Mexican Drug Cartel (Many vs Few)

Posted: October 23rd, 2013





Mexican Drug Cartel

The drugs problem is one of the primary issues facing the Mexican society in its political, economic, and cultural aspects. Mexico holds a tight grip on the $400 billion global illicit drug trade, with the country suffering economic losses of about $4.3 billion annually (Rios 1-2). At the center of this drug problem are the Mexican drug cartels, controlling the trade at the national and international levels. The debilitating effects of the illicit drug trade on Mexico indicate the need for discussions on the issue. The present study compares the nature of Mexican drug cartels to the meaning of cartel, before analyzing the rise of Mexican drug cartels and associated spikes in homicide rates. A discussion of whether it is better to have a few large cartels than several dozen smaller cartels then concludes the study.

Cartel Definition: Comparison to Mexican Drug Cartels

The business conceptualization of the term “cartel” is that it is a formal agreement between independent firms that are in the same or very similar areas of economic activity, undertaking a deliberate agreement among themselves to stifle competition (McGowan 30). In a cartel, the firms prefer collaboration to competition with one another. The items of the agreement include fixing of prices, determination of total industry output, and allocation of customers and market shares. Cartels usually emerge in oligopolistic economic sectors, where few manufacturers produce similar products and have to incur heavy costs to differentiate their products, which lead to reduced profit margins. Brux (255) cites examples of cartels as including OPEC and De Beers, operating in the oil and diamonds industry, respectively. Entry into the collusive agreement that typifies cartels represents a shift to a monopolistic market, which hinders competition, prevents new entrants, and may harm the customer through changes in prices, supply, and quality. As a result, cartels have taken a negative overtone, attracting the interest of competition authorities.

The Mexican drug cartels share a number of similarities and differences with the aforementioned definition of cartels. Most of the cartels began as federations of traffickers who consolidated their efforts to quash rivals and control drug trade in their territories (International Crisis Group 7). This arrival at an agreement to increase market power and turf allocation is similar to the concept of a cartel. However, other aspects of the Mexican drug cartels contradict the described definition. For instance, intra-cartel conflicts and warfare indicate that the agreement among the trafficker groups is not operational. The cartels are also unable to set prices, besides engaging in varied criminal activities including kidnapping, human smuggling, extortion, piracy, car robbery, oil theft, and weapons trafficking (8). These activities defy the concept of similar economic activity and indicate that the so-called Mexican drug cartels are more of transnational criminal organizations than traditional trade cartels. The consolidation of efforts and criminal inclinations makes the Mexican groups more of criminal cartels that do not obey all the expected aspects of normal business cartels.

The Rise of Mexican Cartels: Link to Increase in Homicides in Mexico

The drug trade industry in Mexico is about a century old, but has experienced its most significant growth within the last quarter of a century. Dean et al. (9) traces the spike in the role of Mexico in the international illicit drug trade to events in the 1980s. At the time, Colombia was the major player in the global drug trafficking trade. However, intense enforcement by the U.S. Coast Guard blocked the main route of transporting cocaine to the USA, which was through Florida using aircraft. The Colombian drug traders sought alternative routes, establishing alliances with Mexican traffickers. This is because Mexico emerged as the most appropriate point of entry for the Colombian drug trading organizations, offering a conduit to Texas and Southern California. The alliances involved payments made in kind, which gave the Mexican trafficking groups control of their own stock (Beittel 8). With their own stock, Mexican drug trading organizations gradually took over the drug trafficking business, evolving from being mere couriers subcontracted by the Colombians to wholesalers who could source for their own stock by the 1990s. The political landscape of Mexico also allowed the rise of drug trade organizations in Mexico. During the 71-year reign of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that ended in 2,000, Mexico was under authoritarian, one-party rule. The PRI government entrenched drug trade in Mexico because the authorities tolerated and even protected drug production and trafficking in some regions. Dean et al. (8) argues that there was a working relationship between the PRI and drug trading organizations.

