Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Story of Drug Trafficking in Latin America

Borderland Beat 

Historical background from Colombia to Mexico,
Recent Developments and Possible Solutions.

Genaro Aguilera-Reza
University of Kent – Brussels School of International Studies
Conflict and Security
Dr. Elise Feron
  1. Introduction
Drug trafficking is one of the most profitable illegal businesses that exists in the world. In the present day, there are many illicit organizations that yearly profits amount more than the regular annual revenue of many transnational companies. That explains the reason why people, especially those from regions with depressed economies in rural areas, want to join drug trafficking organizations in an attempt to get out of poverty and have lifestyles that they, otherwise could never afford. Despite the great economic benefits of joining a drug cartel, there are also numerous risks; people are aware of this, but still decide to join. In recent years, there have been thousands of deaths related to the war against drugs in Latin America and it has become a major security threat in the American continent and beyond.
Although there are several transnational crime organization, ranging from Italian Mafias such as the 'Ndrangheta, or the Yakuza in Japan, this research will focus on the case Latin American drug cartels. Colombian and Mexican cartels have been among the most powerful drug trafficking organizations worldwide in recent decades (Locke, 2012). The reason behind it is due to the fact that they are producers, distributors and also have the largest market for illicit drugs in their geographical proximity (Fillippone, 1994). Sometimes they even venture into human trafficking, extortion and kidnappings as ways to diversify their economies, thus becoming one of the main security threats in the American continent and elsewhere (Bagley, 2013).
Since the early 1970's when the consumption of drugs became more popular in the United States, drug producing regions in South America saw the opportunity of importing cocaine to the United States as the revenues obtained were superlative compared to softer drugs such as cannabis (Thoumi, 2002). Drug organizations started to become well organized with a set of structures that resembled any large business. Colombian cartels had producing and manufacturing sections, distribution and logistics, and finally the supply to the customers. All of these sections were covered effectively by Colombian drug organizations with the exception of distribution this being a direct result of American efforts to diminish the drug influx in their soil (Bagley, 2013). The drug organizations in Colombia first designed their shipments to go through the Caribbean into Miami but this route did not last long. When the U.S. anti-drug agencies reinforced the ports of entry, the Colombians needed new routes of distribution in order to keep the flows of cash coming.
The Colombians decided to take a different approach by using Mexican mafias in order to transport their products to the U.S. (Thoumi, 2005). It was relatively easier to transport drugs via submarines into Mexican ports or by Central America and then let the Mexican organizations take charge of transporting the drugs to the border with the US. Once in the border with the use of other members already present in the U.S. the distribution process was fulfilled. By this point the drug organizations in Colombia were very well organized, had international ties in countries like Mexico, Cuba, and the United States, and at the same time had political influence and economic power in the home country and the overall region (Thoumi, 2005).
By the end of the 1990's drug cartels in Colombia started to become a major problem for the nation as clashes between different organizations were threatening the rest of the population and the government was constantly defied by the leaders of the these organizations. With help from U.S. intelligence agencies, the government in Colombia started carrying out a strategy to battle the criminal organizations by targeting the main leaders of the cartels and that way make the cartel structures collapse (Bagley, 2005). The government strategy turned out to be a somewhat successful measure to diminish the drug related violence and a certain peace was achieved. But the story was different in Mexico.
A power vacuum was left when the last Colombian cartels were dismantled and in response smaller new organizations started to appear in Colombia that supplied the recently developed Mexican cartels with the illegal substance (Beittel, 2013). In a matter of years, Mexico took the leadership role in drug trafficking in the American continent and the same problems that started affecting Colombia in the 1990's and 2000's started to become present in Mexico as well.
Conflict and insecurity are a direct result of drug trafficking and for the cases of Colombia and Mexico, this is not the exception. This research will argue that Colombian and Mexican cartels shared some similarities, and that several experiences in Colombia in the 1990's and 2000's could be applied to the ongoing problem in Mexico as a way to alleviate the security crisis. This analysis will explain the historical background of both Mexican and Colombian Cartels, their similarities and differences, as well as the ways that Mexico could alleviate its drug violence problem by understanding the approach that Colombia's government used against the drug cartels. The next section will explain in detail the roots of the formation of cartels in Mexico and Colombia.
II. Historical Background
The problem of drug trafficking is a relatively new phenomenon that appeared in the late twentieth century. In the United States during the decade of the 1960's and 1970's the use of drugs became popularized among the youth and countercultures that sparked repercussion in other parts of the American continent. Poor and rural communities in Latin American and Caribbean countries started to see the chance of exporting marijuana to the United States as the revenues of trafficking were very high in combination with the lack of employment in their home nations. When the American government agencies started to put pressure on several countries to diminish the influx of marijuana in to their nation, as well as changing tastes in the use of drugs, these small communities in Latin America had to find other ways of keeping their revenues coming by shifting to a better export: cocaine. (Thoumi, 2002 & 2005).
