because the Sinaloa Cartel has cultivated a kind of “Robinhood” myth about itself. The exploits of Guzmán — his rags to riches story, his daring escapes, his beautiful wife — have led many to see him as a modern day Jesus Malverde, “the king of Sinaloa,” “the angel of the poor,” who robbed from the rich to give to the poor. The cartel traces its roots back to Mexico’s older narcotraffickers who reputedly sought to avoid spilling blood unnecessarily. The Sinaloa Cartel is perceived by many, rightly or wrongly, as more honorable than its rivals, especially the Zetas, another cartel set up by a rogue elite military unit. No doubt some see the Sinaloa Cartel as a preferable and necessary alternative to the Zetas who are said to have little regard for the public. No doubt the Sinaloa Cartel has provided many poor people with a future and pumped lots of its profits back into the communities where it operates. Many Mexicans cheered when Guzmán defended Mexico’s pride against Donald Trump’s racist anti-migrant rhetoric. Guzmán threaten to kill Trump and put a price on his head. Not exactly unlike Che or Marcos, Guzmán’s image appears on t-shirts and caps worn by Mexico’s youth. For better or worse, many look up to him as a patriotic symbol. To many, Guzmán is not unlike Pablo Escobar of Colombia’s Medellín Cartel who cultivated a populist image by pumping some of their profits into poor communities and by working with leftist, progressive rebels like the 19th of April Movement (M-19) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). No doubt, the relationship between the cartels and the masses is complicated, simply denouncing them all as “narco fascist,” as some First Worldists have, in the context of the extradition only aids the imperialists. Whether these cartels are deserving of the adulation many poor people feel toward them, whether they deserve their populist image or not, we should not support the extradition of anyone from the Third World into the hands of the imperialists.
There are real human rights concerns with extradicion. The United States penal code includes the possibility a defendant will receive the death penalty. Mao once said heads are not like leeks, they do not grow back. The death penalty is final, but all legal systems are fallible. There is no way to correct a mistake if someone is executed. Even if the United States promises to take the death penalty off the table, we should not believe them. How often has the United States broken its word and violated its treaties with Latin America? Too many times. The United States cannot be trusted. The Catholic Church, which opposes the death penalty, should add its voice to the chorus of good people who oppose extradition. Also, defendants in the United States legal system risk incarceration in Supermax prisons where the individual is tortured day after day, hour after hour. In these prisons, the prisoners are locked alone in small rooms for 23 hours. Such isolation, such mental torture, kills the soul. This barbaric practice violates the human rights of prisoners. Until these inhumane practices are eliminated from the United States’ legal system, all people who support human rights must oppose extradition.
There is a long history of defendants being extradited from Latin America’s puppet regimes to their master, the United States. Before Escobar was assassinated, the United States applied pressure to try to change Colombia’s constitution so that it would allow his extradition. In its fight with leftist rebels and Escobar, the United States further empowered Colombian death squads, themselves rival cartels to Escobar’s. The United States illegally invaded Panama in 1989, killing thousands, in order to extradite Manuel Noriega for drug charges. Now, the United States pulls the strings of the Mexican state in order to get its hands on Guzmán. Extradition is yet another tool by which Empire denies the sovereignty and agency of the people of Latin America. For over a century, the United States has meddled in the affairs of Latin America. The United States has long considered Latin America its backyard. The United States declared its intention to be the only big imperialist in Latin America with the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. The United States has been assaulting the prosperity and dignity of the Mexican people since it invaded Mexico in 1846, illegal stealing half of its territory in order to expand slavery. Over the past century, the United States has propped up dictatorships, training and arming death squads and terrorists, etc. in order to impose its will on Latin America. Today, the United States uses the war on drugs as a cover for its ongoing war on the Latin American people. The drug war is often used as a cover for the United States to intervene against leftist and anti-imperialist groups. And extradition is an imperialist tool to subvert due process and rights of the Latin American masses as a whole. The United States is directly responsible for the deaths of millions of Latin Americans. In fact, Spanish courts seek to put Henry Kissinger on trial for his role in murder throughout Latin America. The United States is in no moral position pronounce justice on anyone. We cannot let the fox watch the hen house. Today, “El Chapo” Guzmán is extradited. Tomorrow, another Guzmán, Peru’s “Presidente Gonzalo,” or a Castro, is extradited. We must oppose any further precedents of extradition to the imperialists.
Reality check. The biggest criminals in the hemisphere are found in the political parties and big corporations in the United States. No one should begin to consider extradition from Latin America to the United States until the United States sends its leaders to face justice. No Latin American should be extradited to the United States until Bush Sr. is extradited to Panama for the deaths of thousands of civilians that occurred during the invasion, until Kissinger is extradited for assassination committed as part of Operation Condor, until Oliver North is extradited for the murder of Nicaraguan civilians by the Contras, until Clinton is extradited for the illegal intervention in Haiti, until the CEO of Newmont mining is extradited for poisoning the indigenous in Peru, until Dole (United Fruit) executives are extradited for their role propping up dictatorships and deathsquads, until Coca Cola executives are charged with the murder of trade unionists in Colombia, until Obama and all recent United States leaders are extradited for harboring Miami terrorists who blow up civilians in Havana, and on and on and on. We raise our voices with the Latin American masses against the ongoing legacy of Empire. Leading Lights demand real justice, not the farce of Empire and its injustice system. Down with the biggest criminals! Down with Empire!