Mexico’s drug cartels are a force to be reckoned, and the Mexican federal government has struggled against them for years. A society in and of themselves, it is estimated that close to a half-million people are working directly for drug cartels, with over three million others depending on the drug trade for some portion of their income. This isn’t just a group of organized criminals – there are entire nations that aren’t the size of Mexico’s drug cartels. Within this number is also a number of politicians and police departments, something that may seem shocking to Americans, but still happens in the US, too, though business-related interactions between criminals and officers are more likely to happen within prisons.
The rates of drug abuse and alcoholism within the cartels are numbers that are unknown, but the people living in the areas where the cartels work are prone to drug and alcohol addiction. Still, the illicit drug industry rakes in billions per year, and most of that money, of course, goes to high-level drug industry leaders, like the infamous El Chapo.
There’s no way to talk about the cartels without including the devastation they’ve left on everyday citizens in Mexico. An average of 2,500 people were killed by cartel violence every month in 2017, making it the bloodiest year for cartel violence on record. This doesn’t even consider the assaults, rapes, and thefts committed by the same organizations, and a huge number of people remain officially missing. Steering clear of illicit drugs and excessive drinking could have the added benefit of protecting innocent people as cartels continue to rise on the power of drug-addicted dollars from the United States and Canada.
Simply stopping all of this is actually impossible: the dirty money made by drug cartels flows more freely through the world’s economy than anyone could know. With hundreds of millions of dollars of cartel money circulating through the world economy, the illicit drug industry has taken over a huge portion of the world economy. While nobody can reasonably track every dollar, simply removing cartels could possibly interrupt the economy of an entire country, and that could affect the entire world.
The first people affected by the mere existence of the drug cartels are everyday Mexican people. Middle and working class people are the first to feel the pain of cartel violence, but working class people are the most vulnerable to drug and alcohol addiction.
Having more addictive drugs in an area of a city or a state can compromise the safety of most living within the district, but there will be more and more until someone arrives to protect innocent people from dangerous, leeching cartels. Who is responsible for protecting people from these belligerent groups? The government, of course, but there’s a catch: the cartel has infiltrated some government officials, taken over entire towns in some places, and made local police forces unreliable.
There are rumors that one of the former presidents of drug war-torn Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, accepted a million-dollar bribe from cartel leaders to continue their businesses without interruption. This rumor, never proven true, seemed suspicious, especially when Pena blocked legislation that established a continuing investigation into the corruption of the federal government.
Without cooperating with cartels, politicians in Mexico could face another huge problem, and that is assassination. It is estimated that the drug cartels killed over a hundred politicians in 2017, making a powerful example for anyone who would dare oppose them. Cartel leaders even killed people in authority who were allowing them to work, prompting some outrage from the government. The new president of Mexico won on a democratic socialist platform, one of his many missions to cut down on the influence and reach of the world-infamous drug cartels in the country.
What’s also concerning is the huge number of people who fall victim to violence in Mexico. Some tourists have not returned home. Mexican citizens might not return from work. And now, some 100 people have been kidnapped from a group of refugees migrating from Honduras to the United States to apply for asylum.
While political corruption in the United States is affected less by illicit drugs and more by legal drugs, the influence of drug cartels can be felt here, too. Drug cartels run on intimidation and violence, but also on money and willing individuals. In 2017, a police officer in Texas was investigated for his connections to the cartel. Later, it was revealed that he had taken up working extra hours to protect undercover officers for the purpose of raising money to run for public office.
There’s nothing new about this story – police officers are as tempted by bribes as much any other person. What is frightening to Americans is the prospect of the cartels controlling our own police officers and politicians, as the officer in Texas was controlled. In Miami, the brother of the president of Honduras was arrested on drug-trafficking charges months after President Trump threatened to end American aid to the country due to the coming group of refugees. The United States and Honduras have a strained relationship, and Honduras’ proximity to Colombia, the home of Pablo Escobar, does’t help this relationship. With ties between Colombia and Mexico’s drug trade growing stronger, we can anticipate this trend of allying cartels and movement into the United States to continue. Regardless of the precautions taken to shield ourselves from the influence of powerful and deadly drug cartels, Americans continue to fund their rise to power when they purchase drugs sourced from Mexico and Colombia.
Like the United States, Canada has been dealing with an Opioid Crisis, and most of the materials for the drugs, if not the drugs themselves, have been coming in from Mexico – driven over the border by car, or smuggled in on a plane. Since at least 2016, the Canadian federal government has watched for cartel activity in their country, and they’ve managed to find it. Canada is no paradise – Afghani, Kashmiri, and Sudanese gangs, along with a population of white supremacists, regularly terrorize vulnerable people living in their territories. With the addition of newly-expanded drug cartels from Mexico and Colombia, Canada’s drug problems will get worse before they get better.
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