Ed Calderon: Mexican Drug Cartels | Lex Fridman Podcast #346 | Summary and Q&A
In this Lex Friedman podcast, security specialist Ed Calderon discusses his experience in counter narcotics investigating the Mexican drug cartel and its insights into human nature. He talks about the corruption and distrust that permeates Mexican society, as well as the role of violence and the complexities of cartel operations. Calderon also shares personal stories and observations from his time in the field.
Questions & Answers
Q: What does your experience in counter narcotics investigating the Mexican drug cartel teach you about human nature?
Calderon explains that his experience has shown him that anyone can be corruptible, regardless of their initial intentions or perceived integrity. He highlights the training and profiling techniques used in his field, which he learned from older individuals who were already corrupted. Trust becomes extremely difficult, as even those who seem incorruptible can succumb to temptation or threats.
Q: Is there a culture of corruption in Mexico that makes it difficult to trust individuals?
Calderon states that Mexico does indeed have a culture of corruption deeply ingrained in its society. He gives an example of how bribes are commonly used to get children into desired school time slots. The lack of trust between the people and the government creates a systemic and cultural acceptance of corruption. This lack of trust also extends to criminality, making it challenging to identify trustworthy individuals.
Q: Can we determine if someone can be trusted?
Calderon shares that trust is not guaranteed and can change over time due to various factors. He believes that character and past experiences are essential in determining trustworthiness. He emphasizes that actions and failures can reveal a person's integrity. Calderon mentions encountering reformed criminals who have changed their ways and earned his trust, while also encountering law enforcement officials who he wouldn't trust despite their position.
Q: What factors contribute to corruption in Mexico?
According to Calderon, corruption in Mexico can stem from financial needs, health issues, and a culture of instability. He mentions that crack can form in one's integrity, allowing corruption to seep in gradually. Calderon also highlights the lack of trust between the people and the government, which contributes to the acceptance and practice of corruption as a means to get things done.
Q: How do cartels gain power and control over local areas?
Calderon explains that cartels take advantage of Mexico's young population who lack opportunities by providing them with employment and purpose within their organizations. Cartels infiltrate family businesses and leverage them for drug trafficking and other illegal activities. Over time, they become deeply rooted in local economies, constructing infrastructure and presenting themselves as benefactors through various forms of social support.
Q: What role does violence play in cartel operations?
Calderon acknowledges that violence is extreme in cartel operations, with an escalation of revenge killings and disregard for previous rules such as avoiding harm to children and women. He mentions the influence of these operations on extremist acts, pointing out that some ISIS videos were inspired by the graphic executions and torture videos disseminated by Mexican cartel groups on social media. Violence has become an exportable form of terror, added Calderon.
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Calderon's insights into the Mexican drug cartel and its impact on society highlight the deep-rooted corruption and violence that are part of the system. Trust becomes a rare commodity, and individuals can be easily corrupted by external factors. Understanding the complexities of human nature is crucial in combating corruption and creating a more just society.