Cocaine seemed like the perfect drug to traffic because compared to marijuana; its price by pound is considerably higher. This gave the opportunity for smugglers to ship smaller volumes of cargo that would give revenues many times higher than those of the marijuana. An additional advantage of this drug is the fact that it’s endemic to certain climate regions in the world, the Andean region being one of the most suitable for the coca plant. Similarly, the production and manufacturing of cocaine is not as complicated as the methods of producing synthetic drugs such as MDMA or Methamphetamine. (Bagley, 2013).
In the case of Colombia, “in the mid-1970s, illegal entrepreneurs began to export small quantities of cocaine to the United States” (Thoumi, 2002:105), the high returns allowed these small groups of traffickers, to consolidate their operations by investing that money in hiring more people to take care of the crops, as well as, construction of infrastructure to facilitate drug shipments to get in and out of the areas of production. New roads, airplane landing strips and communities of families dedicated to the production of cocaine started to appear all over the jungles of Colombia (Bagley, 2013 & Thoumi, 2005). Another factor that helped the grow of cartels in Colombia was the fact that there were a numerous amount of internally displaced people due to other conflicts in the region such as the guerrillas, and the people end up settling in remote parts of Colombia (Thoumi, 2005). In fact, “Coca planting in Colombia developed almost exclusively in areas recently settled by displaced peasants where the state has weak if any presence” (Thoumi, 2002:105), because of these factors the once small organizations were starting to grow not only in numbers of members but also in economic and political power as they had better and educated leadership in the top of their organizations.
Two of the first organizations to develop the most intricate illegal structures were the Medellin Cartel and their rival the Cali Cartel during the decade of the 1980's. Although both organizations had somewhat similar stories, with the exception that Cali Cartel was mostly an independent rival, the extent of power of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel will be the focus of this section as it gives a better overview of the drug related violence experience in Colombia. “The Medellin Cartel was formed in response to the kidnapping of a member of the Ochoa family (prominent family linked to the organization) by M-19 guerrillas” (Filippone, 1994:325). In order to diminish the power of the guerrillas in the area of production of cocaine several of the families of producers decided to invest in having their own paramilitary groups that could protect them against kidnappings and other types of attacks towards them (Fillipone, 1994). In addition to a stronger network in their home country, the use of Colombian newly arrived migrants in the United States, as well as an already established Colombian community in cities like Miami and New York helped the Medellin Cartel to make their routes of distribution to reach other regions of the Unites States (Thoumi 2002). It wasn't uncommon for the cartel to send member to reside in the United States to take care of the distribution centers and expand their territories of influence while their bosses remained in Colombia. “They [Cartel Bosses] did more than direct the processing and distribution of cocaine. They built the organization into a multinational entity that influenced events beyond the scope of international drug business” (Filippone, 1994:326). With increasing revenue from drug trafficking, the Medellin Cartel started to venture into politics and business of Colombia (Filippone, 1994). The cartel would finance political campaigns as well as businesses in many sectors. In a similar way, the revenues gained from drug trafficking were increasing the national GDP and the economy was in better shape than past years, therefore “when the illegal drug industry began to grow in Colombia it was not perceived as a social threat and it was very difficult to move public opinion against it” (Thoumi, 2005:13).
What seemed like the perfect business soon started coming to an end. With increasing fighting between different cartels for territory and areas of influence, the drug cartels started to become a major issue for the government and civilian population of Colombia. “After the 1989 assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan” the next to presidential terms were “followed by a war against narco-terrorism that destroyed the Medellin Cartel” (Thoumi, 2002:109). The Cali Cartel suffered the same fate as the U.S. kept pressuring the government in Colombia to end the violence and drug trafficking (Bagley, 2013). Soon the Medellin Cartel leader, Pablo Escobar was killed and the organization end up disappearing, similarly some of the main actors of the Cali Cartel were arrested and their organization dismantled (Thoumi, 2005).
By the end of the 1990's, the trafficking of illicit substances was now taken over by two different actors,the smaller community based drug gangs and their rivals, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and both operated mostly in the rural and inaccessible jungle regions of Colombia. (Bagley, 2013). These two groups had very different reasons of taking over the profitable market of drugs that lead to even more intense and violent conflicts than with the cartels. The FARC is a paramilitary group that started in the 1960's a separatist group with Marxism ideals they have been in a constant fight with the government ever since and in fact are now considered a terrorist by most western governments. On the other hand, the community based drug gangs are remainders of the old cartels lowest ranks. FARC's means of financing their operations started to become increasingly difficult and the guerrilla group took advantage of the opportunity of the power vacuum left by the cartels and decided to venture in to the drug trafficking business (Thoumi, 2002). The conflict started get increasingly violent when FARC tried to take over zones that were controlled by the drug gangs and create a wave of drug violence in Colombia in the last years of the 1990's. This wave of violence resulted in renewed international pressure to end the violence and the influx of drugs especially from the U.S. so, “ in July 2000, President Clinton and the US government responded by backing the Andres Pastrana administration in its war against run away drug production and trafficking in Colombia via the