In 2006, the Mexican government declared war on the various drug trafficking cartels in Mexico. Since the demise of the infamous Cali and Medellin cartels, the prevalence and power of drug cartels in Mexico has grown. As of 2013, the estimated death toll was around 120,000, while approximately 27,000 people were also reported missing. At present the situation with the drug cartels in Mexico has arguably worsened, and they are as powerful as ever.
While the Mexican government’s strategy to eliminate the ‘high profile’ heads of cartels has succeeded, particularly with the arrest of Omar Trevino Morales–the head of the notorious Zetas cartel– it has also created a new problem: the emergence and growth of new military groups who, reportedly, target the Mexican governments military. Currently, the most dangerous and threatening cartel is the Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel (CJNG). For example, the CJNG has engaged in conflicts with the Mexican military in broad daylight.
In addition to this, such actions come amidst reports of Mexican police ambushes, the latest of which occurred in April of 2015, which resulted in the death of 15 police officers. The CJNG has presented itself as a cartel that is committed to defeating the other cartels in Mexico in order to bring stability and peace to the country. As such, the cartel often makes attempts to antagonise the government and draw public support from the Mexican people.
Further, the presence of cartels in Mexico has also lead to citizen defence forces (CDF) or vigilantes who try to bring down the cartels. Through such attempts, the CDF’s have begun to engage in turf wars themselves, which are similar to the activities that cartels, such as the CJNG engage in. For instance, CDF’s often employ tactics, such as kidnapping, extortion, and drug trafficking. As a result, many Mexican prosecutors contend that the CDF’s are extensions of the CJNG and have expressed concerns about the CJNG using public dissatisfaction to further the goals of its cartel.
Mexican authorities continue to deny that the situation with the drug cartels is getting worse, and have referred to the reduction of human rights complaints as found by the Mexican Human Rights Commission (CNDH) as back-up. In spite of this, the majority of murders committed throughout the country are not prosecuted or even investigated, which calls into question the accuracy of the information provided by the CNDH. As well, the UN contends that only around 1-2% of the homicides committed, from 2006 to 2012, resulted in convictions. The UN further argues that such figures point to a culture of corruption, impunity, and lawlessness that is rampant throughout the country. Despite this, the Mexican government has highlighted their desire to harden their line against the cartels with the extradition of many ‘top’ kingpins, who had previously been in Mexican prisons for many years, to the United States. However, these successes come amidst the escape of the notorious El Chapo, which subsequently resulted in a $5 million slash in funding from the United States government. The escape of El Chapo illustrates the inadequacy of the Mexican justice system and the corruption that hampers many of the successes it makes. The United States has provided funding to the Mexican government since 2007, and the sudden reduction of funding from them was an unprecedented blow to the Mexican government’s fight against drugs. However, the United States has justified their withdrawal of funding, arguing that it was due to a lack of improvement in Mexico.
The situation in Mexico is largely unpublicised, however it is apparent that the conditions in the country are, perhaps, worse than its historically violent past. For example, over the past few days, in a grotesque show of aggravation, four severed heads were left by the side of a road. These violent acts have been attributed to a drug cartel that was, possibly, trying to defend their turf. With that said, the key issue in Mexico’s road to peace is the corruption of their legal and political systems. As such, the argument is that fixing this would give the Mexican government the ‘leg up’ they desperately need.