This is part of our "Focus Series" where we take a deep look into particular issues and bring together what effects they will potentially have for us. This is, in part, another primer for our upcoming Focus Report on Latin America.
Mexico is a nation where affluence, poverty, natural splendour and urban blight rub shoulders.
It has the second-largest economy in Latin America, and is a major oil exporter.
But prosperity remains a dream for many Mexicans, and the socio-economic gap remains wide. Rural areas are often neglected, and huge shanty towns ring the cities.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in drugs-related gang violence in the past decade. Powerful cartels control the trafficking of drugs from South America to the US. Security forces ordered to crack down on them have been accused of abusing their power and acting with impunity.
Dissolution of some of the major cartels has created many smaller, but powerful, splinter groups at war with each other and government military forces, that often catches the citizens in the crossfire.
We have seen the drug cartel wars spilling over into the U.S. with killings, kidnappings, and human trafficking, as well as, other drug related crimes. The Media has shied away from reporting about this over the last few years.
Changing Political Climate
The left-winger Andres Manuel López Obrador won an overwhelming victory in the July 2018 presidential election. This moves the country even more left than his predecessor.
He says his priorities are to tackle corruption and reverse decades of free-market economic policy - which he blames for social inequality, endemic violence, and the desire of so many young people to leave the country is search of a better life.
Mr López Obrador, popularly known by his initials Amlo, is a former mayor of Mexico City, and stood for the presidency on two earlier occasions - losing to Enrique Peña Nieto of the centre-left Institutional Revolutionary Party in 2012.
He has pledged to set an example of personal probity by serving only one term, surrendering part of his salary, selling off his official plane, and not living in the presidential palace, while also proposing a law to allow the recall of any elected official by referendum.
Making New Allies
With political ideologies moving more, and more left, the country is also making new friends with countries other than the U.S.
With these leftists controlling Mexico, the relations with their old friend, the United States, has soured since Donald Trump took office.
It is ironic that this is taking place given the humanitarian disaster caused by socialism currently ongoing just down the road in Venezuela. This will only increase the chances of complete failure of the economic system in Mexico.
Mexico has begun to reach out making arms deals with Russia now. They once purchased mainly U.S. weapons and worked closely with our government on various issues.
Mexico has also entered into arms manufacturing deals with Russia to produce their various types of helicopters, including attack helicopters, as well as tanks, for the Latin American market. You can see the related Focus Report on Russia below.
Drug Wars And Crime Are Getting Worse And Spilling Over Into The U.S.
The Mexican Drug War is an ongoing asymmetric conflict between the Mexican government and various drug trafficking syndicates.
In 2006 when the Mexican military began to intervene, the government's principal goal was to reduce drug-related violence. The Mexican government has asserted that their primary focus is on dismantling the powerful drug cartels, rather than on preventing drug trafficking and demand, which is left to U.S. functionaries.
Although Mexican drug trafficking organizations have existed for several decades, their influence increased after the demise of the Colombian Cali and Medellín cartels in the 1990s.
Mexican drug cartels now dominate the wholesale illicit drug market and in 2007 controlled 90% of the cocaine entering the United States. Arrests of key cartel leaders, particularly in the Tijuana and Gulf cartels, have led to increasing drug violence as cartels fight for control of the trafficking routes into the United States.
This methodology has segmented many of the larger cartels in to many splinter groups. These groups tend to be much more aggressive and rely more on kidnapping for ransom and human trafficking in order to establish themselves.
The increased volatility of these actors has created a much more violent atmosphere for the people of Mexico and alarming increases in violent crime and murder.
Federal law enforcement has been reorganized at least five times since 1982 in various attempts to control corruption and reduce cartel violence.
During that same period there have been at least four elite special forces created as new corruption-free soldiers who could do battle with Mexico's endemic bribery system.
Analysts estimate that wholesale earnings from illicit drug sales is nearly 50 billion annually.
The U.S. Congress passed legislation in late June 2008 to provide Mexico with US$1.6 billion for the Mérida Initiative to provide Mexico with law enforcement training and equipment, as well as technical advice to strengthen the national justice systems.
