Narcotics, Weapons, and Audacity
Violence and corruption escalate in Mexican drug war
Just two and a half hours south of Claremont, Mexico’s location is a dream come true for the drug trade. Conveniently located within close proximity to the main drug-producing countries in Central America, Mexico also shares a 2000-mile long border with the United States – the largest drug-consuming nation in the world.
Mexican drug cartels have grown consistently in recent decades and are the leading supplier of drugs to the American market. Violence emerges when cartels compete against each other for control over Mexican regions and access to trafficking routes, and it escalates when Mexican government officials attempt to track down the cartel leaders and arrest them.
In a quest to demonstrate their sheer dominance, cartels have posted many of their executions on YouTube, tossed body parts into public areas on a number of different occasions, and have even left 35 bodies in the middle of a highway in Boca del Rio, a major tourist city.
The ongoing violence in Mexico often makes headlines. If travelers begin to feel that Mexico is an unsafe destination, it poses a considerable threat to the tourism industry. “Though in the past I have vacationed in Mexico with my family, because of all the violence in the news, I would not feel comfortable going now,” explains Rachel Clare PZ ‘14.
Why do these inhumane cartel organizations continue to grow? Why would anyone choose to participate in such violent tactics? The answer is simple, and they say it makes the world go round.
Money – $39 billion in profits to be exact. And that’s just in one year.
One kilogram of cocaine will sell for as much as $120,000 in the United States, while the cost of production in Mexico is a mere $2,000. Heroin, marijuana, and other narcotics yield similar statistics.
The extreme level of poverty in Mexico is one main reason for the success and growth of the drug trade. Forty six percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and those who are lucky enough to find a job will likely be paid the minimum wage of $5 per day. Thus, it is not surprising that over 450,000 Mexicans are employed by the drug cartels, most of whom are young males with no other economic opportunities.
Drug cartels have infiltrated numerous political institutions, especially on the local level – even the police force can no longer be trusted. Every government administration since the 1970s has attempted to reform the police, but without success. President Felipe Calderon has attempted to tackle the issue from a different angle by simultaneously addressing the corruption at the local, federal, and state levels.
“If corruption is present at the higher levels of an institution, the people working at the lower levels will be tainted by their leadership and also become corrupt,” explains Roderic Camp, CMC Professor of the Pacific Rim. “You can only reform police institutions if you professionalize the police force and instill a sense of integrity and responsibility at all levels.”
According to Camp, the American government should take a great deal of responsibility for the drug war in Mexico. The solution is simple: if the United States stopped providing such a large market for narcotics, the Mexican drug cartels would cease to exist, and the violence would end. Camp explains, “The United States needs to admit that they have a problem on the demand side – until then, there is little that Mexico can do about the causes of drug consumption, only its consequences.” He suggests that America should focus its attention on preventing drug use in the first place: “The most effective technique for reducing drug consumption is prevention through education, not interdiction.”
President Calderon began his term in 2006, and a new president will take office in December 2012. Strikingly, the total amount of money that Calderon’s government has spent on public administration and security over the past six years does not even compare to the amount of money that the drug cartels earn in one single year.
Looking to the future, a decisive end to the drug war will likely depend on the mutual cooperation of Mexican and American government officials. Hopefully the newly elected Mexican president is up for the challenge.