The existing drug trading organizations then sought to collaborate in various alliances that would allow more control and territorial splits, leading to the generation of various cartels. Increased competition for control of the drug trade was the reason behind the intensification of existing cartels and springing up of new ones. The International Crisis Group (7) notes that the cash streaming into the Mexican narcotics business has led to the rapid rise in power of cartels in the 1990s and the 21st century. When the one party rule under PRI ended, denying existing cartels of the stability they once enjoyed, the cartels splintered even further. As a result, the last two decades have seen changes in the landscape of Mexican drug cartels, from a few large ones in the 1990s to involving many more players besides the large organizations. Part of the reason for splinters in drug cartels has been the crackdown by the government within the last decade, where the death of leaders has left cartels in disarray and confusion. Dean et al. (9) describes the changes in number and size of the drug cartels in Mexico over time. Mexico’s seven main drug cartels by 2006 were Sinaloa, Gulf, Tijuana/AFO, Juárez/CFO, Beltrán Leyva, Los Zetas, and La Familia Michoacana (renamed Knights Templar). However, a closer analysis reveals that the Juárez cartel was once part of the Sinaloa group while Los Zetas is the formerly military wing of the Gulf cartel. The war on drug cartels has led to deaths such as those of the leaders of the Beltrán Leyva cartel. As a result, neighboring groups have tried to move in into the territories left behind. Instances of confusion have led to the emergence of new cartels from realignments within existing trade groups and leaders, leading to cartels such as La Familia Michoacana.

Rise in Cartel Power and Link to Homicides

Today, the seven main cartels have fragmented into 9-20 with many reconfigurations continuing to unfold. The Mexican drug cartel landscape reveals two major groups, Sinaloa and Los Zetas, with the rest of the cartels and subsidiaries aligning between the two aforementioned cartels. The next in size and power after the two largest ones include Beltrán Leyva, Knights Templar, and La Linea. The changes in configuration have acted alongside an increase in the stakes and government paramilitary efforts to disrupt the cartels in making the last decade witness a spike in homicides. In this case, the Mexican narcotics business boomed as Mexican drug cartels gained control of the global illicit drug trade industry, supplying up to 93% of all narcotics entering the USA (International Crisis Group 6). As the cartels started fighting for control in the 21st century, the money flowing into the industry enabled them to purchase weapons that are more powerful and pay specialist hit men. Within the same time, the Mexican government’s response to the drug problem has been through deployment of about 10,000 federal police officers and nearly 50,000 Mexican soldiers to fight the cartels (Dean et al. 10). The combination of these three factors has led to a spike in drug-related violence and homicides as captured in the following graphs.



Figure 1: Estimates of drug-related violence for a) Baja California and b) Chihuahua states between 2000 and 2009, showing a spike in the violence in the latter part of the decade (Rios 8).

The violence is either inter-cartel, entailing fights for control over territories and trafficking routes among various cartels, or intra-cartel, where violence erupts due to succession struggles (Gonzalez 72-73). There were an alarming 47,500 homicides between 2006 and 2011 related to Mexican drug cartels. In 2007 alone, there were 2,800 homicides, which more than doubled in 2008 and then increased by 40% in 2009. Between 2009 and 2010, drug cartel-related homicides increased by 60%, with 2011 recoding as much as 12,903 homicides by the third quarter of the year (Beittel 24-25).

Figure 2: The drug cartel-related homicide trends between 2007 and 2011, showing an alarming spike arising from intra-cartel, inter-cartel, and government on cartel violence (Beittel 25).

