It’s been five years since President Felipe Calderon began a clampdown on the Mexican drug cartels that have been tearing the country apart. Troops have been sent into a variety of different Mexican states, and bloody battles have become commonplace in many parts of the country. The government that took power in 2006 vowed to take the cartels apart, and bring an end to the bribery and corruption within the police and government. As it stands now, the cartels are still getting drugs into America, and murder victims are being found every day. They are taking advantage of every possible way to keep their businesses running, and deadly violence is a daily part of their lives.
Multi-Billion Dollar Industry
It’s estimated that around $40 billion dollars a year is spent on drugs by Americans, and all the cartels want a piece of it. The National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) 2011 revealed that: ‘Mexican Based TCOs were operating in more than a thousand U.S cities during 2009 and 2010.’ It’s one thing getting the drugs into the United States, but they also need to bring the money back. Moving the money back into Mexico is not always easy, because trying to send hundreds of thousands of dollars through a money transfer would arouse suspicion. Instead the cartels are coming up with all sorts of new ways to outsmart the authorities. Large amounts of bulk cash are smuggled from the US back in to Mexico, and while some does get seized, it is only a fraction of the total amount of drug money destined to the cartels that supply the US illicit drug markets. The NDTA 2011 stated that ‘bulk cash seizures totaled $798 million from January 2008 through August 2010.’
Increase In Drug-Related Deaths
The fight back against the drug cartels in Mexico was supposed to bring an end of gang violence and crime, but since 2006 the number of drug-related murders has just kept rising. The national figures for murders linked to organized crime shed some light on how ineffective Mexican police and troops have been in preventing the rise in violence. In 2006, murders linked to organized crime throughout Mexico were estimated to be just below 3,000, and by 2010 almost 3,000 murders were committed in the City of Ciudad Juarez alone. From 2009 to 2010, the total number of cartel-related murders in Mexico rose a staggering 60%, from just below 10,000 to over 15,000. 2011 saw a much smaller rise, but the latest figures released by Mexican officials estimate that 16,700 deaths occurred due to the Mexico drug war last year. On average, that’s 1392 a month, 348 a week, or 50 a day.
The Rise Of Extortion Rackets
One surprising and scary result of the on-going drug war in Mexico is a rise in extortion rackets. This might seem less important than the thousands of people being killed every year, but it poses a great risk to the general public in Mexico. Over the last five years smaller drug cartels have been squeezed out of the business and now it seems there are only two that can successfully operate large drug-trafficking operations into the Unites States. The Pacific Cartel and Los Zetas are now the big two, and so smaller cartels and other criminal cells have changed tactics. Instead of trying to compete with the big two in terms of drug smuggling, they have looked inwards to see where they can generate an income. In an ironic situation, the increase in violence and arrest of cartel leaders has led to domestic mafias specializing solely in extortion. The climate of unpredictable violence between cartels, and the inability of local law enforcement to protect the public has led to people in Mexico paying gangs regular protection money in the hope of staying safe.
What The Future Holds
The current state of Mexico suggests that the drug war is not stopping the cartels. Recently the US Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, went on the record to defend the American policy that supports the Mexican drug war. Insisting that is was not a failure, she was quizzed by the Mexican Interior Minister, Alejandro Poire, about why Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, the leader of one of Mexico’s largest and most powerful cartels had not been captured yet. He was arrested and incarcerated in 1993, but 8 years later he managed to escape, and now the US are offering a $5 million bounty for his capture. Her reply was: 'It took us 10 years to find Osama Bin Laden and we found him.' With the Mexican presidential elections coming up in July, President Felipe Calderon does not have years, but only months, to achieve a break through that will boost his plummeting popularity ratings.