adoption of Plan Colombia” (Bagley, 2013:103). The Plan Colombia was meant as a way of targeting the overall violence, drug trafficking and alleviate the economies of the rural parts of Colombia (Veillette, 2005). The US government provided substantial amounts of monetary aid to the government of Pastrana in the first half of the 2000's, in turn the politicians invested in the improvement of security forces, built a less corrupt police and military force, and to rebuild communities devastated by the drug violence. On a 2005 report for the US Congress, Connie Veillete explains that “While there has been measurable progress in Colombia's internal security, as indicated by decrease of violence and in the eradication of drug crops, no effect has been seen with regard to price, purity and availability of cocaine and heroin in the United States” (3). This statement speculates that the violence in Colombia was nearly over thanks to the plan implementation by the Colombian government but the production kept ongoing and the distribution was probably made by an external actor, in this case, the Mexican Drug Cartels. “As an unintended consequence of the US-backed war on drugs in Colombia, the locus of organized criminal involvement in cocaine trafficking gradually shifted northwards from Colombia to Mexico. As the Uribe administration and the US-backed Plan Colombia succeeded at least partially in Colombia against the war against drug traffickers, the major drug trafficking networks in Mexico took advantage of the vacuum left in the drug trade to take over control of cocaine smuggling operation from Colombia into the United States” (Bagley, 2013:104).
The story of the Mexican Drug cartels is somewhat similar to their Colombian counterparts. One of the earliest drug organizations was the Guadalajara Cartel, formed in the early 1980s's and headquartered in the west coast Mexican city of the same name. The main leader of the Guadalajara Cartel was Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo an ex-body guard for the state governor of Sinaloa, Mexico that used his connections to control most of the drug trafficking in the route of drugs coming from South America into the United States (Kellner & Pipitone, 2010). As opposed to the drug organizations in Colombia, the Guadalajara Cartel wasn't a producer of cocaine, so in the early stages of the organization they had to transport it from the Andean region. The story changed when the US complicated the drug route of the Caribbean into Miami and the Medellin Cartel and similar Colombian actors had to divert their routes into Panama, Central American and finally into Mexico. By the time drugs made it into Mexico, the Guadalajara Cartel had already established an impressive system of connections, routes, corrupt officials and members of their cartel present in different areas of Mexico (Kellner & Pipitone, 2010).
Felix Gallardo proved to be an excellent diplomat as the country of Mexico didn’t experience any type of violence as the one seen in Colombia during the decade of the 1980's and early 1990's. He achieved this by “[d]istributing power and spoils, he built a nationwide trafficking network whose members rarely resorted to violence. Under Felix Gallardo's system, territories were carved out for local chieftains, and whenever another group needed access to his region, a tribute was paid” (Kellner, Pipitone, 2010:30). This game plan resulted favorably for everybody involved in the drug business trafficking, they were making enormous amounts of money while maintaining a certain image in the country of stability and a minimal amount of casualties. Unfortunately for the drug trafficking organizations, Felix Gallardo was captured by Mexican forces in 1989 (Kellner & Pipitone, 2010). He still managed to have control of the situation while in jail by organizing routes and treaties between cartels, but it only lasted so long as the situation was changing fast in Colombia. “During the 1990's, as a more chaotic arrangement began to take shape the Colombian and Mexican trafficking groups established a new deal allowing the Mexicans to receive a percentage of the cocaine in each shipment as payment for their transportation services” (Kellner, Pipitone, 2010:30). This was a key point in the history of Mexican cartels as this deal allowed them to cut the middle man, get their own supply of the valuable substance and that way have the opportunity to grow in power.
An unexpected change was that at the same time that this new deal was occurring, the remaining Colombian cartels were very hardly hit by the Plan Colombia and their power was diminished greatly, in addition, the main cartels Cali and Medellin were dismantled years ago (Veillete, 2005). The great power that the Colombian cartels once had was turned over to the Mexicans and their role in the trafficking business became that one of the producers.
The amount of power that the Mexican drug cartels were achieving was enormous as the market for drugs was just in the border of their own country. The easily corrupted officials allowed the drug organizations to achieve excellent networks of transportation and thus reducing costs (Veillette, 2005). The location of Mexico, having access to the Gulf of Mexico, Caribeean Sea and Pacific Ocean, possessing a wide variety of climates ranging from deserts and rainforests, to mountain ranges and coniferous forests, the existence of a reliable infrastructure of highways and sea ports, and being one of the countries with the most airports in the world, in addition to its border with economically and political depressed Guatemala and the biggest market of drugs, the United States, gave the chance to Mexican drug trafficking organizations to establish illicit empires that were not yet seen anywhere in the world. Their main driver for the establishment of advanced cartel structure was the money to be made. Although “ it Is difficult to have an exact figure for the money that drug trafficking generates in Mexico, but most of the calculations places it between $6 billion and $15 billion annually, representing between 1 percent and 3 percent of Mexico's GDP” (Chabat, 2002:137).