By the end of Felipe Calderón's administration (December 1, 2006 – November 30, 2012), the official death toll of the Mexican Drug War was at least 60,000.
Estimates set the death toll above 120,000 killed by 2013, not including 36,000 currently "missing". Since taking office, Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared that the war was over; however, his comment was met with criticism as homicide rates continued in high numbers.
Mexico's largest and most powerful drug gangs are the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel. The Zetas operate in more than half of Mexico's states and, according to US geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor, overtook their rivals from the Sinaloa cartel in 2012 in terms of geographic presence.
Stratfor says the Zetas' brutal violence gave the gang an advantage over the Sinaloa cartel, which prefers to bribe people.
However, the Zetas have reportedly been weakened by the loss of their long-time leader Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano, who was killed by the Mexican military in October 2012, and his replacement, Miguel Angel Trevino, who was arrested in July 2013.
Mexico's government hailed the arrest of Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino as a great success
Other influential and violent cartels are the Knights Templar, the Gulf cartel and the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion.
Mexico's cartels control much of the illegal drugs trade from South America to the United States.
They import cocaine from South America and smuggle it on to the US. Some groups grow and smuggle marijuana, while others have specialized in manufacturing methamphetamines, importing precursor drugs from as far away as China.
Most cartels also extort local businesses and bolster their finances through kidnappings for ransom. They have also been involved in people smuggling, prostitution rings, intimidation and murder.
Government security forces are fighting the drug cartels in an attempt to re-establish law and order. Rival cartels are at war with each other in bitter territorial battles.
There is also internecine warfare between cartel members, and the emergence of break-away factions is not unusual.
The Zetas, for example, were first created as the enforcement arm of the Gulf cartel, but later turned on their former allies and have been at war with them ever since.
The Knights Templar are an off-shoot of La Familia Michoacana, a cartel that was weakened after the killing of its leader in 2010.
Allegiances shift, and former rivals sometimes band together to fight emerging groups.
Worst Hit Areas
According to a study by international think tank Institute for Economics and Peace, northern Mexico continues to be the region worst affected by drug-related violence due to its proximity to the United States, the region's most important market for illicit drugs.
But Guerrero on the Pacific coast and central Morelos state have joined the list of most violent states, suggesting the cartels are extending their area of influence.
A study by Mexico's Citizens' Council for Public Security and Penal Justice suggests the city of Oaxaca has the highest occurrence of violent crime, followed by the resort town of Acapulco and Cuernavaca in Morelos state.
Mexico continues to race past a series a grim milestones: more than 200,000 dead and an estimated 30,000 missing, more than 850 clandestine graves unearthed.
This year is set to be the country’s bloodiest since the government started releasing crime figures in 1997, with about 27,000 murders in the past 12 months.
Some of the worst violence in recent years has struck Reynosa and the surrounding state of Tamaulipas, which sits squeezed against the Gulf coast and the US border.
Once in a while, a particularly terrible incident here will make news around the world, such as the murder of Miriam Rodríguez, an activist for families of missing people, who was shot dead in her home on Mother’s Day.
But most crimes are not even reported in the local papers: journalists censor themselves to stay alive and drug cartels dictate press coverage.
“We don’t publish cartel and crime news in order to protect our journalists,” said one local news director, whose media outlet has been attacked by cartel gunmen. Eight journalists were murdered in Mexico in 2017, making it the most dangerous country for the press after Syria.
The information vacuum is filled by social media where bloody photographs of crime scenes and breaking news alerts on cartel shootouts are shared on anonymous accounts.
In Reynosa, violence has become a constant strand in everyday life. Morning commutes are held up by gun battles; movie theatres lock the doors if a shootout erupts during a screening.
More than 90% of residents feel unsafe in the city, according to a September survey by the state statistics service.
Signs of the drug war are everywhere: trees and walls along the main boulevard are pockmarked with bullet holes.
The violence here first erupted around 2010 when the Gulf cartel’s armed wing – a group of former soldiers known as Los Zetas – turned on their masters.
