El Narcotraficante "El Chapo"

El Narcotraficante "El Chapo"

Today a scandal happened in the Americas. Forbes, that well-known and respected business publication from the US published their famous list of the richest people in the world. And on that list, coming in at number 701 with an estimated US$1 Billion, is Mexico’s most infamous Narcotraficante (or drug cartel leader), one Joaquin el ChapoGuzman Loera. He also made it onto another famous list published by Forbes recently – that of the world’s most wanted criminals, coming in at number 2. This has caused a huge scandal in Mexico, all over the news and talk shows, discussing first how it is possible that a man who makes his money through completely illegal means and absolutely pays no taxes, and furthermore is a world-recognized wanted criminal (he escaped from a maximum security prison in 2001 in a laundry truck and has a reward of US$5 million offered from the US for his capture) can be named on a list of supposedly respectable, honest, tax-paying wealthy people, many of them “businessmen.”

While I do feel the anger and embarrassment on the part of Mexicans who are hardworking, honest and taxpaying, I also think it was quite a clever move on the part of Forbes and perhaps a not-so-subliminal effort to open the conversation about the role of the rich, who is really honest and who not, how they get their money and how they spend it. Especially in these catastrophic economic times, while the majority are suffering from losses of savings or jobs, it is the extreme rich who play a very real role in determining the livelihoods of so many. Why not pose the question of economic (and social) responsibility to these people who in reality control the world’s resources? And so the question arises … should the extreme rich have the responsibility to use their hard-earned money wisely? Should they be responsible to do good with it? And how do they earn so much money in the first place? Is the very fact that one person has control of so much money even acceptable?

The not-so-Slim Carlos

The not-so-Slim Carlos

The Drug Czar in Mexico, Eduardo Medina Mora, has claimed outrage at the listing of this Narco with “honest businessmen” … but really, is Carlos Slim, the third richest man in the world because he has a monopoly over the phone industry in Mexico and has been able to charge extremely poor people exorbitant prices on their phone bills for many years, really an honest businessman? And I guarantee that Mr. Slim does not pay anywhere near the taxes he should.

I do agree that a drug cartel leader is less than the ideal role model, but I have to give him credit – he was born to a poor family in the middle of the Mexican desert and has risen through sheer dedication, escaped from prison, and became a feared/respected, “successful,” rich man. (albeit killing many people in the process and with a reward on his head) It just reminds me of Al Pacino in Scarface.

But lets look at the reality of the situation. Many believe that some very prominent Mexican leaders know full-well where he is and do nothing to detain him because they receive a great deal of money to protect him. Which makes sense to me – why wouldn’t these powerful government men want a piece of the multi-billion dollar, tax-free industry? And ultimately, all this money that the drug cartels are amassing really is a result of the incredibly high demand for drugs from the US. It is estimated that the US consumes well over US$39 billion worth of illegal drugs. And yet no one is doing any real work to fix the root of the problem … why do all these people seek out illegal drugs? Maybe we have a bigger emotional crises than economic crisis on our hands. And perhaps that is the real issue we should be dealing with in these “difficult times.”

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