But as the immensity of the money was too much to control for a single group, in addition to Felix Gallardo being incarcerated and its model of cooperation terminated, drug cartels began to develop in different areas of the country in order to control as much as the territory possible to achieve even bigger revenues. “As earnings shot up, so did violence. Starting in the mid 1990's, drug gangs in Mexico grew more independent and began fighting for more control and larger territories” (Kellner & Pipitone: 2010: 30). As a result, violence that took place in the 1990's and early 2000's in Colombia was now transported to Mexico, an unwanted secondary effect of the American-backed war on drugs in Colombia. The U.S. managed to stop the violence in Colombia, but mistakenly caused more damage by bringing it right to America's southern neighbour and main economic partner in the developing world.
The violence taking place in Mexico was a factor that delineated the next decades up until the present day in Mexico, Central America and to a certain extent the United States. The next section will give an overview of the ongoing drug war in Mexico, the role of the main actors and the possible outcomes of this security threat in Latin America.
Current situation and possible outcomes
By the first half of the 2000's “Mexico had become a world headquarters for the drug trade” (Chabat, 2002:137). As explained earlier the Felix Gallardo system allowed different actors to participate in the drug trade without harming each other as long as a tribute was paid to the Guadalajara Cartel, but the incarceration of the main leader put an end to this scheme. The organizations that started to form due to the lack of a centralized drug cartel control, became increasingly powerful. During the Zedillo's presidential term, there were already an important presence of drug organizations around the country (Chabat, 2002: 139) . The earliest actors became the Tijuana and Juarez cartel that operated from those two border cities. However, the picture of drug trafficking in Mexico is more complicated. Splits between groups, alliances, hunger for more territories, and development of newer technologies, fueled by an illegal industry that yearly's revenue was in the billions of dollars brought Mexico into a major security crisis (Beittel, 2013: 39). The following section will elaborate, in no particular order, on each individual drug cartel. This section will include detailed information about their history, formation, geographical operational area and their allies and rivals.
The Tijuana Cartel. Started in the state of Baja California after the loss of power in the Guadalajara Cartel. The main leader saw the opportunity to relocate their operations to Tijuana as it will keep them closer to their objective of bringing the drugs over to San Diego. Its leadership included Amado Carrillo Fuentes, Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman, and Arellano Felix. “The seven Arellano Felix brothers and four sisters inherited the drug fiefdom from their uncle Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, after his arrest in 1989 for the murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique Kiki Camarena” (Beitel, 2013:10). One of its main rivals and business competitors is the Juarez Cartel. Although it was one of the most powerful organizations in the 1990's and early 2000's the Tijuana Cartel lost a lot of power after some of its main leaders were apprehended by Mexican and US forces. Some of its leadership, predominantly, Joaquin Guzman, created the Sinaloa Cartel and became enemies of Tijuana Cartel. As of current months, it is known that the Tijuana Cartel still maintains presence in the area of Tijuana, Mexicali and Tecate (Kellner & Pipitone:2010).
The next cartel is based in the northern city of Ciudad Juarez that shares a border with El Paso, TX. The Juarez Cartel became one of the most important drug organizations in Mexico in recent years. Its lead by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (Amado Carrillo’s sibling). Amado Carrillo was assassinated by Mexican officials in the first half of the 2000's and his brother Vicente was in charge of controlling drug trade in Juarez and El Paso (Beittel, 2013). When the Tijuana Cartel was taken over by different leadership, Vicente created the Juarez Cartel to protect its influence in the area (Beiittel, 2013). The city of Juarez has always been on of the main points of transit of illegal substances since the times of the prohibition of alcohol in the Unites States. Its proximity to the United States, the infrastructure of the city that possesses 7 ports of entry into the states of Texas and New Mexico, and the economic power of the city of Juarez a perfect point of operation for drug organizations. In recent years the cartel has been fighting their rivals Sinaloa Cartel for this particular turf. In Ciudad Juarez, “Between 2007 and 2011 more than 9,000 people were killed, with the peak coming in 2010, when Juarez saw a record 3,116 homicides, or about 8 murders per day, according to figures released by the attorney general's office [Chihuahua state]” (Valencia & Chacon, 2013) this numbers being a direct result of the fighting between Juarez and Sinaloa Cartels.
Juarez's rivals Sinaloa Cartel are the offspring of the ancient Guadalajara Cartel, until recently, the main leaders are Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and “El Mayo”Zambada hailing from the state of Sinaloa, in the Pacific coast of Mexico. Its territory is made up of mostly northern states, and two thirds of the Pacific coast of Mexico while keeping important presence in Mexico City. While its main leader “El Chapo” had been apprehended in the late 1990's, he bribed security guards at Alomoloya de Juarez, Mexico's maximum security prison, and escaped in 2001 (Bagley, 2013). He built a drug empire in less than 15 years that placed him among among Mexico's richest men according to the prestigious business magazine, Forbes. “Sinaloa reportedly has a substantial presence in some 50 countries, including throughout the Americas, Europe, West Africa, and South East Asia. Often described as the most powerful mafia organization in the Western Hemisphere, Sinaloa is also reported to be cohesive. In 2011, it expanded operations into Mexico City and into Durango, Guerrero, and Michoacan states while continuing its push into territories in both Baja California and Chihuahua once controlled by Tijuana and Juarez DTO'S [Drug Trafficking Organizations]” (Beittel, 2013: 12). Guzman's cartel almost completely wiped off the Tijuana and Juarez Cartel and took over a large amount if its influence in northern Mexico in the late 2000's up to 2014 (Kellner & Pipitone, 2010). In the most recent developments in February 2014, Joaquin Guzman was recaptured by a joint military and navy operation in a hotel in his home state of Sinaloa. It is unknown as of today what will happen to the leadership of this cartel but its existence and power remains after months of Guzman's capture.
