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Mexico’s Drug War

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United States Impact on Mexico’s Drug War Jared Green Maryville University

would garner more attention on a national level. However. with our recent election there was no mention of this problem in the foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. But that Mexico didn't even warrant one line in the last debate.that tells you that the U. when Porfirio Diaz coined this term. According to Seijas (2012). and most believe this number is very modest. this quote applies possibly even more today than ever before in. But. Seijas’s article states the following: "We can't blame the U. not wait for Obama or Romney. he had no intention of relating it to the situation Mexico is in with the war on drugs today. One would think that a problem with this much bloodshed and in a country so close to the United States. Canada is also a neighbor to the .Mexico relationship is not going to change." says Anabel Hernandez. an investigative journalist who has put her life on the line writing about Mexico's drug lords.-.S. 1) Mexico’s geographic proximity to the United States makes it the most logical place to assume illegal narcotics could enter the United States. (p.000 people killed in Mexico due to drug-related violence. Although. How many more lives will have to be lost due to drug-related violence before this problem will no longer be ignored? An analysis of the out of control violence stemming from the drug trade in Mexico reveals the United States plays a great role in the problem. We have to fix these problems ourselves. In the past six years there have been 60.S.Mexico’s Drug War 2 “Poor Mexico. the terrible impunity and lack of justice. when we have thousands dead. so far from God and so close to the United States.” This was first coined by President Porfirio Diaz around the turn of the 20th century. However. and even two CIA agents nearly killed in an ambush recently -. for the violence in Mexico. We have to look at our own corruption.

These criminal organizations are known in Mexico as drug cartels or drug trafficking organizations (DTOs). The current cartels that are most prevalent did not come into power until the DTOs in Columbia were disbanded.Mexico’s Drug War 3 north of the United States. The traditional trafficking route used by the Colombians through the Caribbean was shut down by intense enforcement efforts of the U. During this period. are where numerous illegal narcotics are manufactured and distributed every day. is believed to be the beginning of the illegal drug trade with the United States. These DTOs have been around for decades but did not surface into the spotlight until 2006. Places such as these. 2010). The end of the 1960s marked the beginning of the major drug smuggling operations between Mexico and the United States (Vulliamy. led to the rise and formation of criminal organizations.S. What sets Mexico apart from Canada is that it is also closer to the countries of Central America and South America. After the end of alcohol prohibition in the United States in 1933. . illegal alcohol was supplied by Mexico. Those in charge of smuggling alcohol to the United States during alcohol prohibition saw the profits and realized there can be a lot of money to be gained from the illegal drug trade. government. As Colombian DTOs lost this route. Beittel’s (2012) book states the following: As Colombian DTOs were forcibly broken up. but there is not a problem with illegal drugs entering through at such a high rate. The prohibition of alcohol in the United States started in 1920 and ended in 1933. The vast profits to be made from the drug trade and also the illegality. the highly profitable traffic in cocaine to the United States was gradually taken over by Mexican traffickers.

Not only is Mexico the principal transit country for cocaine sold in the United States. and marijuana (Beittel 2012).” which encouraged the use of violence in Mexico to protect and promote market share. markets of heroin. This “raised the stakes.Mexico’s Drug War 4 they increasingly subcontracted the trafficking of cocaine produced in the Andean region to the Mexican DTOs. As Mexico’s drug trafficking organizations rose to dominate the U. evolving from being mere couriers for the Colombians to being the wholesalers they are today. drug markets in the 1990s. This same strategy of trying to eliminate DTOs by targeting top leaders was successful in disbanding the Columbian DTOs discussed earlier. 2012).S. During Calderon’s tenure. they are a major producer and supplier to the U. These already strong organizations gradually took over the cocaine trafficking business. methamphetamine. There were many arrests or killings of leaders of DTOs during this campaign.11) The success of the Mexican DTOs originated in the distribution of cocaine from Columbia. but eventually led to their involvement in other illegal narcotics. at least in the near term. This campaign could be seen as a success by some and a failure to others. A part of his plan was to use the military and police forces in parts of the country which had high activity of the drug trade movement and cartel involvement. who they paid in cocaine rather than cash.S. “Many analysts maintain that the implementation of the kingpin strategy in Mexico has created more instability and. but this also led to increased violence and resistance by the DTOs. Felipe Calderon made it apart of his campaign to rid the country of the powerful DTOs. the business became even more lucrative. there has been a dramatic increase in the removal of leaders of DTOs (Beittel. more violence. The violent struggle between DTOs over strategic routes and warehouses where drugs are consolidated before entering the United States reflects these higher stakes. After being elected President of Mexico in 2006. (p. These analysts .

