The Drug Conflict Today

Guillermo Arias/AP
Army soldiers stand guard by US citizen Eduardo Morquecho, aka "El Lalo," as he is shown to the
press, along with items seized from him during his arrest in Tijuana, Mexico, July 10, 2009.

The Mexican Drug War

For decades, Mexican police and public officials, enticed by bribes or simply intimidated by cartels, ignored the country’s illegal drug trade. After Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon publicly declared war on drugs, a wave of grisly murders, kidnappings and shootouts followed.

President Calderon has seen some success, capturing several cartel bosses, and breaking up various alliances, but his success comes at a price. A greater number of people have died in Mexico’s drug war than have been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, and the toll continues to rise.

In addition to smuggling marijuana and methamphetamine, Mexico is now responsible for 90 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the U.S.

Origins of the Mexican Drug Conflict

In the mid-1980s, the South Florida Drug Task Force frightened off Colombia’s major Drug ... read more »

The Drug Conflict Today

President Calderon now has 40,000 soldiers fighting the war on drugs, but kidnappings, beheadings, extortion and other forms of narcoterrorism have created an atmosphere of fear and desperation in many parts of Mexico. A report from the Brookings Institute explains the bind that police officers, judges and public officials are in, forced to choose between “plata o plomo”—translating to “silver or lead,” meaning take a bribe or be killed.

Top Sites for the Mexican Drug Conflict Today

The Los Angeles Times special project, “Mexico Under Siege,” houses comprehensive article archives and an interactive map, alongside profiles of key players and a multimedia gallery.

FindingDulcinea looks at the surge of violence in Mexico and the threat to U.S. border towns and other cities. The article cites the BBC, which explains two divergent views regarding the violence in Mexico. The Mexican government sees it as a sign that the “‘monster’ has been wounded,” and that its aggressive tactics are working. Critics disagree, saying the cartels basically govern parts of Mexico, and violence is merely a by-product of “gang law.”

The BBC provides answers to a list of Frequently Asked Questions about Mexico’s drug war, and notes that, according to government officials, nine in 10 people killed in Mexico are connected to the drug trade or are law enforcement agents. 

NPR interviewed police officers in Juarez, Mexico, the most dangerous city there. According to the 2008 report, the Cartels created a hit list of 22 officers they planned to assassinate; 18 officers were killed in 2008—some were on the list and others weren’t. One lieutenant, who asked not to be named, told NPR he breaks the law by taking his gun home with him and not stopping at traffic lights, because he fears for his life.
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The Impact of the Conflict and Proposed Solutions

In 2007, President George W. Bush and President Felipe Calderon signed the Merida Initiative, in ... read more »

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