On the east coast of Mexico, the Gulf Cartel is Sinaloa's main enemy and controls the geographical territory expanding from the Yucatan Peninsula, Southeast Mexico and into the border with South Texas. The main leader of this group is Osiel Cardenas Guillen and he managed to create a armed group to work for them named Los Zetas (Beittel, 2013:9-10). They are corrupted ex-Mexico army soldiers that became the enforcers for the cartel. After the capture of Cardenas Guillen, Los Zetas separated themselves from the Gulf Cartel and establish their own operation on an even larger territory as their former allies. (Beittel, 2013:10).
Los Zetas are another important cartel controlling most of the Gulf of Mexico and key cities like Veracruz and Cancun. In addition there has been evidence of presence of this drug organization in Central America. As they are formerly Mexican soldiers, the Zetas are experienced in military strategies, fire arm maneuvers as well as being described as the most violent and blood thirsty of all the Mexican cartels (Bagley, 2013). This particular group initiated the use of intimidation to civilians in order to diversify their revenues during the bloodiest years of the drug war (Kellner & Pipitone, 32). Their operations include kidnapping, racketing, and even venture into human trafficking. They have been attributed some of the most brutal, gruesome and goriest attacks on their enemies that are only comparable to those seen by Islamic extremist groups in the Middle East.
As these different cartels continue their fighting, this research will now transfer and finalize with the role of the Mexican government in the drug violence related security crisis in Mexico, what can be learned from the actions that Colombia took in the past decades to almost eradicate their violence problem, and an outlook to the future of Mexico's future.
The Role of The Mexican Government and conclusion
Mexico has been taking an active role to end the drug violence in their country. When President Calderon took office in 2006, he declared a war against the drug cartels and its results have been astonishing. In 2012, when the constitutional presidential term in Mexico terminated for “President Felipe Calderon, who sent battalions of poorly trained soldiers into the streets to fight powerful transnational crime organizations, le[ft] the battlefield ... after six years with at least 60,000 dead in drug violence and the war essentially a stalemate” (Miroff, Booth, 2012). As a way to replicate the relative success of the Plan Colombia, Mexico's government implemented the Merida Initiative on the last half of the 2000's. “Despite the proximity to the United States, the Obama administration has been providing only modest support to its southern neighbor. Mexico will largely have to make do with $1.4 billion in funds over three years appropriated under the so-called Merida initiative, a program launched by President George W. Bush aimed at buttressing border, maritime and air control from the U.S. southern border to Panama” (Kellner & Pipitone, 2010:37). Not only is a modest amount, but it is actually a ridiculous figure compared to the earnings of the drug cartels combined. The lack of necessary investment is arguably one the reasons the Merida Initiative has failed to accomplish its mission. In any case, Bagley argues that even if this initiative had the same degree of success as the Plan Colombia, “the most likely outcome is that it will drive both further underground in Mexico while pushing many smuggling activities into neighboring countries such as Guatemala and Honduras and back to Colombia and the Andes” (2013: 104). We can observe this effects already taking place as there important presence of Sinaloa and Zetas in Guatemala and El Salvador (Dudley, 2013). Although there has been improvement of violence in the last months, when President Pena Nieto took office in December 2012 he stated the the war would keep going.
As a matter of fact, the violence has dropped in most of the country, a special case occurring in Ciudad Juarez, where there were more than 8 killed a day during the most violent years now its observing a revival in its society and economy. In a similar way, in February 2014 the leader of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured which might lead to the similar situation as in Colombia when Pablo Escobar was eliminated.
The government of Mexico can have different approaches to keep the violence numbers down. They could keep pursuing main leaders especially of major cartels such as Juarez, Gulf and Zetas and hope for a similar story as in Colombia in the early 1990's. Or another approach could be to make policy to make harsher penalties for corrupted officials, but at the same time raising wages of police bodies, military and navy so the bribes coming from the drug kingpins would not be as attractive. In any case, the story of Colombia and Mexico are not as similar as it seems to be. Colombia did not have the world’s biggest consumer of drugs bordering their nation, and the technology today is not the same as it was in the 1980's and 1990's. Indeed, with technology today the government of Mexico could do better. For example, the use of drones, especially in the mountain ranges of Sinaloa and Chihuahua, or the deserts of Baja California and Coahuila where the drug lords usually hide would be of great benefit for the Pena Nieto administration. Similarly, as Mexico's economy keeps growing and is becoming the powerhouse of Latin America, a bigger expenditure in the areas of military and defense with possible foreign training would be a great asset against the drug cartels. In addition, an increase in the sector of public education could contribute to make it less attractive for the young unemployed population to join the ranks of the drug cartels and instead pursue an honest well-paying job. All these possible solutions could contribute to the decrease in violence, but is sometimes completely dependent on the complicated political system of Mexico. Political parties should work together to achieve the greater good instead of pursuing their own agendas. It is interesting to observe what will occur in Pena Nieto's presidential term as there is plenty of space for new ideas to combat the security problem caused by the drug cartels.
Bagley, Bruce. "The Evolution of Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime in Latin America." Sociologia, Problemas e Practicas : 99-123 (2013) Web. 12 April 2014

