Cartels Are Making Mexico One Of The Bloodiest Places On Earth

photo by Jesús Villaseca Pérez via flickr 

Since 2006, violence fueled by Mexican cartels has resulted in over 150,000 fatalities, making the United State’s neighbor to the south a theater for one of the most deadly armed conflicts in the world.

As a result of the drug cartel’s immense influence, both the United States and the Mexican government have been swept up in efforts to restore stability as well as sever the cartel’s drug trade–their most precious lifeline.

But if a rising rate of murder is any indication, the situation since 2006 may have only gotten worse.


How did it start?

Mexican military efforts to combat drug cartels didn’t officially start until 2006, but the drug trade–or more specifically drug trafficking–has been the backbone of organized crime in Mexico since the 1960s.

The modern cartel, as we know it today, however, wasn’t spawned until the early 1980’s when Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar partnered with established drug traffickers in Mexico in an attempt to expand his cocaine trade deeper into the U.S.

With the help of Escobar, trafficking in Mexico grew into distribution, as Mexico’s traffickers began to be paid in cocaine as opposed to cash. This transition has since proved to be one of the most integral shifts in forming the modern Mexican cartel, solidifying them as the new primary cocaine suppliers to the U.S. market.

During this period in the 80s, fueled by a steady supply of cocaine from Escobar’s Medellín cartel, Mexico’s first global drug syndicate–The Guadalajara Cartel–was born.

Under the control of Félix Gallardo, the Guadalajara Cartel would control major drug operations in Mexico until 1985 until the co-founder of the cartel was arrested for the murder of a DEA agent.

This blow lead to the decentralization of cartels and was the genesis of many of the major players we know today.

Where are we now?

There are currently seven major cartels which dominate modern day Mexico, with two organizations being particularly powerful–the Sinaloa cartel and the Zetas cartel.

Together, these seven organizations now control as much as 90 percent of the flow of cocaine (among other drugs) into the U.S. and bring in as much as $40 billion annually.


Skirmishes between rivaling cartels in tandem with the involvement of Mexico’s military has escalated violence over the past decade dramatically, sending fatalities through the roof and displacing as many as 1.6 million people by 2012 estimates.

A mixture of violence, corruption, and extortion have also contributed to Cartel’s stranglehold, as politicians and law enforcement are routinely threatened, bribed, and murdered by cartels in an effort to maintain their dominance.

Though Mexico’s military involvement has been considered by many to be an abject failure, a new president Peña Nieto has realigned policy to focus on reduction of kidnapping and murders to some avail.

The takeaway

The flow of drugs from Mexico into the U.S. has continued almost unfettered since the start of Mexico’s military campaign in 2006, and has likely made a bad situation worse for natives there.

Additionally, other U.S. lead efforts to stop the cartels have been glaring failures–summarized most notably by the ATF’s botched gun running scandal in 2010.

In an effort to combat criminals, some Mexican natives have even formed local militias in charge of guarding their communities.

While things remain bad for Mexicans, a shifting policy and new leadership will hopefully spell change in the near future.

We measure success by the understanding we deliver. If you could express it as a percentage, how much fresh understanding did we provide?


James Pero