The Mexican Drug War
In April 2008, General Sergio Aponte, the man in charge of the anti-drug campaign in the state of Baja California, made a number of allegations of corruption against the police forces in the region. Among his allegations, Aponte stated that he believed Baja California’s anti-kidnapping squad was actually a kidnapping team working in conjunction with organized crime, and that bribed police units were being used as bodyguards for drug traffickers. These accusations of corruption suggested that the progress against drug cartels in Mexico has been hindered by bribery, intimidation, and corruption.
On April 26, 2008, a major battle took place between members of the Tijuana and Sinaloa cartels in the city of Tijuana, Baja California, that left 17 people dead. The battle also causes concern about the violence spilling into the United States, as Tijuana and a number of other border cities become hotspots for violence in the war. In September 2008, grenade attacks in Morelia by suspected cartel members killed eight civilians and injured more than 100.
In March 2009, President Calderón called in an additional 5000 Mexican Army troops to Ciudad Juárez. The United States Department of Homeland Security has also said that it is considering using the National Guard to counter the threat of drug violence in Mexico from spilling over the border into the US. The governors of Arizona and Texas have asked the federal government to send additional National Guard troops to help those already there supporting local law enforcement efforts against drug trafficking.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Mexican cartels are the predominant smugglers and wholesale distributors of South American cocaine and Mexico-produced cannabis, methamphetamine and heroin. Mexico’s cartels have existed for some time, but have become increasingly powerful in recent years with the demise of the Medellín and Cali cartels in Colombia. Closure of the cocaine trafficking route through Florida also pushed cocaine traffic to Mexico, increasing the role of Mexican cartels in cocaine trafficking.
The Mexican cartels are expanding their control over the distribution of these drugs in areas controlled by Colombian and Dominican criminal groups, and now believed to include most of the U.S.A.No longer just intermediaries for Colombian producers, Mexican cartels are now powerful organized-crime syndicates that dominate the drug trade in the Americas. According to the FBI, Mexican cartels focus only on wholesale distribution, leaving retail sales of illicit drugs to street gangs.
The Mexican cartels reportedly work with multiple gangs and claim not to take sides in U.S. gang conflicts.Mexican cartels control large swaths of Mexican territory and dozens of municipalities, and they exercise increasing influence in Mexican electoral politics. The cartels are waging violent turf battles over control of key smuggling corridors from Nuevo Laredo to San Diego.
Mexican cartels employ hitmen and groups of enforcers, known as sicarios. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that the Mexican drug cartels operating today along the border are far more sophisticated and dangerous than any other organized criminal group in U.S. law enforcement history. The cartels use grenade launchers, automatic weapons, body armor, and sometimes Kevlar helmets.