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  • Writer's pictureVianny Nunez

The Cartel Crisis in Mexico

By: Vianny Nunez & Ashlyn Bi June 12, 2023


Drug cartels in Mexico have become a severe problem due to a combination of factors. One significant factor is the high demand for drugs in the United States, which has created a remunerative market that fuels the cartels' operations and incentivizes their expansion and ultimately, their violence. This demand contributes to the continuous flow of drugs across Mexico to the US border.

Mexican families struggling with unemployment and poverty have become vulnerable to cartel recruitment. The lack of economic opportunities and social support exacerbates the issue, as individuals seek alternative means to sustain themselves and their families. For some, it seems as if the only option is joining these dangerous cartels because not only has poverty and lack of education plagued the availability of jobs, but financial exclusion and corruption has as well.

The Mexican government has faced challenges in effectively controlling the drug cartels. Corruption within law enforcement agencies and the judiciary has been a major obstacle. Cartels often bribe government officials, compromising law enforcement efforts and hindering effective prosecution. Many residents of Mexico have an immense distrust of their legislative leaders and law enforcement because it is unclear as to which politician has been successfully bribed by cartel leaders for protection. Additionally, the sheer power and resources of the cartels have overwhelmed local authorities, making it difficult to tackle the problem at its roots.

The drug trade has been significantly ignored leading to it becoming a larger issue. This is seen in Ciudad Juárez in the early 2000s. At that time, the local government and police turned a blind eye to cartel activities, allowing them to establish a stronghold in the city. This negligence and lack of intervention contributed to a surge in violence and homicide rates, making Ciudad Juárez one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

The impact of the drug trade on Mexican families is devastating. The violence and intimidation tactics employed by cartels have resulted in numerous deaths, disappearances, and forced displacements. Families are torn apart, left traumatized, and live in constant fear for their safety. Extortion and coercion tactics employed by cartels also contribute to the economic instability of families, undermining their well-being and disrupting the social fabric of communities.

The drug trade has had significant economic consequences for both Mexico and the United States. Mexican drug cartels generate billions of dollars in annual revenue, much of which is used to fund further criminal activities. This influx of illicit money distorts markets, undermines legitimate businesses, and perpetuates corruption within various sectors of the economy. The Mexican economy suffers from market distortions, reduced investor confidence, and a climate of insecurity that hampers economic development and stability. What is even more concerning is the societal factors that cartel leaders have pushed on Mexico's youth. Cartel leaders hire young children from the age of 13 to work for them as informants and even hitmen. It is no secret that currently cartels have ginormous armies, because they are open to hiring young children struggling through poverty. Some are even groomed to believe that cartels are the only power they can trust, hindering their faith in law enforcement and gluing them to the cartel lifestyle.

In the United States, the drug trade has contributed to the ongoing opioid epidemic. The availability of illicit drugs, particularly opioids like heroin and fentanyl, has led to a surge in drug-related deaths and addiction rates. This, in turn, places a significant burden on the healthcare system, reduces productivity, and strains social services, resulting in economic costs for the nation.

To address the issue, there are suggestions for both the common person and law enforcement. On an individual level, raising awareness about the consequences of drug use and supporting addiction treatment programs can make a difference. Communities can work together to create opportunities for education, skill development, and employment, which can help reduce the vulnerability of individuals to cartel recruitment. Law enforcement agencies need to continue strengthening their efforts to combat drug cartels. This includes increasing coordination and intelligence sharing between Mexican and US authorities, deploying military forces to monitor areas where cartels are usually located, and implementing effective strategies to disrupt their financial networks. Additionally, combating corruption within law enforcement and the judiciary is crucial for eradicating the influence of cartels and restoring public trust.

By understanding the root causes, implementing comprehensive strategies, and fostering collaboration between Mexico and the United States, there is hope for reducing the power and impact of drug cartels, creating safer communities, and promoting economic stability for both nations.

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