What Americans Should Know About Mexican Cartel Violence
SOURCE: Flickr / ChuckHolton
For years drug legalization advocates have been talking about America's "useless" war on drugs. But however useless, expensive and long it's been, nothing in the United States has been able to compare to the war going on in a country that brings American drug consumers their goods. In the past three years, Mexico has seen one of the most violent episodes in its history with a war between the government, seven primary rival drug cartels and gangs, and citizens all trying to fight over territory and power.
With American politicians touting spillover border violence, declaring a need for stronger border security, and blaming undocumented immigrants for cartel operations in the United States, most Americans don't know what's really happening in south of the border.
Drug-related deaths have totaled 6,248 in 2010 alone, according to the Mexican death toll count of Stop the Drug War, an organization working to end drug prohibition around the world. Nore than 22,000 of those have been killed in drug-related violence since December 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderón started cracking down on drug trafficking. That number may be considerably higher since drug traffickers are finding creative locations to hide their victims' bodies.
While the Mexican government says most of the victims of drug violence are actually involved in drug trafficking, it's hard turn a blind eye to reality: Mexican politicians, police officers and soldiers, journalists and even ordinary citizens are being murdered -- either for documenting or speaking out against drug trafficking and certain cartels or for just being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Much of the violence stems from rival drug traffickers all trying to gain control over trafficking routes and power in Mexican life, in which the cartels are already glorified in popular culture. While a recent United Nations report (via All Headline News) suggests that part of the violence between rival cartels stems from America's decreased consumption of cocaine, there are already factors of Mexican politics and history that make matters worse.
Mexico's recent escalated drug-related violence is only worsened when combined with a history of gang violence and human rights abuses by the government in some cities. With some 45,000 soldiers and 8,000 federal police agents deployed to 18 states where violence among rival cartels is the worst, a rising death toll and a culture of fear among the Mexican community has created an impact so deep in Mexican life that many citizens would prefer for Calderón to stop fighting the cartels and drug trafficking in order to end a deadly war.
But what's of greater concern to Americans perhaps is something not happening at the border, like some politicians say. In 2009, NPR reported that the Justice Department could count at least 230 American cities where Mexican cartels operated. "The Mexican cartels have a near-monopoly on the distribution of wholesale quantities of drugs in most of the country now," NPR's Martin Kaste writes.
It may be easy to blame the problem on "immigrants," but meanwhile Mexicans are being terrorized in their own backyards. Americans who live near the border, travel to the increasingly militarized Mexico, or currently live in one of those 230 American cities where cartels are operating have reason to be concerned. There are a lot of problems in Mexico, but let's not forget where part of the cartel violence comes from: U.S. drug consumers provide Mexican drug cartels with $31 billion each year to carry out their business, according to a Dissident Voice article. A problem of violence in Mexico is also a problem of drugs.
Julissa Treviño is a staff writer for Campus Progress. She graduated from Ithaca College in 2009.