Few Large Cartels than Several Dozen Smaller Cartels

According to Dean et al. (9), the government intervention on the Mexican drug cartel problem may follow two strategies that have different short-term and long-term implications. In the first approach, the government may target the largest drug alliances such as the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels. Disbanding the main drug cartels will result in their consumption by the smaller groups, none of which has the capacity to rise to the level of the destroyed cartels. This will lead to fragmentation of the large drug cartels, lessening the power of the groups taking part in drug trafficking. Alternatively, the government may target the smaller and weaker drug cartels, whose disbanding will free up territories for the largest drug cartels to occupy. The result will be two or three major drug cartels operational in Mexico. The two scenarios, few and powerful cartels, or many and weak cartels, have different implications on Mexico.

As the evidence reviewed shows, the generation of numerous drug cartels has been accompanied by intensified violence and homicides. This is because destroying the large cartels creates situations for succession struggles, fallouts, and realignments. This observation explains the observed spike in violence after the fall of powerful cartels such as Beltrán Leyva. Besides this immediate intensification in violence, the government will also have to face numerous and varied organizations that, albeit weak, will still pose a difficult challenge. On the other hand, targeting the smaller cartels does not create much room for intra-cartel and inter-cartel fighting. In this scenario, the short-term implications do not involve a spike in violence as would happen in the event of numerous small drug cartels. Further, the government is left with about two or three large cartels to fight. Although powerful, dealing with a few defined targets will prove easier than diffuse and diversified targets. As a result, a few large cartels are a better proposition for Mexico than several dozen smaller cartels, given the desirable decline in homicides and relative ease in addressing the problem when the government faces off with few, properly defined targets (Dean et al. 9).

Governments in countries dealing with the problems of drugs and drug cartels continue facing great challenges in trying to eliminate the cartels. Some cartels are large and their presence is felt nationwide. In trying to eliminate the cartels, the authorities use different strategies. Some believe that eliminating the drug lord or king is an effective way since it is a sure way of scattering the cartel and disrupting its operations. While this may seem initially successful, it has often resulted to greater challenges for the authorities. Once the large cartel breaks up, the members form smaller groups within their regions of operation. These smaller groups are often worse compared to the larger ones. The smaller gangs are forced to carry out a higher number of violence and crimes, given that crime is their main form of income. The smaller cartels become more dangerous and violent, and ultimately end up committing more homicides. They fight amongst themselves and against other smaller cartels as they seek to control the trade. Some of them end up engaging in other criminal activities such as kidnappings and theft, in their quest to get more money. The smaller cartels end up producing higher homicide rates compared to the few large cartels.

Historical Analysis of the Mexican Cartels

The country’s administration has had an impact in determining the operation of the cartels. Some leaders have taken the initiative of fighting the drug cartels and of ending the drug menace in the country. There were fewer homicide rates experienced in the 1990s, under the leadership of President Ernesto Zedillo, between 1994 and 2000. The number of homicides reduced from 15,839 in 1994 to 10,737 in the year 2000. The next president Vicente Fox continued with this trend, and there was a general decline of homicide rates in his country between the year 2000 and 2006. The homicide rates in the year 2004 fell to 9,329. However, this decline was temporary as the homicide rates began increasing and they were 10,452 in 2006. The government took measures to reduce the drug cartels and to control the number of homicides at the time, and this reduced the number of homicides to 8,867 in the year 2007. Since then, the homicide rates have continued to increase and the number of homicides in the year 2011 was 27,213, a 24% annual increase (Molzahn Ferreira and Shirk 12-13).

The high number of homicides in the country has surprised many people, especially as the government seems to have become more vocal in its declaration to fight the drug cartels in the country. The difference in the homicide rates experienced in the country can be attributed to the change in the cartel structure and composition, which came about because of the government’s efforts in fighting the cartels. When the government began its efforts of fighting the cartels in 1990s, it dealt with few cartels, albeit larger ones. The government’s efforts led to changes in structure and size of the cartels. There was internal conflict within the larger cartels, because the members could not agree on their leadership, and this led to the division of the larger cartels. The splinter groups did not have as much power or resources as the bigger cartels did. In addition, the smaller cartels continued disagreeing with each other as they sought control of different territories, and as they each sided with other cartel groups for protection purposes. These factors contributed to increased violence between the cartels. The smaller cartels used violence to get the resources they needed, and they fought with each other for territories. Therefore, instead of the government solving the problem of violence and increased homicide rates that were perpetrated by the larger cartels, it managed to increase the rates of violence in the country.

