One of the great tragedies of North America right now is the Mexican drug war. The drug cartels have a large influence on local society and the illicit drugs being funneled to the US and the rest of the world are driving huge profits. This has caused foreign governments to lend assistance to the Mexican government to stop the violence.
There is an estimated 6,700 licensed firearms dealers in the United States along the U.S.-Mexico border. There is only 1 legal firearms retailer in Mexico.
Mexican Drug War
Since December 2006, more than 60,000 people have been killed in the drug war that has been being fought as cartels battle each other and government forces for territorial control. According to the Human Rights Watch, many of the victims aren’t the bad guys. It is the average person, trying to stay out of the way, that is being used as a pawn in this deadly “game” of war.
- Nearly 70% of guns recovered from Mexican criminal activity from 2007 to 2011 had an origination point in the United States.
- 90% of the cocaine that enters into the United States either originated or was transported from Mexico.
- Mexico is the primary supplier of meth and marijuana to the United States.
- Mexican drug cartels take in between $19 to $29 billion annually from U.S. drug sales.
- The amount spent annually in the U.S. on the war on drugs: $51,000,000,000.
- The number of people in the U.S. that died from a drug overdose in 2010: 38,329.
- Estimated annual revenue that California would raise if it taxed and regulated the sale of marijuana: $1,400,000,000.
- 88% of the people who are in US prisons on drug charges that are related to marijuana are there because of simple possession charges.
- 61% of those in prison right now because of drug charges are either African-American or Hispanic.
The reason why the drug cartels in Mexico exist in the first place is because there is a demand for their product. One of the simplest solutions available to stopping this war would be to limit their access to the drug market in the first place. In the past, this has been attempted by using law enforcement officials to intervene during sales so that a cartel can be infiltrated and made to become defunct. What may be more effective would be to keep the billions in annual sales away from the cartels by regulating the industry at home. As prison budgets increase, so do prison populations and laws that can keep people in jail for longer. If we change that and begin taxing and regulating drugs [that were all once considered legal in the United States], then maybe the tens of thousands of lives being lost in violence can end.
Won’t Taxing and Regulating Drugs Create More Overdose Deaths?
- 3,000 law enforcement officials have been killed during the Mexican drug war, which is equal to the number of allied soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
- 5,000 people are still missing from the official start of the Mexican drug war in 2006. In February 2014, the Mexican government put that number at 26,000 people total.
- The Zeta cartel, which now controls more territory than any other cartel in Mexico, commands 10,000 gunmen – stretching from the Texas border to Central America.
- The narcotics market is estimated to have a value of $60 billion according to some UN estimates.
- In 2008, Mexico’s former top anti-drug official, Noe Ramirez, was charged with receiving $450,000 per month in bribes to report drug investigation information directly to the cartels.
- Mexican drug cartels are believed to have operations in over 1,200 US cities in 2010, which is 5x more than the estimated operations that were happening in 2008.
- In 2009 law enforcement authorities found over 2,000 pot plants belonging to the La Familia Michoacana cartel in rural North Carolina.
- It is believed that the Mexican drug cartels are spending $1 billion annually just on bribes for local police agencies.
- The number of American agents who have been murdered on duty in Mexico since 1985: just 1.
- The average salary of a Mexican police officer: $9,500.
The problem of drug overdoses is a legitimate question to ask, but the fact remains that in any given year, the Mexican drug cartels are getting get 33% of the total estimated market for illicit drug use. That’s why the cartels are moving into the United States more aggressively than ever before. It allows them to be able to tap directly into the market at lower distribution costs, thereby increasing profits while they develop more of the market for personal use. People who are going to use illicit drugs will continue to use them no matter who is supplying them. With a 10% sales tax on a potential $60 billion market, that’s $6 billion in extra revenues that could be used for budgetary short falls every year in the US – and that would be money that the cartels wouldn’t be getting their hands on. It’s definitely worth the consideration.
Violence Defines The Mexican Drug War
- Between January and September 2009, there were 5,874 drug-related murders in Mexico.
- There was a 141.9% increase in the murder rate in Mexico during 2008.
- The national homicide rate in Mexico: 18 per 100,000.
- The national homicide rate in Honduras: 82 per 100,000.
- Roughly half of all homicides in Mexico are attributable to drug violence.
- A murder because of drug violence occurs in Mexico every 30 minutes on average.
- Reported kidnapping and extortion rose sharply in 2013 by 20.5 percent and 10.6 percent respectively.
- Officials estimate that the drug trade makes up 3 to 4 percent of Mexico’s $1.2 trillion annual GDP and employs up to 500,000 people with full-time work.
- The worst cases of violence are confined to 10% of Mexico’s municipalities
Moving aggressively against the drug cartels has created an equally aggressive response. With forces that sometimes rival armies, these cartels are organizations that use fear in order to create compliance. When violence is the order of the day, there is no possible way that anyone can stay safe on a permanent basis. Since the beginning of the drug war, 25 of the top 37 most wanted figures in the drug war have been captured in Mexico, but this hasn’t stopped the cartels from finding a way to operate. Many have started to include women in managerial roles to further enhance the distribution networks and create new target markets.
Is The Mexican Drug War Ever Going to End?
- Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, had the highest number of violent deaths at 1,206, followed by the beach resort town of Acapulco, with 795 murders.
- From September 2010 to September 2011, the number of drug war-related deaths rose 11% compared to increases of 70% and 63% in previous years.
- 5 of the 8 states that have the most drug war killings are along the US/Mexico border.
- Between December 2012 and January 2013, the average number of daily killings suddenly dropped from 56 to 49.
- Many of the homicide estimates are thought to be underreported as threats of violence and other forms of violence that occur because of the drug war don’t make the statistics at all.
- In at least 4 of the State of Guerrero’s 7 regions, where the annual homicide rate is appx 1,000 per year, the law is dictated by whomever is the strongest.
- A Human Rights Watch report published in February 2014 revealed that more than 140 of the nearly 250 disappearances it had documented were enforced, which means Mexican authorities were directly or indirectly responsible for the crime.
- The total number of deaths is expected to exceed 100,000 by the end of 2016 if things remain the same as they are today.
Maybe some of the tides are turning in the Mexican drug war, but that doesn’t meant the issue is going to resolve itself any time soon. As long as there is a market for the drug cartels to peddle their wares, there are going to be profits that must be protected. Many of the cartels have made it abundantly clear that they are willing to go to whatever lengths are necessary to protect their standard of living. That means our policies on drugs and ideas of enforcement will need to change if we really want the Mexican drug war to stop. If the United States is consuming $60 billion in illicit drugs annually, that’s too big of a market to be ignored. If the cartels are eventually stopped, there might just be someone bigger… and badder to take their place in the future.