On the afternoon of Sunday, September 21, 1969 the México-U.S. borders suddenly came to an abrupt standstill. The United States had launched Operation Intercept, a U.S. attempt to end the marihuana smuggling problem into the United States. The problem, like everything blamed on México, is that the drug problem in the United States was not marihuana, but rather heroin smuggled in by French mafiosos direct from Turkey via France. The first major drug traffickers were the French and the first dangerous drugs for addicted U.S. citizens was heroin. But it didn’t look good politically, then and now, to place the blame where it belonged, on the French and therefore México was again blamed.

Richard Nixon strode into office on a platform of bringing law and order to the United States. Operation Intercept was Richard Nixon’s first volley into what is now commonly known as the Drug War. Operation Intercept ostensibly was to intercept marihuana smugglers using the international bridges. The operation required that all cargo, pedestrians and vehicles be inspected before being allowed into the United States. It was the first time that pursuit aircraft were tasked with intercepting drug-laden aircraft entering the United States from México. Navy boats and surveillance radars were also tasked to the operation. By the time the operation was called off, 20 days later, the economies of the border cities and México had been hurt. The Mexican government was outraged at the U.S. administration for the unilateral operation that brought international traffic to a standstill.

Although for the public benefit, the threat of marihuana had been greatly exaggerated for political purposes, the real drug problem was from France – heroin. Operation Intercept, however, laid the framework that created people like Chapo Guzman and the numerous deaths that followed thereafter. Operation Intercept set in motion a domino effect that transformed pockets of Mexican marihuana smugglers into full-fledged international drug kingpins that have threatened the integrity of México and the welfare of the United States.

Very little marihuana was intercepted by U.S. officials during Operation Intercept.

Because Richard Nixon chose to scapegoat México, the real threat of heroin was initially ignored and U.S. voters remained oblivious to the real problems that heroin, and later, cocaine posed because they remained focus on México and marihuana. From there, the real problem of drugs was allowed to be developed in Colombia and by the time the United States was willing to address it, the drug barons had too much money and too much power to control them. As the United States focused and finally eradicated the Colombian cartels, the drug traffickers simply morphed into Mexican drug kingpins that emerged from the marihuana smugglers that Nixon told everyone were the real problem.

Today’s murders and mayhem lies directly at the feet of the United States and its penchant for blaming México to distract from the real problems. On Wednesday we’ll see how the U.S. government finally agrees!

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

One reply on “Operation Intercept”

  1. Yeah, i recall that great movie, The French Connection, one of the best cops and robbers flicks ever made with a Bullet-style chase scene, too. Gene Hackman starred as the real life NYC cop, Popeye Egan. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

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