Mexican Drug Wars
Mexican drug traffickers supplied with American guns and money are fighting over control of territories in Mexico and drug transportation routes to the U.S. and South America. Many people have been killed or wounded during the drug wars – not only cartel and gang members but police officers, members of the military and civilians too.
In the month of June alone, 21 people were killed in a single shootout between the Sinaloa cartel and the Beltran Leyva cartel, a group that broke off from the Sinaloa, near the city of Nogales in Sonora, a Mexican state bordering Arizona. On July 16, a drug cartel upped its method of terror and set off the first successful car bomb of the Mexican drug wars.
More than 23,000 people have been killed since 2006, when President Felipe Calderon implemented his anti-drug policy and cracked down on drug gangs, according to an Associated Press article. The violence is concentrated in states along the Mexico-U.S. border, including Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua. In Ciudad Juarez, a Chihuahua city across the border from El Paso, Texas, violence kills about a dozen people a day. According to The Washington Post, the drug cartels recruit teenagers for drug and gun smuggling or even murder.
More than 23,000 people have been killed since 2006, when President Felipe Calderon implemented his anti-drug policy and cracked down on drug gangs.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations, called cartels, form alliances with street gangs and rivalries with other cartels. Two of the main cartels are the Sinaloa Cartel and the Juarez Cartel, which controls an important drug transportation route to the U.S. They have been fighting for control of the drug market in Ciudad Juarez since 2007, according to Reuters. Internal conflict within the gangs has given rise to others such as the Zetas and Gulf gangs, which are fighting to control territory in the state of Tamaulipas.
Mexico is the U.S.’s main foreign supplier of marijuana, and is the source of the majority of cocaine and heroin entering the country. In 2008, the Council on Foreign Relations reported that 90 percent of cocaine entering the U.S. is trafficked through Mexico. Much of the violence in places like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana comes from competition over markets of drug buyers in Mexico.
The gang violence is so extensive that the municipal police are often accommodating to gangs because law enforcement in general is full of corruption. Local Mexican police also don’t have enough weapons, resources or support to fight the gangs. William Booth, a Washington Post reporter living in Mexico, wrote that “it is common in Mexico for drug suspects to be arrested with fanfare—and for their criminal cases to fall apart later.”
In late January, unidentified gunmen stormed a high school party and killed 15 people in Ciudad Juarez, according to Associated Press reports. It is possible that a few of the party guests were connected with a drug gang, but most of the people killed were innocent civilians. It was the largest attack since 18 young people died in an attack on a drug rehabilitation center last September.
The Mexican national government has started to work with city governments to improve the lives of people living in violent areas and to try to stop young people from joining gangs.
Drug-fueled violence has driven businesses and people from the city of Juarez since the “drug wars” began. For those who stay, business owners must pay a “cuota” – an extortion fee – to gangs in exchange for protection. The Associated Press reports that Red Cross clinics in certain areas of Mexico refuse to treat gunshot wound victims. Cartel hit men have intercepted ambulances and forced entry into hospital rooms to seize patients. CNN reported that armed men invaded a drug rehabilitation center and killed 19 people in June.
The Mexican national government has started to work with city governments to improve the lives of people living in violent areas and to try to stop young people from joining gangs. A major part of this effort, called Plan Juarez, was launched after the birthday party shooting in January. In Juarez, there are few high schools and the judicial system is said to be broken. The Mexican government set aside 700 million pesos (roughly $52 million) in funding for housing, day care and anti-poverty programs in Ciudad Juarez, according to Associated Press. The Mexican government has also called for the U.S. to recognize its role in creating demand for drugs that leads to violence in Mexico.
The Obama administration has given Mexico $1.4 million for equipment and training for law enforcement officers. However, it is unclear whether this will effectively fight corruption and put an end to the Mexican drug war before violence makes its way across the border onto U.S. soil.
For more information, check out theTimes Topic on Mexican Drug Trafficking:
William Booth’s series of articles on violence and drugs in Mexico are here:
Para los que hablan español, the web site for the Ciudad Juarez newspaper is: www.diario.com.mx/
And the official Mexican government site is: www.gob.mx/wb/egobierno/temas
By Claire Austin
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