Mexico: Drug War – Heena Rohra

I was always fascinated about the drug war in Mexico, I found it very intriguing. A country is not only about its cities, roads, politics, laws, etc. But a country is about the society, its people and their spirit and This country Mexico, its spirit lies in its people, the individuals who reside in the country. Drug wars have now  almost become a part of life of the people of the country.

Mexico has always been in the news for its drug-traffic and narco-related activities. Drug Trafficking has led to corruption in the country which has had a baneful effect on Mexico’s Federal Representative Republic.  Mainly because of its geographical location, Mexico has long been used as a producing and conveying point for narcotics, illegal immigrants and black market destined for U.S markets from Mexico market itself. Towards the end of the 1960s, the Mexican narcotic smugglers started to smuggle drugs on a major scale. During 1980s and 1990s, the Colombian organisations formed partnerships with Mexican drug traffickers to transport cocaine through Mexico into the United States. Organizations from Mexico became involved in the distribution, as well as the transportation of cocaine.

Mexican Cartels

Mexican drug cartels play a major role in the flow of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana transiting between Latin America and the United States. The United States is a lucrative market for illegal drugs. The United Nations estimates that nearly 90% of cocaine sold in the United States originates in South America and is smuggled through Mexico.

The birth of all Mexican drug cartels is traced to the year 1980 when ‘Guadalajara Cartel’ was made by Felix Gallardo and it controlled all illegal drug trade in Mexico and across the US – Mexico border. Felix Gallardo is called the Godfather of Mexican drug cartels. But the Guadalajara Cartel suffered a major blow in 1985 and Felix Gallardo decided to divide the trade and thus various cartels were created. La Familia Cartel, Gulf Cartel, Juarez Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, etc are some of them. All of these were divided geographically, for example The Juarez Cartel controls the illegal entry into the United States from Ciudad Juarez.

The relations between the Cartels have been very tense, all of them fighting for the power. They also increased co-operation with U.S. street and prison gangs to expand their distribution networks within the U.S

And the war began

Though violence between the drug cartels had been occuring long before the war began but still the government did not take any seriousaction as such. But this changed when Felipe Calderon was elected as a President in the year 2006. President Felipe Calderon sent 6,500 federal troops in the state of Michoacan to end drug violence there. It was called the Operation Michoacan launched against the La Familia Michoacana cartel on 11th December, 2006. And that is when it is said that the war had begun. It was considered to be the first major operation against the organised crime that was going on since years. This is considered to be the starting point of the war between the government and the drug cartels.  A total of more than 60 Mexican soldiers and more than 100 police officers, and 500 cartel gunmen were killed in the operation.

Calderon continued with his anti-drug campaign which involved around 45,000 troops in addition to state and federal police forces. Since the war began, over forty thousand people have been killed as a result of cartel violence. During Calderón’s presidential term, the murder rate of Mexico has increased dramatically. Calderon was, therefore, criticized a lot even though he intended to end the war between rival cartel leaders. Calderon’s forces concentrated on bringing down the main leaders of the cartels either by arresting them or by their death. But it only worsened the situation since the cartels got more aggressive. Power struggles for leadership in the cartels became more intense, resulting in enhanced violence within the cartels themselves. It has been suspected that even the military is corrupted and involved with the cartels.

Effects in Mexico

Crime continued in high levels and a great amount of violence experienced in the country like the states of Baja California, Durango,Sinaloa, Guerrero, Chihuahua, Michoacán, Tamaulipas, and Nuevo León. But especially in the cities of Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez the situation was out of control and only worsened day by day.

Ciudad Juárez

Ciudad Juarez stands on the Rio Grande, across the United States border from El Paso, Texas. The city has been a front for one of the most brutal drug wars in history. The city is a key transit point for illicit drugs entering the US, and there has been considerable violence between rival gangs. The Juárez Cartel is a Mexican drug cartel based in Ciudad Juárez and has been found to operate in 21 mexican states. Since 2007, the Juárez Cartel has been locked in a vicious battle with its former partner, the Sinaloa Cartel, for control of Juárez. The fighting between them has left thousands dead in Chihuahua state. The Juárez Cartel relies on two enforcement gangs to exercise control over both sides of the border: La Linea, a group of corrupt (current and former) Chihuahua police officers, is prevalent on the Mexican side, while the Barrio Azteca street gang operates in Mexico and in Texan cities such as El Paso, Dallas and Houston, as well as in New Mexico and Arizona. Most of the violence (at first) was war between drug traffickers, but later much of other organized crime groups took advantage of itCiudad Juárez was considered as the world’s most dangerous city in the last few years.

