Cartel Blanche

By Bill Maher

Mexico's greatest living writer became its greatest non-living writer last month, when Carlos Fuentes died. That’s okay, he was 83, and he had sex with a lot of actresses (like Jean Seberg and Jeanne Moreau) and wrote 60 books and almost won the Nobel Prize, so he did all right. But one of the things that got him down, late in life, was Mexico’s drug war, and here’s what he said last year:

"Violence and crimes are rampant in my country. We’ve had revolutions and wars, but they were political figures, fighting for political causes. The drug lords in Mexico don’t bother about this, they say, 'We are here to fuck you. We are here to be nasty. We are here to be criminals.'"

Which is weird, because that was also on Mitt Romney's business card at Bain.

Fuentes lived through a lot, but the drug war seemed to really get to him. His last novel, Destiny and Desire was narrated by a severed head. And it's a sitcom this fall on TBS. No it's not. But -- spoiler alert -- the head was severed by drug lords.

What's with severed heads, by the way? I feel like that used to be a Middle Eastern thing, but now everybody's doing it. Like pita bread.

But what about his point? We know how to fight other countries; we even know how to fight terrorists, more or less, but how does a society deal with criminals who just want to fuck you? You know, like JP Morgan Chase?

Here's the funny thing about Fuentes, though. His daughter died of a drug overdose -- wait, that's not the funny part -- but he still had an idea for ending the drug war that might surprise you: Legalization.

Fuentes:

"Why is everybody who takes drugs, and is captured, taken to a jail? They should be taken to a hospital, and not to a jail. The end is that drugs should be legitimate. They should be prescribed or whatever, but they should not be the object of criminal action as they are now."

The drug war in Mexico started six years ago, when President Felipe Calderón decided to crack down on the country's six cartels. (Because of term limits, Calderón can't run for reelection this July.) Since then, 50,000 corpses have piled up, which is more dead people than in Afghanistan, the desert full of drugs we do care about. Calderón used the army to replace the police, who were riddled with corruption, and it worked about as well as you might expect: Now the army is riddled with corruption. He also created a new national police force, 35,000 strong. Is it working? Oh, yeah. There's no drugs anymore.

Instead, what seems to be happening is that the cartels are consolidating -- like the banks did here; now everything is Chase -- and it feels like the war will end when we get down to two teams, and one of them is dead. But how long will that take? And what stops it from crossing the border, except fear of Jan Brewer? As Fuentes (yep, him again) once said:

"It is a failed policy. (Calderón) declared war on the drug cartels, and the drug cartels declared war on him. It's warfare… the government wins one battle and the drug lords win three."

Why don't we care about the war 75 miles south of Sea World?

Someone once said:

"What the United States does best is to understand itself. What it does worst is understand others."

Do they have a point? And yes, by "someone" I mean "Carlos Fuentes."