the violence in Mexico is more extensive. There have been hearings by the 111th and 112th Congress to address the violence in Mexico. cities. more volatile. which was not the case. which suggested that the Mexican government was no longer exercising sovereignty in all areas of the country (Beittel. These talks became more serious after three people connected with the United States consulate in Ciudad Juarez were killed in March 2010 and the murder of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata on February 15.Mexico’s Drug War 5 suggest that intense but unfocused enforcement efforts against the DTOs have increased fragmentation and upset whatever equilibrium the organizations are trying to establish by their displays of violent power.S. 2011 (Beittel. Only some parts of the country are believed to be lost to the DTOs. 2012). it is not going completely unnoticed. Although. the potential harm of Mexico’s organizations is formidable. and less predictable. U. They realize that with the close proximity of Mexico and the shared border.S. 2012). As a result. According to the 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment. Mexican DTOs and their affiliates “dominate the supply and wholesale distribution of most illicit drugs in the United States” and are present in more than 1. This statement was rejected because it suggested it had no control over all areas of the country.S. government and the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderón strongly deny the so-called “failed state” thesis that was put forward by some analysts in 2008 and 2009.000 U. . foreign assistance and border security issues. Unfortunately it took violence against citizens of the United States to get the attention of United States people and Congress. nothing of this serious problem was mentioned during the Presidential Debate. there is always the possibility for the violence to cross over into United States territory. The situation is being addressed by United States’ Congress. The U.

the more stable organizations that existed in the earlier years of the Calderón Administration have fractured into many more groups. military forces and police/border officers. about 10% of the 34. deter other DTOs from taking their share of the market and also to force people against their will for the benefit of the DTO.500-person federal force.” According to (Beittel 2012). Gulf. DTOs use violence and bribery to keep control. Beltrán Leyva. In some cases the corruption of law enforcement is so severe that law enforcement will actually carry out acts of violence on behalf of the cartels (Markhart). Today. For a time. Since then. Los Zetas. many analysts suggest that these seven now seem to have fragmented to between 12 and as many as 20 organizations. according to the U. by Mexico’s Federal Police . and the Gulf cartel. “These included Sinaloa. and La Familia Michoacana. and shifting alliances make a static DTO landscape difficult to portray.S. the ephemeral prominence of new gangs and DTOs. The violence and bribery are used hand in hand by the DTOs.Mexico’s Drug War 6 When President Calderón came to office in December 2006. The continuing challenge of police corruption was illustrated in the August 2010 firing of 3. two large “national” DTOs—Sinaloa and Los Zetas—appear to be preeminent. the Sinaloa cartel. DTOs use bribery to corrupt government officials. Tijuana/AFO.200 officers. there were four dominant DTOs: the Tijuana/Arellano Felix organization (AFO). DEA. They use violence as punishment for employees. DTOs use profits to bribe these people in power to turn a blind eye to the illegal activities of the DTO. the Juárez/Vicente Carillo Fuentes organization (CFO). seven organizations were dominant. However. The DTOs need corruption to advance their operations so if an official does not accept the bribery the DTO may turn to violence to carry out their goals. Juárez/CFO. But the diversification into other crime.

Tobacco. was released 14 months after his arrest on drug trafficking and money laundering charges when his case collapsed in federal court. the former mayor of Tijuana. Similarly.000 weapons have been recovered from Mexican drug cartels. in May 2009. The article Mexico Politics: Whither the War on Drugs? (2010) reveals: Arrests of public officials accused of cooperating with the DTOs have not been followed by convictions. Jorge Hank Rhon.. In 2011. However. The corruption of the police is not the only corruption. The United States plays a huge role in the arming of the DTOs in Mexico.] Justice Department figures.70 percent -. Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to try and prevent the flow of weapons that end up in the hands of the drug cartels.000 -. 2). Citizens of Mexico have the constitutional right to own firearms.. Gregorio “Greg” Sanchez. Project Gunrunner is a project of the United States Bureau of Alcohol. legally obtaining a firearm in Mexico is not an easy process.S.. of which 64.come from the United States.Mexico’s Drug War 7 Commissioner after they failed basic integrity tests (Mexico Politics. With Project Gunrunner there is now . federal authorities arrested 10 Mexican mayors and 18 other state and local officials in the president’s home state of Michoacán for alleged ties to drug trafficking organizations. The corruption has taken place in states and localities governed by each of the three major political parties in Mexico. 2011). A large number of firearms in Mexico are smuggled from the United States. 2010). All but one individual were subsequently released because their cases did not hold up in court. For example.” States (eTrace. indicating that no party is immune (p. was released less than two weeks after his arrest in June 2011 on weapons and murder charges due to mistakes made in the arrest procedures. in the past five years 94. “According to [U. the former mayor of the resort city Cancun.

