Thursday, November 14, 2019

The world's second oldest profession is making a comeback in the Gulf of Mexico

About 3,500 years ago, a bunch of sea-faring ne'er-do-wells decided they'd give up fishing, hoist the black flag and start raiding the commerce of the ancient Greeks and Phoenicians. After centuries of determined attempts to put an end to the swashbuckling violence of piracy at sea, the marine thievery has never been completely eliminated.

I've always wanted to use this quote in a blog post:
"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." -- H.L. Mencken 

Troubling news reports like this one are becoming more common (again) right in America's backyard:
Pirates attacked an Italy-flagged offshore supply vessel in the southern Gulf of Mexico, injuring two crew members, the Mexican Navy said on Tuesday, in the latest outbreak of robbery and piracy to hit oil platforms and infrastructure in the area. ...

Mexican state oil firm Pemex has said robbery is increasingly affecting its oil infrastructure. Sophisticated equipment has been stolen and resold, and crews robbed.

Most registered attacks have been in the southern rim of the Gulf of Mexico, where dozens of oil platforms produce thousands of barrels of crude per day.
Piracy and theft have been a way of life in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea almost since Europeans began colonizing the tropical land masses in the early 16 century. Suppression of piracy has been one of the principal duties of the navies of every empire or nation with commerce in the region. Right up until the early 19th century, pirates were to be summarily hanged without trial and their tarred bodies preserved and displayed at the entrances of harbors throughout the Gulf, Caribbean and well up the Atlantic coast.

High seas piracy in the modern era has been correlated with proximity to failed states. Witness the scourge of piracy in the waters off Somalia, the Gulf of Guinea and Strait of Malacca. Each of these world regions has been beset with political and economic turmoil, resulting in widespread poverty and inevitable crime. Is our southern neighbor Mexico teetering on a brink of state stability? Hmm...
“Although oil and diesel stealing has been going on for decades, there has been an increase in criminal activity reported in the last four years,” Johan Obdola, founder of the Global Organization for Security and Intelligence, told Fox News. “It is estimated that the stealing in Mexico is up to 1.18 million barrels a day, bringing millions to criminal organizations, and making it very difficult to control.”

And, controlling the matter is convoluted by the notion that little is known about the exact network of pirates who are believed to have been born out of local fisherman circles. Even corrupt government workers themselves have aided some of the piracy, experts have asserted.

Since he took office in December 2018, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador vowed to make oil theft a top national-security priority. This past January, officials shut down several Mexican Petroleum (Pemex) pipelines in an attempt to curb the smuggling and piracy, but the shortage triggered a schism among the oil-hungry cartels and a national deficit that angered people across that country.
The criminal cartels in Mexico and Central America have diversified since the 1980's. Drug smuggling is lucrative, but so is human trafficking and now, apparently, so is piracy. Warlords in Africa and cartel bosses in the Americas exist because the governments in these areas have failed to protect an economic system that produces widespread growth in the wealth of the average citizen.

Does Venezuela come to mind?
In happier times, ferries used to bring groups of Venezuelan tourists to party in Trinidad. Today, though, as Venezuela slides further into all-out economic collapse, its impoverished coastal ports have become modern Hispaniolas - havens for buccaneers.

Most of the pirates are ex-fishermen, who used to make a good living catching tuna, octopus and shrimp in the Caribbean's warm waters. But under Venezuela's former president, Hugo Chavez, the fishing industry underwent a well-intentioned but disastrous nationalisation programme, prompting companies to relocate abroad.

With the added blow of hyperinflation, many of the fishermen now have no job and no way to feed their families. They do however have access to boats and to guns, which are in ready supply on Venezuela's increasingly lawless streets.

It's sadly reminiscent of the piracy crisis in Somalia a decade ago, where jobless fishermen took up arms to prey on passing ships. But while the Somali pirates targeted wealthy cargo ships, the Venezuelans tend to go for fellow fishermen from Trinidad, who aren't much richer than they are.
If there's an authoritarian government ruling a nation with a large coastline these days, there's probably a rampant crime problem and crime doesn't stop at the shoreline.

Piracy hasn't been a serious problem in the Northern Gulf or along the eastern coast of the U.S. since about the late 18th century. Gee... what happened in the area about that time?


Post a Comment

You must have a Google Account to post a comment.

WARNING: Posting on this blog is a privilege. You have no First Amendment rights here. I am the sole, supreme and benevolent dictator. This blog commenting system also has a patented Dumbass Detector. Don't set it off.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.