The authorities have blamed drug trafficking and organized crime for the increased homicide rates in recent years. A high number of intentional homicides had characteristics such as the use of torture and dismemberment and the use of high-caliber automatic weapons, which are typical of organized crime groups. In addition, the crime groups used explicit messages (Molzahn Ferreira and Shirk 1). The number of kidnappings increased from 733 in 2006 to 1,344 in 2011, and many more kidnappings are usually not detected or reported (International Crisis Group 9). Oil theft has increased over the past few years. There has been an increase in theft of crude oil and refined oil. In 2012, petrol station owners reported that they were forced to buy oil from gangsters (International Crisis Group 9). Extortion is one of the common practices that have gradually evolved into the main form of crime for most cartels in Mexico. They demand for money from different kinds of businesses, and they have shot at many business people who have refused to pay what they ask for, killing many people and destroying property in the process (International Crisis Group 10).

Another notable change experienced in recent homicide rates includes the shift in the distribution of the violence. Previously, many drug cartels concentrated their efforts in Mexico, and very few of them dared to venture beyond that. However, officials in the US have reported an increase in the number of Mexican drug cartels operating in the country. The cartels are no longer concentrated only in California and Texas as was previously the case, but they are now in the suburbs in different areas such as Chicago, and in other areas such as the rural areas of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. In Mexico, cities that had previously low homicide rates began realizing an increase in homicides. For instance, in 2009, Monterrey recorded 22 homicides but this number increased to 179 the following year, and it reported a dramatic increase in homicide numbers, in 2011, recording 700 homicides that year. The homicide rates in Nuevo Laredo increased from 123 in 2011 to 288 in 2012. The city of Torreon also recorded an increase in homicide rates, reporting 462 homicides in 2012 up from 316 homicides reported in 2010 (Molzahn Ferreira and Shirk 27). The increased penetration of the drug cartels is a worrying problem because it shows the increased ability and capacity of the cartels.

The increase in the homicide rates in 2008 is significant. The then new government of President Felipe Calderon in 2007 had taken measures to end drug cartels by targeting the drug lords. This saw a decline homicide rates in 2007. The fight against the cartels led to the capture or killing of twenty-five drug cartel bosses that were part of the most wanted list by the government. However, the measures were only temporary, and they produced greater negative consequences that anyone had imagined then as they resulted to a greater increase in homicide rates. This reflects the ineffectiveness of the strategy employed by the government. Killing the drug lords is only a temporary measure, and it only produces results immediately the drug lord dies or is apprehended because the cartels are disorganized at the time. However, the once large cartel of the drug lord segments into different groups and they continue with the violence and the murders.

The confusion and destabilized nature of the larger cartels contributed towards increased rivalry between different gangs as well as between cartels and law enforcement officers, and it has led to turf wars between the different cartels. The killing or capture of the drug lords means that their troops do not have any other means of getting funds. This makes them turn to other means of sourcing funds, hence the increase in extortion rates, oil theft, and kidnappings. They have increased the rate of violence and reports of beheadings, killing of innocent bystanders, assassination of politicians and journalists and other people affiliated to them, mass murders, and public hanging of corpses have become common (Biettel 1). The use of violence by the cartels is deliberate, and they use to discipline the employees in the cartels, enforce their drug transactions, as a barrier to competitors and to coerce people. They also use violence when their bribery efforts fail to persuade the law enforcers towards letting them continue running their operations (Biettel 6-7).

