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Here's Why Drug Violence is on the Rise in Mexico

U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Flickr (U.S Government Work)
The Bridge of the Americas from Juarez into El Paso. Curbing drug trafficking across the border into the U.S. is one way to decrease drug gang violence in Mexico.

From Texas Standard:

It's been 10 years since the start of Mexico's drug war when former Mexican President Felipe Calderon ordered 6,500 Mexican troops to the state of Michoacan to curb a surge in drug violence there.

Drug gang violence has gotten worse; 150,000 people have died since the war's beginning and 30,000 remain missing.

The number of killings in the border town of Ciudad Juarez is on pace to be the highest since 2013. The El Paso Times reports that the number has climbed past 490.


Nathan Jones is a professor of security studies at Sam Houston State University and author of the book “Mexico's Illicit Drug Networks and the State Reaction”.

"This is part of a broader increase in violence in Mexico as a result of the Mexican government's kingpin strategy, which involves taking out the high-level bosses of drug cartels,” Jones says. “What often times happens is the lower levels end up fighting with each other or they break apart and fragment."

Drug cartels are fragmenting more, which leads to the increase in violence, Jones says. The domestic market for methamphetamine, or Crystal as it’s known in Mexico, is also growing. And a lot of the violence is focused on killing Crystal dealers.

The Mexican government has spent countless pesos and manpower on the war on drugs. But Jones says over the past 10 years problems have continued.

The Mexican government's original idea was to break up the larger trafficking organizations to make them easier to deal with. The military was supposed to be a stopgap until local and state law enforcement could deal with the rise in violence. But Jone says with a few exceptions, development of local law enforcement throughout the country is lacking.

"Instead of these large, more potentially controllable organizations that were focusing on drugs, what you've seen is a lot of violent, fragmented organizations that have expanded into kidnapping and extortion. So in some ways, it's gotten worse."

Jones says one way to curb violence is to eliminate the market for drugs and the high profits drug trafficking organizations are making. The legalization of marijuana in certain U.S. states has helped to contribute to that.

“Colorado. Washington. Oregon. Now we're looking at California and all the other states that have either legalized marijuana for recreation purposes or have engaged in medical marijuana policies,” Jones says. “In some ways [they] have taken away a good chunk of that market and denied them a significant chunk of profits. But what we can do is through alternate drug policies and demand reduction.”

Drug trafficking organizations won't just roll over and die, Jones says, but denying them profits makes them more manageable.

"So strengthening of institutions at the same time as trying to dry up some of those profits – that, to me, seems the best, most logical way out of this situation," he says.

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.