Beittel, June S.. "Mexico's Drug Trafficking Organizations: Source and Scope of the Violence." Congressional Research Service (April 15, 2013): n. pag. Web. 12 April 2014

Chabat, Jorge. "Mexico's War on Drugs: No Margin for Maneuver." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 582 (July, 2002): 134-148. Web. 12 April 2014

Cornell, Svante E.. "Narcotics and Armed Conflicts: Interaction and Implications." Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 30 (30 Oct 2007): 207-227. Web. 12 April 2014

Dudley, Steven. "Guatemala's New Narco-map: Less Zetas, Same Chaos." Insight Crime: Organized Crime in the Americas: n. pag. Web.

Fillippone, Robert. "The Medellin Cartel: Why We Can't Win The War." Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 17: 323-344. Web.

Kenney, M.. "From Pablo To Osama: Counter-terrorism Lessons From The War On Drugs." Survival 45 (Autumn 2003): 187-206. Print. 12 April 2014

Lee, Briana. "Mexico's Drug War." Council on Foreign Relations 5 Mar. 2014. Print. 12 April 2014

Miroff, Nick, and William Booth. "Mexico's Drug War Is at a Stalemate as Calderon's Presidency Ends." The Washington Post 27 Nov. 2012: n. pag. Web. 12 April 2014

O'Neil, Shannon. "The Real War in Mexico." Foreign Affairs 88:4 (Jul/Aug 2009 ): n. pag. Web 12 April 2014.

Pipitone, Francesco, and Kellner., Thomas "Inside Mexico's Drug War." World Policy Journal 27:1, 29-37. (Spring 2010) Web. 12 April 2014

Thoumi, F. E.. "The Colombian Competitive Advantage in Illegal Drugs: The Role of Policies and Institutional Changes." Journal of Drug Issues 35:7, 7-26. (2005) Web. 12 April 2014

Thoumi, Francisco E.. "Illegal Drugs in Colombia: From Illegal Economic Boom to Social Crisis." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 582: 102- 116 (Jul. 2002) Web. 12 April 2014

Valencia, Nick, and Arturo Chacon. "Juarez shedding violent image, statistics show." CNN 5 Jan. 2013: n. pag. Web. 12 April 2014

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About the Author
Originally from the El Paso- Juarez border area, Genaro Aguilera-Reza is currently a candidate for an M.A. in International Migration from the University of Kent –Brussels School of International Studies. He holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Arkansas where he focused his research on the Middle East and Latin America. He is currently residing in Brussels, Belgium where he also is an intern at the Atlantic Treaty Association.


