Drug-related violence escalates in Mexico, U.S.
“We will persevere until we leave Mexico free of the cancer of organized crime,” said Mexican President Felipe Calderón in a speech in late November. On Dec. 8 in a shootout with police, drug lord Nazario Moreno of the “La Familia” drug cartel was gunned down, this being the most recent event following a string of drug lord arrests organized by the Mexican government.
On Nov. 27 the Mexican government succeeded in capturing drug lord Arturo Gallegos Castrellon. He was the leader of “Los Aztecas”, which is a drug cartel allegedly responsible for 80 per cent of the killings in Cuidad Juarez, a city that has been ravaged by drug violence over the past three years.
There were 2,600 killings in Juarez in 2009 and the city has averaged seven homicides a day this past year.Mexico has eliminated the figure-heads of four prominent drug cartels over the last six months in an aggressive initiative to tackle the dramatic increases in drug-fuelled carnage in cities like Cuidad Juarez.
Violence has escalated to such an extreme that business owners in Cuidad Juarez have requested intervention by the United Nations after many businesses have been forced to close as a result of soaring extortion demands and the widespread threat of danger.
United States President Barack Obama has offered a helping hand to Calderón, offering aid in the form of U.S. intelligence in exchange for co-ordination with U.S. officials to ensure the safety of civilians on both sides of the border.
The majority of drugs exported from Mexico are smuggled into the United States, with marijuana and cocaine from Colombia being the most commonly exported commodities.
“The problem with crime in Mexico is most of it takes place in cities like Tijuana and Juarez, cities that are right on the border of cities like San Diego and El Paso. When one gets further away from the border, things aren’t as bad,” said Barry Kay, Laurier professor of political science. He went on to explain that while there is crime throughout all of Mexico, it is concentrated at the border, justifying the increased American involvement.
Mexican drug cartels have expanded their business initiatives by using already established drug trade routes in Mexico as the means for moving Colombian cocaine into the United States.
Colombia has been ravaged by drug conflict for much longer than Mexico, explained James Restrepo, professor of Hispanic studies at the University of Western Ontario. “Much to the disagreement of Calderón and Barack Obama, who say there is no way to compare Mexico to Colombia, what is happening in Mexico now happened in Colombia too, noting of course the historical differences between the two countries in terms of the internal arm conflict.” The conflict in Colombia has gone on for generations now and new potential issues arise for Mexico as cartels from both countries are becoming increasingly co-operative.
In California, Proposition 19, alternatively known as the “Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act”, was defeated with 54 per cent of Californians voting against the legalization and government regulation of marijuana-related activities on Nov. 2.
Advocates of the act argued that legalization would have hurt the drug cartels by decreasing the demand for marijuana, since it accounts for 60 per cent of the profits that they make from American distribution. Marijuana exportation into the United States grosses organized crime in Mexico an estimated $10 billion.
“It was making alcohol possession illegal back in the ‘20s that really gave organized crime an economic boost, from which they went into all sorts of other things,” said Kay. “Without question its legalization would have decreased criminal elements.”