Monday, June 8, 2009

CRS Report - Mexico’s Drug-Related Violence

Today Mexico is a major producer and supplier to the U.S. market of heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana and the major transit country for cocaine sold in the United States. According to the Department of State’s 2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, as much as 90% of the cocaine entering the United States now transits through Mexico. A small number of Mexican DTOs control the most significant drug distribution operations along the Southwest border. The criminal activities of these Mexican DTOs reach well beyond the towns and cities of the border, extending along drug trafficking routes into cities across the United States. The Mexican DTOs have exhibited many characteristics of organized crime such as being organized in distinct cells and controlling subordinate cells that operate throughout the United States.


The Mexican DTOs, often referred to as “drug cartels,” have become increasingly violent. The National Drug Threat Assessment states that Mexico’s DTOs now “control most of the U.S. drug market,” with distribution capabilities in 230 U.S. cities. Mexican President Felipe Calderón began his assault on organized crime shortly after he took office in December 2006 and made combating the DTOs a centerpiece of his policy. The Calderón government has devoted billions of dollars to the offensive against Mexico’s entrenched drug trafficking organizations, and deployed 45,000 soldiers and thousands of federal police in nearly a dozen of Mexico’s states in the fight.

More than 5,600 people died in drug trafficking violence in Mexico in 2008, more than double the prior year. This escalation in the level of violence was matched by a growing ferocity.

Beginning in early 2008, there was an increase in assassinations of high-level law enforcement officials, gruesome murders including beheadings, violent kidnappings, use of a growing and varied arsenal of high-powered weapons, and one incidence of indiscriminate killing of civilians.The battle for control of the multi-billion dollar drug trade has been and continues to be brutal. While the U.S. and Mexican media began to shift their attention away from the sensational crimes allegedly committed by the Mexican DTOs in late spring, the high numbers of killings have continued, exceeding an estimated 2,000 thus far in 2009.

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