Ciudad Juarez has been named as the ‘City of Death’. For such a title given to the city, one can only imagine the situation right there. But, I am a live example of it. Living in the city exacting during the year 2009-2010, I can rightly say that the situation was terrifying. In 2008, violence in Juarez reached a level that was never seen before.As of March 2009 at least 4500 soldiers and federal police were in the city to curtail mostly drug cartel related violence and by August 2009, there were more than 7,500 federal troops in the city. One could see the soldiers and the police on the streets 24/7. But despite their presence, Juarez’s murder rate was the highest reported in the world.

One incident I remember the most, it being the first one was when I was in school and all of a sudden we heard a noise. We were terrified to know that somebody was shot dead right outside the school. Being new to the city, it was the scariest thing ever. People would always tell me to ‘be careful’, but there was more than just being careful. It was restricted to walk on the streets, because you never know, you could be just shot dead or kidnapped. People were afraid to put down the glasses of their cars, especially during signals because there were cases of the person being kidnapped by showing a gun. No staying out until late, clubs were shut, every weekends we heard news of more and more people getting killed at a party or a club. My very own people, I knew, innocents, were killed, it gave us chills. They had now started entering houses and started robbing it. Such was the condition in my dearest Ciudad Juarez.

People started moving away to El Paso, Texas and started residing there for the safety of their family. But, the most disturbing thing I heard was that the Mexican Government had some hand in all this. Corruption had spread everywhere, at the Government Level too. Juarez was a wounded city. In January 2012, the Mexican government reported that 47,515 people had been killed in drug-related violence. But reports say that the situation has gotten much much better than the past years and the murder rate has decreased to an extent. It is a sigh of relief for the citizens and I hope it gets better with time.

Government Corruption

Mexican Cartels have been advancing in their operations successfully by corrupting the government officials to an extent.  Some agents of the Federal Investigations Agency (AFI) are believed to work as enforcers for various cartels. There was a ‘Clean-up Operation’ that was performed in 2008, in which various officials and agents were arrested for being involved with the cartels. Reports say that the drug cartels pay billions of dollars to the police officials as a bribe. Thus, we can say that, high level of corruption in the police and the government has contributed immensely to the crime problem.

The New President

In July 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto was elected as a new President of the country. Peña Nieto, during his campaign, vowed to battle murder, extortion, kidnapping and other violent crimes but said that he intended to eventually withdraw the Mexican Army from the drug fight.

“[Violence] is the most sensitive issue for Mexicans,” he says. “Mexico cannot put up with this scenario of death and kidnapping.” He said that he plans to make reducing violence his main focus.

Spirit of Mexico

Mexico did not choose to be called the deadliest country.  Every country has its issues, but its the spirit of the people that counts. This country has incredible people and amazing culture and definitely do not deserve such a life. It is not some story from some movie,  it is the actual life Mexicans are living. Atleast to me, Mexico has given the best year of my life as an exchange student, alongwith the wonderful people that I got to know who taught me how to ‘live’ even after facing deadly situations everyday. Mexico has one of the world’s largest economies and it has the potential to grow and turn into a developed country. The government must provide a stronger security to the citizens. Even though most officials admit that it is impossible to eradicate the drug war from the country, let us hope that the new President, the Government and the citizens of the country together make it possible to end this.


  1. A very complete point of view…i couldn’t agree more, hope it won’t be long for everything to end …

  2. amazing paper! i can say that you touched every critical point about the drug-war.

  3. Nicolas /

    How do I cite this page?


  1. - "Impossible" to end drug trade, says Calderón... Nov 23rd 2012, 22:35 by T.W. | MEXICO CITY ENDING the consumption and the …

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