Structure of Mexican Cartels

The structure and organization of the different cartels differ considerably. The cartels differ in size, internal organization, geographical reach, and power. The cartels change as time progresses depending on the competition they face and violence in the country. They also change because of the efforts of the security forces in the country. The cartels react fast, and they are quick to retaliate against the government. They are highly mobile, and they move their activities to different strategies and regions (Weintraub and Wood 10).

Each cartel has a territory where it operates. There is increased tension and conflict when the cartels overlap each other’s territory, and this leads to turf wars among the cartels. This is because the cartels have to compete for the limited resources. The larger the cartels are the more powerful they are, and the more they seek to expand their territories. The cartels formed from the drug trafficking organization of 1980s and Miguel Felix Gallardo was responsible for the formation of many of the cartels. Gallardo founded the Guadalajara cartel and was involved in drug trafficking. His main control was in the Mexico-US border. He gave families their own territories to manage, and these families managed to increase their drug production as well as consolidate their territories. Many of the current drug cartels in the country are led by the third generation of these families. There are eight major operating drug cartels in the country, and they include Los Zetas, Gulf cartel, Beltran Leyva, La Familia, Juarez cartel, Sinaloa, Tijuana, and Los Negros cartel (Ai Camp 11). Although many of them have the leadership of individual families, they are often reorganizing, forming alliances and breaking them and fighting each other as they seek more control of the drugs in different regions.

The cartels form alliances with each other, as a way of gaining more power and protecting themselves from each other (Ai Camp 12). Some cartels concentrate on trafficking of illicit drugs, and others are involved in other activities. Cartels may spread their operations to different areas of the country, but they have a specific region where they are concentrated. La Familia is concentrated on the west coast of the country, and some its main practices are extortions and kidnappings. The La Familia Cartel recently entered an alliance with the Gulf cartel making the rivalry between this alliance and the Beltran Leyva and the Los Zetas take on new significance in Mexico. This alliance led to turf wars between the gulf cartel and the Los Zetas. The Zetas have grown at a high proportion and they consist of former soldiers, erstwhile police, and gang members. It supports a cellular system, which enables members of the unit to rise in the ranks more quickly and gain more prominence and control. The zetas have conducted most of the violence in Mexico including the murder of 72 migrants and dumping hundreds of bodies in mass graves (International Crisis Group 12).

The Gulf cartel is based along the Texas border in the northeast corner. This cartel controls a large part of the country’s natural resources, political figures and financial transactions. The Beltran Leyva cartel had initially formed an alliance with Los Zetas. The security forces killed some leaders in Beltran Leyva, and this led to the weakening of the cartel. The Sinaloa cartel is also referred to as the pacific drug trafficking organization. It is in constant turf wars with different cartels including the Juarez cartel for control of the central and northwestern territories. It is also in constant turf wars with the gulf cartel over territory control in different regions of the country. The Tijuana cartel controls some routes in the Pacific Northwest. The area of concentration has led to constant conflicts and turf wars with the Sinaloa Cartel, which also controls a big part of the pacific region. The cartels change and restructure often for different reasons. Some of them such as the Los Negroes and the los zetas were part of the gulf cartel, but they ventured out on their own. Others restructure because of the government’s efforts to end the presence of the larger control by weakening them. This has led to the decline in power of cartels such as the Tijuana cartel that have lost their top leadership (Ai Camp 12).

The cartels begin by controlling their local communities. Gangs exist as insurgencies in failed communities or in selected neighborhoods. They dominate the political, economic, and social life of these regions. They collect taxes from the businesses operating in the regions. The gangs use different strategies to consolidate their presence in the region, such as bribing the local officials and the law enforcers of the particular region, attacking the police, and other acts of intimidation. They create a perception of the protection for the community. The goal of the cartels at this stage is to get a foundation to venture into other areas and expand their territories. As they seek to expand beyond their neighborhoods, the cartels battle for the state. They battle with other cartels as they seek to replace each other in their areas of dominance (Sullivan 17).