Since then, wave after wave of conflict has scorched through the state as rival factions emerge and collapse.
Crime hit such alarming levels this year that the local maquiladora industry – which pulls thousands to Reynosa every year to work in its export factories – warned that companies might be forced to relocate.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies ranked Mexico as second-deadliest country in the world – ahead of warzones such as Afghanistan and Yemen –
And the violence is spreading: tourist areas have seen shootouts and decapitations, and even the capital has seen confrontations with armed groups. Earlier this month, the bodies of six men were found hanging from bridges in the resort city of Los Cabos.
All of which has been disastrous for the image of President Enrique Peña Nieto who took office in 2012 with an ambitious agenda to push through structural reforms and promote Mexico as an emerging economy.
Fighting crime seemed an afterthought.
“He thought that security issues in Mexico were a problem of perception so he embraced a policy of silence,” said Viridiana Ríos, scholar at the Wilson Centre in Washington.
Peña Nieto’s government maintained the military focus of the drug war, and continued to target cartel kingpins. But analysts question the strategy, saying that it shatters larger criminal empires but leaves smaller – often more violent – factions fighting for the spoils.
Breaking up the cartels also has the perverse effect of encouraging crime groups to diversify, said Brian J Phillips, professor at the Centre for Teaching and Research in Economics.
“The new groups are more likely to raise money by kidnapping or extortion since that doesn’t require the logistics of drug trafficking,” he said. “And as long as demand exists in the USA, and supply is in or passing through Mexico, new criminal organizations will appear.”
"The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Mexico as travel by U.S. government employees to these areas is prohibited or significantly restricted."
"Do not travel to:
Colima state due to crime.
Guerrero state due to crime.
Michoacán state due to crime.
Sinaloa state due to crime.
Tamaulipas state due to crime."
El Chapo Re-Arrested And The Power Struggle to Fill The Vacuum
When the country’s most-wanted crime boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was recaptured last year, Peña Nieto tweeted “Mission accomplished” but even that success has not caused any measurable reduction in crime: Guzmán’s extradition to the United States in January triggered a fresh wave of violence in his home state of Sinaloa.
Meanwhile rivals such as the Jalisco New Generation cartel – a fast-growing organization specializing in methamphetamines and excessive violence – moved in on Sinaloa trafficking territories along the Pacific coast.
And the liberalization of marijuana laws in some US states has prompted some farmers to switch to opium poppies, prompting fresh conflict around the heroin trade.
But despite the worsening violence, there has been little serious consideration of any fresh approaches. Andrés Manuel López Obrador – the winner of the 2018 presidential election – was widely condemned for floating a possible amnesty for criminals.
The proposal drew comparisons with the pax mafiosa before more than 70 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) ended in 2000, in which politicians turned a blind eye to drug-dealing in return for peace.
Politicians are nonetheless still perceived as allying themselves with criminals –especially during costly election campaigns.
“Mexico cannot stop dirty money going into the political system,” said Edgardo Buscaglia, an organized crime expert at Columbia University. “That’s the key to understanding why violence has increased in Mexico.”
Such accusations are all too familiar in Tamaulipas, where two of the past three governors have been indicted in US courts on drug and organized crime charges.
However, in the current period, large and bloody struggles are continuing unresolved, and cartel groups remain locked in nasty turf wars. This environment means that most of these clashes will rage on well into 2019.
This violence has been reflected in the murder statistics, as the homicide figure for 2018 hit 33,341 — far surpassing the 2017 tally of 29,168. While Mexico's homicide rate of about 27 per 100,000 people
As for drug smuggling, synthetics such as methamphetamine and fentanyl continued to impact cartel dynamics heavily in 2018. The huge profits that can be reaped from manufacturing synthetic drugs dwarf those of traditional drugs.
Trafficking cocaine has long been a lucrative criminal enterprise for Mexican criminals, but they must purchase the drug from Andean producers. By making methamphetamine themselves, however, they can reap the lion's share of the profits.
