ATLANTA, Georgia – Mexico’s war on drugs has been raging for over seven years with devastating results. Thousands are dead, chaos reigns in the streets, and its citizens live in the fearful shadow of the powerful drug cartels. Unfortunately, the brutal violence, as well as the power of the cartels, has not decreased.
There seems to be plenty of blame to go around for the current state of violence in Mexico. For example, there is no question that America’s hunger for illegal drugs puts money directly into the pockets of violent cartels allowing their operations to continue, while Mexico, for decades, was complacent with the presence of cartels at almost every level of society.
In addition to cartel violence, Mexican citizens find themselves suffering under a militarized police force that commits frequent human rights abuses. Despite knowledge these abuses exist, the legal mechanisms designed to prevent such abuse are known for their weakness and corruption. Accounts have surfaced of forced confessions, beating, electrocutions, and medical examiners downplaying injuries from torture in reports to authorities.
Out of the 3,671 investigations that have been initiated by prosecutors only 15 soldiers have been prosecuted.
To spread awareness regarding the devastation wrought by the drug war, here are 10 important facts.
1. Drugs make up 3-4% of Mexico’s $1.5 trillion GDP.
2. The Committee to Protect Journalists has ranked Mexico as the 8th deadliest country for reporters.
3. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms states that 90% of weapons confiscated in Mexico come from the United States.
4. The cartels reap $19 billion to $29 billion from U.S. drug sales alone.
5. Mexico has one of the highest rates of kidnapping in the world. An average of 70 people per month are abducted.
6. In 2012, Joaquin Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa cartel, made Forbes list of billionaires. Sinaloa controls up to 25 percent of the drugs that enter the United States through Mexico. The annual revenues produced by Sinaloa are over $3 billion.
7. In 2008, the U.S. created the Merida Initiative to provide assistance in the drug war. It consisted of sending $1.4 billion of aid to Mexico, Central America, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In 2010, the partnership was extended and renamed Beyond Merida.
8. The drug industry is estimated to employ at least half a million people.
9. From 2006 to 2012, President Felipe Calderón deployed 50,000 troops confront the cartels.
10. Over 47,000 people have been killed since the war began in 2006.
Several options have been put forward to address the drug war from a policymaking perspective. Decriminalization remains the most popular prescription advocated by many officials in both the U.S. and Mexico.
Three former Latin American presidents have publicly stated they wish to see a “paradigm shift” toward decriminalization, which is seen by many as the most effective way to eventually curb demand and violence related to drugs.
Others contend that decriminalization would help support the cartels export market, and instead favor enforcement against violent dealers while also trying to reduce demand.
President Felipe Calderón’s successor, Enrique Peña Nieto, intends to continue the fight against the cartels. However, he has stated he intends to shift policies toward reducing violence instead of apprehending cartel members and drugs.
– Zack Lindberg