Mexican drug cartels: what are they? And what do they do?

Posted on May 27, 2011

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Most of the drugs that are sold in the US are imported via Mexico. Mexican president Felipe Calderon started tackling the drug cartel problem in his country after coming to power in 2006. But the US isn’t helping Mexico with its war on drugs. Therefore Mexican cartel bosses keep supplying the world with illegal drugs.

The Godfather of Mexican drug cartels. Image depicting Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo. DEA

Many die as a result of the transport of drugs to the States. This week a gang shootout left twenty-eight dead. To date, there have been 34,000 drug related deaths since President Felipe Calderon started fighting the drug cartels in 2006.

But what is a drug cartel? Why are they in Mexico? And where’s the money coming from?

Drug cartels are criminal organisations that control the distribution of illegal drugs through formal or informal enterprises. They exist in powerful groups in Mexico, funded mainly through drugs sold in the US.

They are lead by a hierarchy similar to what you might see in the Mafia. Their power has grown so much that according to some Mexican military sources, parts of the country are working totally outside of state control.

What has been achieved?

The Mexican government claims that its seized significant amounts of drugs over the past five years, but its still thought to be but a fraction of what’s produced and exported worldwide. Although the operation has targeted bandits, there have been many civilian casualties as a result of the action.

President Calderon continues to use more troops in his desperate struggle to restore law and order and reduce deaths.

Some Mexicans can’t believe that America is not doing more to stop what has been described as a ‘drug war’.

A Major General, who asked that his name not be revealed, told Borderland Beat, a website based in Mexico: “If America does not wage war against drug dealers, why do we fight against those who transport drugs to keep American distributors happy? What we should care for is a life free of crime and fear for Mexicans. ”

A sense of helplessness and a lack of US support in chasing down drug providers has added to a growing feeling that defeating the Cartels may be too ambitious, and perhaps too costly in funding and lives.

But, if nothing is done then the Cartels will continue to govern regions of Mexico, supplying illegal drugs to the world.

Edited by Stefanie Soehnchen

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Posted in: News