The War on Drugs: New Statistics for a Continuing Struggle

Mexico has experienced an increasing number of drug related homicides over the past few years. This steady increase has been attributed to the growing tensions between drug cartels. In 2016, there were roughly 23,000 homicides. In 2017, that number increased to a record breaking 25,000 homicides, but the numbers are not finalized yet. Whatever the final number may be, there is a shocking upward trend in the amount of violence seen in Mexico.

Drug Cartels in Mexico /

Mexico has a long history with drug cartels. There are roughly seven main cartels at the moment , and each has control over a certain area of the country. The two main groups are the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation. Due to the extradition of the Sinaloa’s leader, Joaquín Guzmán, known as El Chapo, the two groups have high tensions as the leadership position in the Sinaloa Cartel is vacant. This lack of leadership has caused instability in the territory, causing the cartels to attempt in expanding their territory and drug sales in this chaotic time. This is a cause of the increasing violence rates in Mexico.

Two groups of people are in search for the control of the Sinaloa group in Guzmán’s absence. At first, it looked like Dámaso López Núñez, one of Guzmán’s top advisors, was going to take leadership in the cartel, but due to his capture in May of 2017, this possibility is not very likely. Guzmán’s sons, Iván Archivaldo and Jesús Alfredo, are also seeking to take control of the cartel.

Mexico’s top drug lord Joaquin /

Guzmán started off as a marijuana farmer in the Sinaloa region of Mexico. He then started smuggling the drugs to the United States, where there was a large market. As time went on, Guzmán gathered more and more money, territory, and a following. Additionally, the cartels have expanded to include hard drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. Guzmán has been wanted in both the United States and Mexico for over 20 years. During that time, he has been captured and placed in high security Mexican prisons, but he managed to escape – twice. After he broke out, the United States agreed to have him extradited. The extradition happened on the last night of President Obama’s days in office as a punch to President Trump. The release of Guzmán to the United States was sudden and unexpected. As of now, Guzmán has not had his trial, but it is scheduled for September of 2018.

The United States has a  crucial impact on the drug trade. Because Mexico shares a border with the United States, the US Government is very concerned with keeping the illegal drugs and violence out of the country. The United States and Mexico have signed a treaty together to extradite Guzmán. Since he was arrested, Guzmán has been charged with smuggling in illegal drugs into the states and smuggling out $14 billion. His trial in the United States was scheduled for April of 2018, but has been moved back to September 2018. Another effect the United States has on the illegal drug trade is in regards to the  legalization of marijuana. Now that marijuana is starting to become legal in many of the states, the market has become narrower. The drug cartels are now resorting to the sale of harder drugs.

The increasingly dangerous stress between the various drug cartels has made the country as a whole very dangerous. Even popular tourist destinations, such as Cancun, have had very high homicide rates in recent months. The tourist industry is one of Mexico’s biggest industries, so if the tourists stop coming out of fear, there will be huge negative implications for their economy. However, attendance has not dropped drastically, keeping revenue at its normal rate. This can change if the violence continues to get worse.

The drug trade in general is a reflection on Mexico’s ability to enforce the laws. They are in a time period of little rule of law, which makes it difficult to keep these cartels at bay. Often, the government is ineffective in preventing or lessening the drug related violence. Small cities, such as Tancítaro, which is located about 280 miles west from Mexico City, are taking matters into their own hands to reduce violence levels because of the lack of government protection. President Nieto promised to crack down on the violence, but his policies are similar to the actions of past presidents, which is proving to be ineffective.  

Enrique Pena Nieto /

Unfortunately, the drug trade is a complex issue that needs many actions to remedy. Mexican writer, Elena Poniatowska, spoke about the Mexican drug trade on January 12th in an interview. She is under the impression that the drug trade is both of the country’s faults: “[Mexico is] responsible for our poverty. But the United States is responsible for buying what hurts the country” (Poniatowska). The United States provides a huge market, which means a huge profit for the cartels and those smuggling the drugs into the United States. Both sides need to work to fix the problem that is causing the violence. In the United States, better treatment and prevention for drug abusers will reduce the overall demand. In Mexico, getting the government and the economy to a point where there is enough well-paying jobs and security that those jobs will be there will be a step in the right direction for eliminating the desire to work in the drug business.

Right now, Mexico is in the midst of a huge conflict that impacts the Mexican citizens tremendously. Citizens deserve to be able to live in their homes without fears of the cartels. In order to reverse the trend, many changes on both the United States and Mexico’s sides need to take place to make the two countries safer and a better place to live.

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