Opium poppies are another profitable criminal enterprise in Mexico, whose heroin now accounts for more than 90 percent of the U.S. market for the drug. However, raising poppies and processing opium gum into heroin costs more and takes longer than producing fentanyl.
The synthetic opioid is more profitable than heroin, which explains why criminals have been passing fentanyl off as heroin. Record levels of poppy planting and the low cost of fentanyl have led to a collapse in the price of opium gum.
With Colombian coca production also running at historically high levels, Mexican cartels are likely to continue to traffic a wide variety of drugs to meet U.S. and domestic demand.
But drug trafficking is not the only criminal activity that Mexico's organized crime cartels engage in.
The fracturing of the formerly powerful cartels has led not only to a record number of murders but also to heavily armed cartel gunmen becoming involved in a host of other criminal enterprises, from kidnapping and extortion to the theft of cargo and fuel.
It is no coincidence that the pilfering of cargo and fuel have reached historically high levels as balkanization blossomed over the past half-decade. There was also a huge loss of life when a pipeline carrying fuel exploded while people were stealing fuel.
At Nuevo Laredo, the Cartel del Noreste (CDN) is the remnant of the Los Zetas cartel that controls that important crossing — the busiest point of entry along the border and the one that leads directly up the Interstate Highway 35 corridor.
The CDN is led by Juan Gerardo Trevino Chavez, also known as El Huevo; he is a member of the old-school Trevino smuggling clan, which has a long history in Nuevo Laredo — and in the Los Zetas cartel.
The CDN is locked in a vicious fight against another Los Zetas remnant, the Zetas Vieja Escuela (ZVE) — the Old School Zetas — that is playing out across the state, but particularly in Ciudad Victoria.
Cartel violence in Mexico has affected almost every part of the country, including areas that are considered generally safe, such as upscale neighborhoods and tourist resorts and zones.
Indeed, many cartel leaders live in upscale homes or apartment buildings, and this increases the risk of violence being dragged into such areas when rivals target them for assassination or when authorities go to arrest them.
Most of the violence has been cartel on cartel or government on cartel, but with the cartels using automatic weapons and military ordnance, such as grenades and anti-tank weapons, bystanders are at considerable risk of injury or death.
With increasing violence and uncontrollable wars, some companies are threatening to leave, while yet others are removing Mexico from their list of potential places to set up shop.
This will have dire consequences for an already struggling economy. Especially, for one in which the climate is moving more leftist and towards socialism.
It is a country in chaos. The government had been able to secure their high end tourist areas fairly well, but recent gruesome murders in resort areas are likely to reduce that as well. Another hit for the struggling economy.
Another Reason For A Border Wall?
For many years, border towns were safe and attractive places for tourists to visit and get a taste of foreign culture, food, shopping and nightlife.
Today, these towns have a very different image that is often overshadowed by violence and crime happening on the border. Here are the 8 most dangerous border towns:
- El Paso: The West Texas city of El Paso shares a border with Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua, Mexico, which is the most dangerous city in Mexico and one of the worst in the world. In recent years, the violence in Juarez has begun to spill over to the U.S. side, endangering El Paso residents, law enforcement officers and first responders. Juarez is a battleground for drug-related violence and these gangs have shown no mercy to Americans. In 2010, stray bullets from a gun battle in Juarez struck El Paso’s city hall and a university building, causing police to shut down a major border highway.
- San Diego: Along the border of San Diego, California, lies Tijuana, one of the most dangerous and violent cities in Mexico. Tijuana’s drug and human trafficking rings have infiltrated into San Diego, resulting in several homicides and kidnappings every year. Gun battles between drug cartels and auto theft crimes are also very common along the border. Another concern along the San Diego-Tijuana border is the brutal raping of women and young girls by human smugglers.
- Calexico: Calexico, California, rests on the border of Mexicali in Baja California, Mexico. Calexico has more than 60,000 people pass through the town every day.