Most of the turf wars between the different cartels begin because of the need to have more territorial control, especially after the larger cartels breakup and restructure for different reasons. The shift in the geographical trend of the violence realized reflects the nature of the battles between the different cartel groups. The Tijuana cartel faced competition from an affiliate of the Sinaloa cartel in northwestern Mexico, and this led to battles between the two groups, and in the process increased the homicide rates. The gulf cartel and the zetas battled in northeastern Mexico increasing the homicide rates in that region. The creation of splinter groups in the Beltran Leyva cartels and La Familia led to an increase in violence in central Mexico and a consequent increase in the homicide rates there (Molzahn Ferreira and Shirk 27). The cartel battles involve the public, the police, and the military (Sullivan 17).

Many of the smaller groups are splinter groups from the more established groups. The larger groups have fragmented to as many as twenty different organizations. This has increased the number of small cartels, and the number of cartels in the region now falls between sixty to eighty cartels (Molzahn Ferreira and Shirk 10). With such a high number, it becomes increasingly hard for the government to fight the groups. Effectively dealing with several cartels would require the deployment of nationwide resources that is virtually impossible, as the Mexican Government cannot afford to fund the initiative. Nevertheless, it is comparatively simple for the state to eliminate the large cartels, as they are confined to a small area and dense in definite regions. The division of these cartels also generates further friction as the smaller factions fight for limited resources. This raises the level of disagreements and hostility between the cartels.

Structural and operational differences among Mexican Cartels

Smaller cartels wield little or no power to fight back against the government and to negotiate in corrupt deals at the national level. Nevertheless, they are highly influential in their local districts where their control and power is optimum. They are able to coerce the residents and business establishments operating in the districts under their jurisdiction. In most instances, the municipal authorities in the districts are members of the same cartel, and this provides the gangs with authority and leeway to coerce and terrorize the residents. Smaller cartels also have narrower networks and lesser financial ability when compared to large cartels. Consequently, they regularly engage in other criminal activities such as extortion and burglary but they are also known for kidnappings that provide them with income collected through ransom money.

Larger cartels are more organized exhibiting a well-defined leadership structure. The bosses of these cartels possess a clear strategy concerning their narcotic and crime syndicates. Most of them have the dual objectives of increasing their areas of jurisdiction and maximizing their drug trade locally and internationally. For this reason, cartel leaders directly avoid any criminal activities other than drug trafficking, but constantly organize and fund efforts that seek to be in power and expansion of their areas of jurisdiction. A large number of violent acts take place when large cartels are interested in expanding into a different region or when one cartel marches into the territory of another cartel.

Larger cartels possess the financial and military resources to enter in battle with the state law enforcers. However, most of them depend on bribing the corrupt government officials and they are able to continue with their activities without resulting to violence. On the other hand, recent reports show how smaller cartels constantly engage in battles with the authorities. They fight back every time the authorities take any measures to fight the cartels, such as killing of their leaders. Nowadays, the smaller cartels have become bolder, and they are now targeting politicians, the military, police officers, and other people in authority. Domestic conflicts happen mostly when cartels change their leadership because the former one was captured or killed by state law enforcers.

Implications of US Interference in Mexican Cartels

The Mexican government has cooperated with different stakeholders to assist in the fight against cartel activity and drug trade in Mexico. The state has focused most of its efforts in combating the drug cartels. Many people perceive drug cartels as the major cause of the troubles in Mexico. One of the governments’ efforts has been to seek assistance from the government of United States. The US has decided to help Mexico because the drug problem has become worse. Mexican drug cartels have found their way to the US and they have increased their trade there, The United States acknowledges its function in the Mexican drug trade and in the rise in the drug cartels for two reasons. First, the US is a ready market for most of the drugs that Mexico produces and secondly, most of the weapons used by the drug cartels in committing different acts of violence originate from the US. These two factors have contributed to the strengthening of the drug cartels in Mexico.

