Editorials | Issues
|Success or Failure? Evaluating U.S.-Mexico Efforts to Address Organized Crime and Violence|
Andrew Selee - Mexico Institute
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January 04, 2011
Mexico has seen an upswing in drug-related violence as at least seven different organized crime groups dispute key corridors for trafficking cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamines to the U.S. market.
In 2009 alone, over 6,500 people were killed in showdowns between criminal organizations or between them and public authorities, and a growing number of civilians have been among those murdered. The number appears to have surpassed 10,000 already this year.
|Perhaps it was inevitable that a country located next to the United States, the world’s largest consumer market for illegal narcotics, would eventually become home to powerful crime groups bent on satisfying that market|
In addition, many of the trafficking organizations have branched out into other criminal enterprises, including extortion, kidnapping and immigrant smuggling. The murder of 72 migrants in Tamaulipas in August 2010 was a tragic reminder of these new ventures.
Mexican authorities correctly point out that the country’s overall murder rate is far below that of several other countries in Latin America, including Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia and El Salvador, and no different than that of the United States in the early 1990s.
Yet this is small comfort to those who live in those parts of the country, including many of the cities on the U.S.-Mexico border, where trafficking organizations are fighting against each other with a savagery that shapes people’s daily life. Moreover, the violence is only one symptom of a deeper problem – the growing strength of organized crime. The murder rate is high in the places where two or more groups are fighting over shipment corridors, but there are many more parts of the country where a single trafficking organization operates with impunity and often, with the complicity of public authorities.
Mexican organized crime groups were not always so powerful, but perhaps it was inevitable that a country located next to the United States, the world’s largest consumer market for illegal narcotics, would eventually become home to powerful crime groups bent on satisfying that market.
Mexico had long had small drug trafficking organizations that controlled some of the marijuana and heroin trade to U.S. consumers. However, in the 1980s, Colombian drug trafficking organizations began shifting their routes through Mexico, in response to increased interdiction in the Caribbean, and partnered with the Mexican traffickers to transport cocaine.
Throughout the 1990s, the Mexican traffickers grew in strength as the Colombian trafficking organizations were weakened, and they grew to control more of the cocaine market, as well as establishing themselves in the newly-lucrative business of synthetic drugs.
By the new millennium, the Mexican organizations had established their country as the new epicenter of the illegal narcotics trade in the hemisphere and the principal route to the United States.
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