  1. John Cleve Green dealt mondo opium and built nice buildings for Princeton U.

  2. What a crap article. The guy is so obviously sponsored by old school neo-con 'war on drugs' jihadists. Well buddy I got news for you:
    1. Legalization would end the violence overnight
    2. Drugs are purer, cheaper and more readily available then EVER BEFORE!

    Stop the war and start legalization!

  3. Sadly lacking in intellectual rigor. Shallow analysis, very poorly written. That said, good overview for the unititiated.

  4. I don't know about the Professors and experts, I am just little guy who was invested in MX. Well a least I am alive and is my family except for one family member who did not make it. I know I am not the only one in Tamps. whos family not been touch by this horrible take over by the bad guys. Its not just the cartel, its everybody who has a AK47. I am not Mexican, but feel very sorry the hard working and honest citizens of Tamps. I wish I could do something about. Sec. of Security Osorio Chong says he is, but does not look good. They (Govt) let it go to long and now it is out of control. Does anyone have a answer?

  5. Riddled with fallacies, this article is a waste of time

  6. It is crudely written, but the factual basis is there. I am glad B B posted this. I know that people are sick of narco violence. This article explains why young people are getting involved, though. Poverty in this world has created a huge vacume that elevates people that have nothing else. Chapo Guzman has no education at all. But he ran a multi billion dollar corporation.

    Really good job, BB. Keep up the good work.

  7. does anyone think this every end?

  8. I read it, but I have live it

  9. Legalization is not 100% the answer. Just look at alcohol. It's legal and it has ruined so many lives. Drunk drivers, deadly fights, alcoholism and health problems. Not to mention mental and physical abuse on kids and family members.

    Legalizing weed is one thing but legalizing coke, heroin, meth and all those crazy drugs would not be a good idea. Plus it would mean cartels going from trafficking drugs to human and organ trafficking, racketeering, extortion and kidnappings.

    I think the author has a point. Pay a little more to cops and soldiers, prosecute corrupt officials and make education more affordable and accessible to poor kids. Punish those who betray the good side and reward those who stay clean and on the righteous path.

    When I was growing up in Mexico, as soon as I finished 6th grade I faced a serious dilemma, I was either forced to come up with money to get into 7th grade or start working to help my family. With that sort of education you can only get jobs with little pay forcing you to suffer hunger. Seeing your kids suffer can make you join the criminal organizations. Yes, I think education is the solution to Mexico's drug problem. Mexico has it all to prosper, the problem is ignorance and corruption.

    Of course, it's easier said than done but one can only hope Mexico becomes a peaceful country once again. Sure, cartels could still exist but let them be like the old times, bad guys versus bad guys. None of that I kill my enemy, his wife, his kids, his entire family and the dog. Hell, even the neighbors are getting some lead.


  10. I noticed one fundamental difference between Colombia's situation as apposed to Mexico; that is, when the leaders of the Cali and Medellin cartels were eliminated, it seemed to have crumbled the organization. In contrast, when Mexico eliminates a leader, it seems a lieutenant is waiting to take his place or their is an internal conflict and the cartel splits ( a very powerful example gulf cartel and zetas).

  11. Nothing against the author, I'm glad to see a young latino pursuing an education and showing interest in issues that matter. However, why is this site posting someone's homework assignment? There are plenty of untouched news stories out there. I've followed your site for some time now, and, I must say, your desire to keep the public informed is fading. I will dig up a few of my college papers and submit them to you, they read just like this one!


  13. Interesting paper, the idea of writing it was good; however, I found several statements with wrong information and facts that were not true so Genearo should double check his sources. For instance, Amado Carrillo was not killed my Mexican officials in the first half of the 2000's. His death was reported in 1997 after allegedly dying as a result of having a failed plastic surgery. Another fact that is wrong is that El Chapo escaped from Almoloya de Juarez when it was actually from Puente Grande, Jalisco. I found many other mistakes of this nature throughout the paper which causes Genaro to lose credibility. Well intended paper, but you need to check your sources.

  14. Legalisation may not 100% be the answer to the social aspects of drug use and abuse but it would be a massive leap in the right direction and take the revenue streams that the cartels use to corrupt and terrorise away from them

  15. Legalization of any crime doesn't end it, it only ends prosecution. The crime is greed which place the value of material goods ahead of the value of human life. The elimination of the market, an end to the desire of 1st world people to escape reality is the solution, and the chances are next to none.
    Only hope lies in self defense to force the threat to another locale. Each individual must defend his own home and family-- with the help of his fellow neighbors. Autodefensas.