Another 6 million come by . Customs Service. according to the U.400 defendants were referred for prosecution in federal and state courts and more than 12. in which more than 1.. This tactic is widely viewed as a failure because of the prevalence of these weapons used at crime scenes by those involved in drug cartels. By early 2009. 2011).000 firearms were involved (eTrace…. Each year. And then these weapons were given to criminals who used to weapons related to drug violence in Mexico. This failure is now known as the ATF gunwalking scandal (eTrace….S.. Medrano Case (2008) and Operation Fast and Furious (2009-2011). Hernandez Case (2007). In this particular case the phrase straw purchase refers to an agent of the ATF acquiring weapons for someone who is unable to purchase the weapons himself.2011). They would allow these guns to go into Mexico in hopes that eTrace could then lead them to leaders of the DTOs. The original purchaser could have legally sold the weapon to someone else who had then in turn sold it on the black market or smuggled it into Mexico. However. since 2006 under Operation Wide Receiver (2006-2007). this is very complicated because it is hard to prove how the gun ended up in the hands of criminals in Mexico. 2011) However.000 commercial and private flights. Project Gunrunner had resulted in approximately 650 cases by ATF.Mexico’s Drug War 8 software put in place called eTrace that allows the ATF to trace weapons used in crimes to the first recorded purchaser (eTrace. and allowing the guns to 'walk' and be transported to Mexico (eTrace…. There has been some relative success stemming from Project Gunrunner. the Phoenix offices of ATF encouraged and facilitated straw purchase firearm sales to traffickers.2011) On the other hand. 60 million people enter the United States on more than 675. there has been a lot of controversy because of this project as well. The Drug Trafficking study shows: The illegal drug market in the United States is one of the most profitable in the world..

The violence of the drug trade does not stop once the product enters the United States. 1) These drugs that are entering United States neighborhoods are leading to problems within the United States.000 merchant and passenger ships dock at U. These ships carry more than 9 million shipping containers and 400 million tons of cargo.S. In addition. lost productivity and environmental destruction. The illegal drugs are negatively affecting families across the United States due to the negatives that are apart of drug use and at the same time affecting families due the financial burden the illegal drug trade has placed on the United States. (Chalk. neighborhoods.Mexico’s Drug War 9 sea and 370 million by land. drug traffickers conceal cocaine. and methamphetamine shipments for distribution in U. . There are groups of criminals .000 smaller vessels visit our many coastal towns. 2011) These two thoughts greatly contradict each other. . federal.S. marijuana. the overall total rises to around $800 billion. “The trafficking and abuse of drugs in the United States affect nearly all aspects of our lives. This is why the War on Drugs in the United States is such a debated topic. a strained healthcare system. factoring in costs associated with treatment and rehabilitation. heroin. Between 1981 and 2008. and local governments are estimated to have spent at least $600 billion (adjusted for inflation) on drug interdiction and related law enforcement efforts. . Another 157. MDMA. but both are fact. (p.” States (Chalk. 2011) The three factors mentioned in the quote above have combined for a huge amount of money that has had been allocated to the cause. There is violence nationwide on a daily basis due to illegal drugs. ports. Amid this voluminous trade. The damage caused by drug abuse and addiction is reflected in an overburdened justice system. More than 90. state. 116 million vehicles cross the land borders with Canada and Mexico.

