The Mexican Drug War

Mexico has been in the grip of the drug war in recent years. Almost every week we see or read the most gruesome stories about this. The most recent is the attack on a casino, in which more than 50 people were killed. How did it come to this and will all this violence ever stop?

The history

Mexico has always been an important transit country for drug smuggling to America. This given its strategic location. In the 80s and early 90s, the drugs mainly came from Colombia. It was Pablo Escobar who led an international organization. To stop drug trafficking, America carried out several operations in Florida and the Caribbean. As a result, the Colombians decided to cooperate with the Mexicans. Considering the fact that Mexico had been known to smuggle drugs for some time, the cooperation went well. When a cocaine transport was arranged, the Mexicans were paid a fixed percentage in cash. This later changed and the Mexicans were paid in cocaine. As the years passed, the cocaine shipments were taken over and self-regulated by the Mexicans. The big man behind the Mexican drug transports was Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo. He worked closely with the Medelin cartel, which was led by Pablo Escobar. In this period, we are now talking about the 1980s, there were no cartels in Mexico and Gallardo was therefore seen as the Mexican drug king; he directed drug transports and bribed politicians in exchange for protection. In the late 1980s, Gallardo decided to divide the drug trade into different divisions: this worked more efficiently and was also safer for himself. The cartels also emerged during this period. Various trade routes and territories were assigned to different families, from which the cartels eventually emerged. The most important cartels are;

  • The Sineloa Cartel
  • The Gulf Cartel
  • Tijuana Cartel
  • Los Zetas cartel
  • La Familia cartel
  • The Béltran-Leyva Cartel

In addition to control, Gallardo eventually lost more and more power to the cartels. These took matters into their own hands and became independent organizations. Gallardo himself was arrested on April 8, 1989. This led to a lot of violence, both between the cartels themselves and against the government. In the mid-1990s, an alliance was concluded between the various cartels, which led to a relatively quiet period between the cartels themselves and between the government.

The increase in violence

In 2000, President Vicente Fox decided to send troops to the Mexican border to stop the cartels. Small successes were achieved, but there were also dozens of casualties during this period. In the years that followed, things also became restless between the cartels themselves. Government actions caused cartels to move and claim territories held by other cartels. During these years, many deaths occurred during the feuds between the cartels.
In 2006, the newly elected president, Felipe Calderón, had had enough and in an attempt to stop the violence, he sent 6,500 government troops to Michoacan, where a war had been raging for years between the La Familia cartel and the Gulf Cartel. This action is still seen as the start of the war between the drug cartels and the government. Currently, 45,000 government troops and federal police are involved in the war against the cartels. However, they did not back down and thousands of people were killed during this period. Through corruption and bribery, the cartels gained more and more control over the situation and even tried to implement their own laws. In the meantime, the battle between the cartels continued and is still going on.

The current situation

For the time being, President Calderón seems to have lost the battle and has completely lost control. In 2010, the number of drug-related murders exceeded 11,000 and these murders were regularly carried out in a brutal manner.
The cartels are still competing for territories and larger sales areas in order to generate even more income. The government is in the middle of this war and is trying to stop the violence, but without success so far. The end of the violence is therefore far from in sight and it is hoped that this cycle of violence will one day be broken.

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