  16. Like i've said in the past-poison all of the hard drugs and let the user o.d!!!! Everybody would win, no hosptal bills, no jail, no lawyers, no feeding . There is no need for tweekers and ahrd core junkies!!!! They are worthless and deserve to die...

    1. Klaus! I thought your in Bolivia!

  17. Would it eliminate the problem of kidnapping to legalize kidnapping? Extortion? Murder? No, the problem is based in the economic deprivation of the people through corruption in central governments. If Mexico were allowed to sell their production, there would be no need to violate a law to feed their children.
    The criminals will be criminals and all legalization of heroin and cocaine, meth and weed will never turn criminals into something they aren't.
    Much of the blame goes on the consumers, much of the solution is in the marketplace.
    Stop buying the cartel product, serch out and eliminate the murderous individuals

  18. Legalization of illegal drugs would be the best solution to ending the violence that comes with the war on drugs. It would take the mystery/romanticism that comes with the substances that are considered illegal drugs. By regulating/legalizing illegal drugs, the govt. can make so-called illegal drugs as safe as possible to consume, purchase, and sale. If somebody wants to make money off drugs they can work in the industry. The drug war drives many industries that would get hurt with legalization such as: prison industry, law-enforcement, arms trafficking, etc. The citizens of the world have come-up with many ingenious ways to better society and the human imagination is endless/creative. I think it's time human ingenuity comes-up with better ideas in dealing with the social ills that come with narcotics that are considered illegal.

  19. "Amado Carrillo was assassinated by Mexican officials in the first half of the 2000's and his brother Vicente was in charge of controlling drug trade in Juarez and El Paso (Beittel, 2013)." few things about this: first off, there are two separate statements being made there. are both being sourced by Beittell? Amado Carrillos death is one of the most debated deaths in cartel history that there is so i find it literally unbelievable that anyone would suggest a definite scenario around his death. if i remember rightly the official story was that it was accidental. in any case the way this is written makes it unclear what exactly is being is said. secondly, he died in in 1997 not the 2000's.

    "Its [tijuana cartel] leadership included Amado Carrillo Fuentes, Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman, and Arellano Felix." thats plain incorrect. theres also no source given for that.

  20. the author, Dr Elise Feron,
    --posted by buggs for BB,
    --genaro seems to just have found this article but not necessarily be the author...
    anyways, if you google:
    --Just how old is the DRUG WAR, and WHO profits?!?!
    --CONSPIRATORS HIERARCHY: The story of the committee of 300, ©1992 by Jim Coleman, america west publishers
    --DOPE inc
    --the opium wars
    --britain's opium war against the US
    --drug trafficking and organized crime
    --the main families benefitting from drug trafficking opium...
    etc etc etc, anybody can find a lot more information than on this article that seems a bit "slanted", like the mexican or colombian drug traffickers , cartels and criminals just sprouted from some nopales, which is not the case, by any means.
    klaus barbie the nazi living in bolivia, the CIA asset, torturer and drug trafficker, allied with german pharmaceutical companies, armed to the teeth with latin amercan gorillas set it all up, for the CIA and his allies on the dirty wars on latin america.
    Coca-Cola, famous for the magic name that enshrines the original most necessary ingredient of the pause that "refreshes", while not knowingly, it promoted the use of cocaine in its drinks, with pepsi close behind, but coca-cola was not going to get rid of such an important money maker, or the lands where it was cultivated, like opium it was made affordable to the masses by the CIA scientists, in the form of crack, which is used by the most ignorant of people, who can not wait one minute to spend their last two dollars on it, and some rich who love the life for the hell of it.
    yeah, bring dope to the masses, let the traffickers get rich, legalize it, people will be too busy to see how the US keeps getting fucked up in the ass by those that did it before to CHINA from the 1660's, for all the marbles...
    drug traffickers should be shotgunned in the ass and hung from their balls, after confessing who they work for.
    england has never had anything from their fucking island that they did not steal from somebody else, be it china, india, or latin america, and now once more here they come again...

  21. 4:12, i was living i bolivia until my friends the US protectorate sold me down the river to the french, who put me in prison until my long delayed (thanks to the US/CIA) demise.
    now in hell, i wait for you, atte: klaus, the butcher of lyons,CIA assett, german pharma man on the south americas and godmother of the neo-nazi movement around the world...(-8{

  22. @4:12 and @4:15 retard petard, el mil mascaras strikes out again!
    WHY? WHEN?


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