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Our Opinion: Two Arellanos gone, what will follow?

March 14, 2002

With the arrest of Benjamin Arellano Felix and reports that brother Ramon has been killed by Mexican authorities, we hope that one of the most notorious drug cartels in Mexico is on the verge of collapse. But one would be naive to celebrate too soon.

Even if the Arellanos lose their grip on the Tijuana and Mexicali drug trafficking trade, there are rival cartels that may smell fresh blood and attempt to swoop in and assume control of the area. The result, we fear, could be more bloodshed along the border as sides battle for control of the importation major routes.

Then again, maybe the Arellano Felix cartel is far from defeated. Yes, Benjamin was the brains of the operation, according to U.S. authorities, so that is a big loss for the family. Ramon was the enforcer, the cold-blooded killer who used terror to reign over the area. If he is dead, that is another big hit to the family.


But there are other family members who may have the ability to assume control of the cartel.

In a perfect world, we would hope the Arellanos would fall and that no one would take over the business. Unfortunately, that is not the reality. Drug trafficking remains a lucrative business. The death of one player and the arrest of another will not end that. In fact, the names of the leaders of cartels that might try to grab the territory are circulating already.

No matter how successful law enforcement is in bringing down such cartels piece by piece, it will never be enough, and that is largely the fault of a world hungry for more drugs. The real war on drugs does not involve an assault on the cartels. The real war is right here in our own back yard — in our own neighborhoods, cities, states and nation.

It starts in our homes as parents educate their children about the dangers of drugs. It continues into our schools with educational programs meant to prevent young people from becoming pawns of drug traffickers.

Once we cut the demand for the drugs, we cut the flow of money to the cartels and that is how we really hurt not just one, we hurt them all.

Is that going to happen any time soon? No. In our society, the demand for drugs is just too strong and thus the cartels remain powerful because their profits remain high, and money buys influence.

As for now, we hope Mexicali and Tijuana do not find themselves struggling through a drug war between cartels. We also hope that shot to the Arellano Felix family does hurt the drug trade.

Even a few drugs that never make it across the border into the hands of our youth can make a big difference. If that difference amounts to saving one life, that is significant.

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