Mario Berlanga: Pulling Down the Curtain: The Truth about the Supply Chain of Illegal Drugs


[MUSIC] There are only two kinds
of people in this world. Those who consume illegal drugs and
those who knows someone who does. I’m not here to critic or
judge people who consume drugs. I have nothing against
the drugs themselves. My aim in giving this talk, however,
is to pull down the curtain, so that you can see what is,
perhaps, not obvious. So that you all know
what is actually going on before illegal drugs get into the US. I care deeply about this issue,
because I was born and raised in the north of Mexico. My hometown is some 200
miles south of Texas. And it used to be a place in
which as a kid, I would bike and skate around with my friends, and
people exercised in the street safely. But now,
everyone is living in constant fear. Children are not allowed to play outside. And literally everyone I know
could stand before you today and share a horrific story of how the drug
trade violence has damaged their lives. I have seen this other side. And I have kept quiet for way too long. I have lacked the courage to speak. And I have feared being the outlier. But I’m breaking my silence today
because people need to hear this, especially here in the US. The US is the largest market for
illegal drugs. With only 5% of the world’s population, it consumes over 30% of the global demand. And what’s really interesting is that
the vast majority of the millions and millions of users are using the drugs for
recreational purposes. But only by buying,
they are creating a demand. And wherever this is demand,
there will be supply, and this supply is costing human lives. Let me illustrate this for you. Let’s say you are a user and you feel like
getting high tonight or this weekend. So you would contact
your trusted dealer and engage in a business
transaction with him or her. You see, it’s a victimless crime. So, you get high, and no big deal. But what you don’t see is that for
any dealer to be able to sell to you, they need to be working
with one of the cartels. And before cartels
supply to their dealers, they either produced the drugs in
Mexico or imported them from Asia or South America, and crossed them
to the US by land, air or sea. And at every step of
the chain there’s bloodshed. Why is this the case? Well, because this is the most
lucrative of all criminal activities. As a result,
it attracts the worst criminals to it. And criminals compete by force. So this is effectively a business in
which the most violent player wins. And what are they fighting over? Well, territories, highways, ports, border
crossings, political influence, and so on. Because the real money to this
business is not in producing drugs but in getting them from the source to
the end consumer here in the US. And to do that successfully, cartels need to control their traffic
routes every step of the way. And to prevent smaller criminal groups
from growing and eventually competing with them, they also set out to control
the smaller criminal activities like human trafficking, kidnapping, piracy,
extortion and even prostitution. To protect their huge profits, they’re killing not only the people
involved in the business, but also journalists, law enforcers and
innocents, who refuse to cooperate. They even sometimes engage in
mass killings of civilians just to create fear in the town. In the span of this hour of talks,
three people are killed just in Mexico. This is 60 lives every single day,
many of them are innocent men, women and children. The official death toll since
2007 stands at 160,000. This number is larger than that of
the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. This is the bloodiest conflict in North
American since the American Civil War. One morning back in the spring of 2010,
I found out that four very close member of my family had been
kidnapped by one of the cartels. Long hours of fear and
suffering turned into days. Days turned into weeks. We didn’t know what was going on. And we still don’t because
we never saw them again. The narcos disappeared them,
breaking my family apart. Now, by show of hands, who here believes in making the world
a better place through our daily actions? I believe most people do, actually. In the US, every day it’s more
common to hear about people becoming vegetarian to save animals. People are buying cruelty free cosmetics,
third rate coffee, conflict free diamonds. And I deeply admire how
this heightened awareness, how its supply chains is growing. But unfortunately, we haven’t yet
picked up on the worst of them. One that is killing not animals,
but human lives. Because Americans are spending around
$150 billion on illegal drugs every year. An amount that is slightly higher than
what the US federal government spends on education. And five times larger than what the US
federal government spends on law enforcement. So, you can see why this problem is so
huge. And thanks to a very convenient
geographic location, Mexican cartels control
over 70% of the US market. The truth is that, with an incentive
of this magnitude, no government action in the US or Mexico will ever
be enough to mitigate the violence. Around three years ago,
Marie a hardworking, lower-class woman who worked with me for
over six years, realized that one of the cartels was recruiting young
boys from her neighborhood by force. Being the mother of a 14 year old boy,
Marie panicked. So she took her whole family and
they walk away, they run away. For several months they lived at a very
remote and uncomfortable shelter. So, soon as they hear that their
neighborhood was relatively safe again, the family return home. On the second night from their return, a
group of armed men entered their house and killed her boy in front of her, and
her whole family, just in retaliation. I completely understand that
some of you are thinking, how come the Mexican government
is not doing anything about this? It is the Mexicans fault that they such a
corrupt government and weak institutions. And you know what? That’s fair. I accept our responsibility. And we are doing something about it,
but the pull is way too strong. How are we suppose to fight against those
hundreds of billions of dollars and automatic guns? The cartels just buy
their way around Mexico. And those who don’t take
their money get killed. The fact we can’t walk away from is
that every time we buy illegal drugs, we approve, reward and
incentivize these criminal organizations. We approve, reward and
incentivize the narcos. So I stand before you today because
I desperately need your help. And because I know that each one of us
here could bring about a huge change. Think about this,
recreational users spend between 200 and $2,000 on illegal drugs every month. Just to give you a glimpse what
this money buys for the cartels. With $200 they can get 1,000
new rounds of ammunition. $500, a brand new AK47 rifle. $700 base, the monthly cost of
a full-time employee under that squad. What if instead you or someone close
to you stopped buying illegal drugs? You would singlehandedly help prevent
several kidnappings, extortions, or worse. So if you’re not the user, I ask you to please have this conversation
with your friends, with your families. And if you are one,
please think twice before you buy again. Consider alcohol or legal wed instead.>>[LAUGH]
>>[LAUGH] Just don’t lie to yourself because now you know where you’re
money will find its way through. Eventually, if we succeed, my family, people in my hometown and all over Latin
America would start feeling safe again. Our children would go
back to playing outside. Thank you.>>[APPLAUSE] [MUSIC]

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