There is such a great demand for illegal drugs in the United States that there will always be someone willing to risk the consequences to reap the rewards and supply the United States drug demands. 2011) A potential way to prevent the corruption of border officials is to weed out potential bad hires before they have to chance to become corrupt. It just so happens the because of Mexico’s geographic location that the logistics add up.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) painted a disturbing picture of increased drug-syndicate infiltration into the ranks of the more than 41. They can get the supply of narcotics from either South American. These groups of criminals use violence just as the DTOs as well to keep control of the drug trade in cities across the nation. Currently there is a problem hiring people who lack integrity that have been either bribed or coerced to act in a favorable way towards DTOs and in a way detrimental to the United States preventing drugs from entering the country. During a congressional hearing in March 2010. the corruption in the United States is not as rampant as the corruption in Mexico. Just as the violence does not stop once the drugs are transported across the border. . The United States impact on Mexico’s Drug war is a complicated one. Reality of the matter is there is no simple fix.Mexico’s Drug War 10 that work and profit the same way the DTOs do in Mexico. There are many different fascists that directly relate what the United States does to the action taken by DTOs and the Mexican Government.000 frontline agents and officers who are now deployed along the U. representatives from the FBI and the U. Central America or in Mexico itself and then transport them to satisfy the demand for the narcotics in America. This is such a complicated and intricate problem there are many different schools of thoughts on a solution to the problem. the corruption does not stop. (Chalk. although.S.-Mexico border.

This problem has gotten so far out of hand that it will not go away until there is radical change. In essence. there is someone ready to take their spot. Unfortunately. The War on Drugs in both countries affects millions of lives. when leaders of DTOs are arrested or removed. and nobody is supplying the DTOs with more money than citizens of the United States. and to keep rival cartels from encroaching on their turf. In some documented cases United States governmental programs have given DTOs weapons that were used in violent acts. In today’s world money is power. Mexico needs the United States help to end its War on Drugs and vice versa. The drug cartels have gained so much money from the drug trade that they are able to pay off government officials as well as police/border officers in order to aid in transporting their products. but unfortunately it seems to be on the backburner of American Foreign Policy. the problem with DTOs in Mexico will not be going away any time soon. but the cartels have proved to be too powerful to be stopped. The small amount of cases of the United States programs are not issues to be ignored.Mexico’s Drug War 11 Since the illegal drug trade is such a lucrative business. the United States has played a prominent role in the rise of power of DTOs. In cases were bribery does not work the cartels simply use horrendous acts of violence to make sure law enforcement and the government do not get in their way. DTOs currently have such power in Mexico and in some areas they have such a stronghold that the government can do nothing about it. until the drug problem in the United States is fixed or the War on Drugs is won. So the quote “Poor Mexico. there will always be plenty of people willing to take the risks in order to gain a share of the enormous profits. Sadly. so far from God and so close to the United States” is as relevant as ever. Government officials view issues in the Middle East as a greater threat . President Calderon implemented the War on Drugs in 2006. but they are relatively small issues when it comes to how the United States has impacted the drug trade problem in Mexico.

with help from the United States is closer to God as ever” sooner than later. for Mexico the illegal drug trade and DTOs seem to be just off the United States’ radar. so far from God and so close to the United States” will be replaced by a new saying. “Strong Mexico. Regrettably. . Hopefully for the greater good of both countries the hundred year saying “Poor Mexico. money and time are focused there.Mexico’s Drug War 12 to the United States and thus most of their resources. Mexico needs the help from its neighbor to the north to help restore the power to the government and to the hard working citizens and out of the hands of violent DTOs.

(2010.: Congressional Research . Drug Trafficking in the United States. eTrace: Internet-Based Firearms Tracing and Analysis. Straus and Giroux. (2011).com/2010/09/mexico-politics-whitherthe-war-on-drugs/ (2011. CA: 2011 Seijas. (2010). New York: Farrar. (Interviewee) 2012. H.Mexico’s Drug War 13 References Beittel. Retrieved from http://www.org/crime/archive/drug_trafficking. Retrieved from http://www.shtml Violence. Markhart. P.intelligencequarterly. The Latin American Drug Trade. (2012). E. September 2). Washington D. December 5. J. J. Green. S.gov/publications/factsheets/factsheet-etrace. Romney ignoring Mexico's drug war? Retrieved from http://www. March).policyalmanac. Santa Monica.com/2012/11/01/opinion/mexico-citypostcard/index. (Interviewer). November 1).html (2004. Are Obama.atf.C. (2012.cnn. May). Chalk. Amexica: War Along The Borderline. Mexico Politics: Whither the War on Drugs? Retrieved from http://www.html Vulliamy. Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organizations: Source and Scope of the Rising Service.

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