Drug smuggling is a major issue in Calexico, where numerous smuggling tunnels have been discovered and ultralight planes have been seen dropping bins of marijuana on to the American side. One of Calexico’s most dangerous spots is the All American Canal, which is three miles from the U.S. Port of Entry at Calexico. Every year dozens of illegal aliens drown trying to cross this dangerous body of water and enter America. Border Patrol agents are often assaulted when trying to rescue illegal aliens along the canal.
- Brownsville: Brownsville, Texas, lies across the border from Matamoros, Tamaulipas in Mexico, where drug wars and violence have become more and more common. This city’s proximity to Mexico has caused several problems along the border, including gun battles that have struck buildings at The University of Texas at Brownsville and forced police to shut down border crossing bridges. Brownsville also sees its fair share of drug, weapon and human trafficking crimes across the border.
- Columbus: The small town of Columbus, New Mexico, shares a border with Puerto Palomas in Chihuahua, Mexico. In recent years, Columbus has become a breeding ground for organized crime, where an estimated 10 percent of the 2,000-person population may be involved in illegal activity. Drug smugglers have made their homes here and the town’s small police force is scandal-ridden and constantly in disarray. This was made obvious in March, when the mayor of Columbus, the town’s police chief and the village trustee were among several city officials indicted for trafficking firearms to Mexico.
- Laredo: Laredo is a South Texas city located on the north bank of the Rio Grande that borders Nuevo Laredo in Tamaulipas, Mexico. For many years, Laredo has been the target of cartel violence and drug trafficking for Mexican gangs, and has added ransom kidnappings, a high speed chase and a record-breaking weapons bust to the list of criminal activities happening there.
In 2010, the U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo was damaged from an explosive that was thrown over the wall by Mexican gang members.
- Nogales: Nogales, Arizona, shares a border with Nogales in Sonora, Mexico. The Mexican city of Nogales is ridden with violence and gang activity, which has managed to creep into the U.S. side over the last few years. The ongoing fight for control of drug trafficking routes along the U.S.-Mexico border has put Nogales, Arizona residents in greater danger. Last year, an Arizona rancher was killed on his property by a Mexican smuggler, and a massive gang-related gun battle broke out near the border, killing 21 people and wounding six.
- McAllen: McAllen is located at the southern tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley and is five miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. There lies the Mexican city of Reynosa in Tamaulipas, which is notorious for drug trafficking and border violence. In 2008, one of Mexico’s most brutal drug cartels, Los Zetas, found its way into McAllen to regain control of drug trafficking routes in America.
Mexican gang reinforcements have led to increased drug smuggling, money laundering, arms trafficking and immigration problems in McAllen.
You can't get many stories out of the leftist media these days about the violence on border towns in the US, or the corruption of local officials by the drug cartels. This would harm their narrative against the border wall and provide too much support for President Trump.
Problems Aren't Just In Border Towns In The US Either
Stories from Tucson, AZ which is 100 miles away from the border, are frightening, but Tucson is hardly alone in feeling the impact of Mexico’s drug cartels and their trade. In the past few years, the cartels and other drug trafficking organizations have extended their reach across the United States and into Canada.
Law enforcement authorities say they believe traffickers distributing the cartels’ marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs are responsible for a rash of shootings in Vancouver, British Columbia, kidnappings in Phoenix, brutal assaults in Birmingham, Ala., and much more.
United States law enforcement officials have identified 230 cities, including Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston and Billings, Mont., where Mexican cartels and their affiliates “maintain drug distribution networks or supply drugs to distributors,” as a Justice Department report put it in December.
The figure rose from 100 cities reported three years earlier, though Justice Department officials said that may be because of better data collection methods as well as the spread of the organizations
Tucson's city’s home-invasion squad, a sergeant and five detectives working nearly around the clock. Phoenix assembled a similar unit in September to investigate kidnappings related to drug and human smuggling. In the last two years, the city has recorded some 700 cases, some involving people held against their will in stash houses and others abducted.
The state police also have a new human-smuggling squad that focuses on the proliferation of drop houses, where migrants are kept and often beaten and raped until they pay ever-escalating smuggling fees.
