Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bought Cop Arrest: A Good Start

In the Mexican state of Hidalgo, over ten dozen law enforcement officials were arrested for links to the drug cartel Los Zetas. Let's hope this isn't merely an effort to advance the interests of some competing cartel, but a real law enforcement effort.

Without the complicity of authorities, major crime enterprises are difficult to operate without hideous overhead and risks. Regulatory capture -- the process by which officials with the power to regulate a thing become beholden to those whom they supposedly oversee -- is so normal that crooked cops are a stereotype, and the vocabulary describing it reads like a travel phrase book (buy off? bribe? kickback? on the take? seeks post-retirement employment in the private sector?). Around the world, government offices are bought with present gifts, future employment, and anything you can imagine.

In the case of Los Zetas, regulatory capture is the origin of the organization: the gang was originally formed from airborne commandos trained to locate and interdict drug cartel members (you don't need to play the disturbing video to read reports about the gang's origin). Mastering on the government nickel the skills needed to put cartels out of business, they were in a great position to place themselves in the newly-vacated jobs. Imagine if Blackwater entered the drug business instead of security.

Let's hope the arrest of hundreds of crooked local and federal cops in Mexico are a blow for the rule of law. Meaningful law is the friend of all who seek to advance their lives in the face of oppression, and the people of Mexico are as deserving of the chance as any.

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