. For a long time, the two countries have differed over whose responsibility it is to control the drug cartels. The US has constantly reiterated that Mexico is not doing enough to control the drug trade, and Mexico observes that the US is not able to control and prevent the trafficking of drugs across the US-Mexico border. However, both countries have realized the importance of cooperation when dealing with the problem, and they are no longer focused on who is to blame for the problem. The US faces a huge drug problem, and this continues to affect it economically and socially. It has to deal with many people who have become drug addicts and at the same time deal with many drug dealers in the country. This is because a large part of the drugs produced in Mexico reaches the United States. Drugs from Mexico have increased in the country, and this has necessitated the need for the US to cooperate with Mexico in fighting the drug cartels since this will eventually stop the trafficking of drugs in the country.

The US has decided to help Mexico deal with the drug cartels because it has realized that it has helped in contributing to the increased violence and consequent homicides in Mexico. Many weapons that the drug cartels use are smuggled from the US to Mexico (Mercille 1639). The ease of availability of the weapons has strengthened the cartels, and it has made them more powerful, to the extent that they are able to fight with the government securities. The increase in the number of firearms in Mexico has increased their availability, and this has contributed to increased violence and homicide rates in the country. More than 80% of the firearms used by the drug cartels originate from the US (Mercille 1643). The NAFTA trade agreement permits free trade and passage of goods between the US and Mexico. Smugglers find it easy to transport the weapons across the border. The United States supports the agreement with the hope that it will promote Mexico’s economy and result in economic reforms in Mexico.

The US has, in the past, collaborated with the Mexican authorities to end the menace. For instance, it has provided troops, which have worked with the military in Mexico to fight the drug cartels. During the tenure of President George W. Bush, the US developed the Merida Initiative in 2007 to support the Mexican government’s efforts in fighting drug cartels. The US government pledged about $1.4billion in financial assistance to aid in eliminating the drug cartels. This Mexican government used the financial aid to instruct law enforcers and to acquire state-of-the-art military equipment such as fighter jets, surveillance equipment, and other combat materials (International Crisis Group 19)

Analysts and scholars have had opposing views concerning United States’ support of the law enforcers and the government in battle against drug trade and cartels. This is because many corrupt officials work in the government and in law enforcement agencies. These fraudulent officials are accountable for committing human rights violations. Critics of United States’ efforts in Mexico argue that superior US authorities form part of the Mexican drug cartels as sponsors of the leaders who in turn perpetrate grave human rights violations. The US has deployed several security agencies in Mexico, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), DEA, ATF, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Criminal Intelligence Agency (CIA). The US interferes with Mexico’s efforts of fighting the drug trade and fighting the drug cartels when it participates in corrupt practices. Evidence points towards corrupt immigration US officials who receive bribes and permit the drug trade to continue and flourish (Mercille 1643). Such negative involvement of the US government has sustained the drug and cartel problem within Mexico.


Mexico faces a pertinent economic, political, and social problem due to drugs, being the source country for some of the most powerful drug cartels that control the global illicit drugs trade. Although Mexican drug cartels do not fit into the concept of a business cartel perfectly, the consolidation of efforts to control territories and trafficking routes and fend off competition makes them criminal cartels. The landscape for Mexican drug cartels has changed over time in its composition, with the players realigning to form different numbers and sizes of cartels. Under the PRI one party rule, a few stable cartels remained powerful and controlled the trade. However, the 21st century has seen fragmentation into numerous cartels of different sizes and power, leading to intensified violence and spikes in homicide trends. Whereas smaller drug cartels have less power, they would exacerbate the homicide statistics and prove difficult to destroy. On the other hand, a few large cartels do not pose as much risk of homicide spikes as their smaller counterparts, besides providing the government with defined targets. Ultimately, Mexico will fair better in the presence of two or three large cartels than several dozen smaller ones.


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