“Five years ago a home invasion was almost unheard of,” said Assistant Chief Roberto Villaseñor of the Tucson Police Department. “It was rare.”
Several hours after Sergeant Azuelo investigated the home invasion in Tucson, involving the pistol whipping, his squad was called to one blocks away.
This time, the intruders ransacked the house before taking a 14-year-old boy captive. Gang investigators recognized the house as having a previous association with a street gang suspected of involvement in drug dealing.
The Atlanta area, long a transportation hub for legitimate commerce, has emerged as a new staging ground for drug traffickers taking advantage of its web of freeways and blending in with the wave of Mexican immigrants who have flocked to work there in the past decade.
Last August, in one of the grislier cases in the South, the police in Shelby County, Ala., just outside Birmingham, found the bodies of five men with their throats cut. It is believed they were killed over a $450,000 debt owed to another drug trafficking faction in Atlanta.
All in all, Sergeant Azuelo said, it was a run-of-the-mill call in a week in Tucson that would include at least three other such robberies.
“I think this is the tip of the iceberg,” Detective Kris Bollingmo said as he shined a light through the garage. “The problem is only going to get worse.” Sergeant Azuelo added, “We are, ”keeping the finger in the dike.”
Mexican drug trafficking cartels “represent the greatest organized crime threat to the United States,” according to a recent Justice Department report. You would think all of this information would be all over the news!
But, the leftist media has other agendas, along with the socialist Democrat party. They don't want you to know about all of this that is happening. Trump tries to tell the story, and they just say he's lying. I guess you can determine that for yourself after you finish your review of this information.
Asylum Claims At The Border
I think the conditions in Mexico are tragic, but also quite dangerous, not only for the people of Mexico, but for the U.S. as well.
Migrants coming here are not just those seeking better economic opportunity, but some are also legitimately seeking to escape the cartel wars and violence.
The problem for the U.S. is that we simply can't accept all of Mexico into our country. We must find a way to help them solve their problems there, where they are. People in need should be given a safe zone to go to that his heavily protected, so that asylums in the U.S. for this reason are not needed.
A border wall in itself will not stop the flow of migrants. Due to "asylum laws", migrants can still file claims at the border entry points and must be let in until they can have a hearing before a judge to decide the merits of the case.
Unfortunately, there are so many and too few judges. 70,000 migrants filed at the Southern border just last month. This month is expected to top 100,000.
The system is so backlogged that it takes 3 years, and now more like 5 years, before a judge can hear the hear the case and provide a ruling. Only about 2-3% actually come back for their hearing, because close to 90% are denied.
So, these people are let out into our streets, generally never to be seen again. These are alarming numbers that will devastate our economic infrastructure.
New procedures and laws for dealing with these claims need to be made, but of course, that's not going to happen from the leftist House that we currently have. Below is an excellent explanation of how the illegal immigration system will effect our economy... in "gumball theory".
With Mexico unravelling economically and politically, and the increasing war between the cartels themselves, and the government, there is a great reason for a wall in itself.
The addition of Russia as a friend and economic partner to Mexico is yet another. Having our enemies on the other side of the ocean has always been a huge benefit to our geo-political security. Now, having Russian military hardware and production facilities right on our Southern border, begins to erase that tactical advantage.
So, there's another reason for the wall. There are other things too, like those immigrants who avoid ports of entry, potentially bringing in deadly diseases, etc.
All-in-all, Mexico is a mess and it looks like it is only going to deteriorate further. Donald Trump's policy of fair and free trade is good for the U.S. but further weakens the Mexican economy as it loses the advantage that they had. This is likely to only hasten their economic decline.
The outlook in Mexico right now is certainly grim. We will go into more detail tying all these issues with Mexico, Russia, China, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries all together in our Focus Report on Latin America. With enemies at our gates, you won't want to miss that report!
The police authorities in #Mexico also say "In these first months, The city of #Guanajuato registered 947 homicides, that is a increase of 27% compared to the beginning of 2018." these are shocking statistics police says.
See these related "primer" reports on all the players in FOCUS: Latin America 2019 report!