|Perpetrators of Mexican Drug Trafficking Violence chart|
The Mexican Drug War is an ongoing armed conflict among rival drug cartels fighting each other for regional control and against the Mexican government forces. The government’s principal goal has been to put down the drug-related violence that was raging among dueling drug cartels before any military intervention was made. Additionally, the Mexican government has claimed that their primary focus is on dismantling the powerful drug cartels, rather than on drug trafficking prevention, which is left to U.S. functionaries.
Although Mexican drug cartels, or drug trafficking organizations, have existed for several decades, they have become more powerful since the demise of Colombia‘s Cali and Medellín cartels in the 1990s. Mexican drug cartels now dominate the wholesale illicit drug market by controlling 90% of the drugs that enter the United States. Arrests of key cartel leaders, particularly in the Tijuana and Gulf cartels, have led to increasing drug violence as cartels fight for control of the trafficking routes into the United States.
Analysts estimate that wholesale earnings from illicit drug sales[clarification needed] range from $13.6 billion to $49.4 billion annually.
Given its geographic location, Mexico has long been used as a staging and transshipment point for narcotics, illegal immigrants and contraband destined for U.S. markets from Mexico itself, South America and elsewhere. Mexico supplied alcohol to the United States throughout the duration of the prohibition of alcohol, and the onset of illegal drug trade with the U.S. began when the prohibition came to an end in 1933. Towards the end of the 1960s, the Mexican narcotic smugglers started to smuggle drugs on a major scale.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Colombia’s Pablo Escobar was the main exporter of cocaine and dealt with organized criminal networks all over the world. When enforcement efforts intensified in South Florida and the Caribbean, the Colombian organizations formed partnerships with the Mexico-based traffickers to transport cocaine through Mexico into the United States.
This was easily accomplished because Mexico had long been a major source of heroin and cannabis, and drug traffickers from Mexico had already established an infrastructure that stood ready to serve the Colombia-based traffickers. By the mid-1980s, the organizations from Mexico were well-established and reliable transporters of Colombian cocaine. At first, the Mexican gangs were paid in cash for their transportation services, but in the late 1980s, the Mexican transport organizations and the Colombian drug traffickers settled on a payment-in-product arrangement.
Transporters from Mexico usually were given 35% to 50% of each cocaine shipment. This arrangement meant that organizations from Mexico became involved in the distribution, as well as the transportation of cocaine, and became formidable traffickers in their own right. Currently, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Gulf cartel have taken over trafficking cocaine from Colombia to the worldwide markets.
Over time, the balance of power between the various Mexican cartels shifts as new ones emerge and older ones weaken and collapse. A disruption in the system, such as the arrests or deaths of cartel leaders, generates bloodshed as rivals move in to exploit the power vacuum. Leadership vacuums are sometimes created by law enforcement successes against a particular cartel, so cartels often will attempt to use law enforcement against one another, either by bribing Mexican officials to take action against a rival or by leaking intelligence about a rival’s operations to the Mexican government or the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
While many factors have contributed to the escalating violence, security analysts in Mexico City trace the origins of the rising scourge to the unraveling of a longtime implicit arrangement between narcotics traffickers and governments controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which lost its grip on political power starting in the late 1980s.
The fighting between rival drug cartels began in earnest after the 1989 arrest of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, who ran the cocaine business in Mexico. There was a lull in the fighting during the late 1990s but the violence has steadily worsened since 2000.
Presidency of Vicente Fox
Violence increased from 2000 when President Vicente Fox sent troops to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas to fight the cartels. It is estimated that about 110 people died in Nuevo Laredo alone during the January–August 2005 period as a result of the fighting between the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels. In 2005 there was a surge in violence as La Familia Michoacana drug cartel established itself in Michoacán.
Drug sources and use
With the increased role of Mexico in the trafficking and production of illicit drugs, the availability of drugs has increased locally since the 1980s. In the decades before this period, consumption was not generalized – reportedly occurring mainly among persons of high socioeconomic status, intellectuals and artists.
Often drug shipments are delayed in Mexican border towns before delivery to the U.S., which has likely contributed to the high rates of local drug consumption. Following the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, coupled with stricter border control measures, less cocaine is exported to the U.S. This has led to an over-supply of cocaine which has resulted in decreased prices as dealers attempt to unload extra drug along trafficking routes, especially in Mexican border areas. With increased cocaine use, there has been a parallel rise in demand for drug user treatment in Mexico. The prevalence of illicit drug use in Mexico is still comparatively low as compared to Canada and U.S.A.
Mexico, a major drug producing and transit country, is the main foreign supplier of cannabis and a major supplier of methamphetamine to the United States. Almost half the cartels’ revenues come from cannabis. Although Mexico accounts for only a small share of worldwide heroin production, it supplies a large share of the heroin distributed in the United States.
Drug cartels in Mexico control approximately 70% of the foreign narcotics that flow into the United States. The US State Department estimates that 90% of cocaine entering the United States transits through Mexico, with Colombia being the main cocaine producer, followed by Bolivia and Peru. Mexican drug traffickers increasingly smuggle money back into Mexico inside cars and trucks, likely due to the effectiveness of U.S. efforts at monitoring electronic money transfers.