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What is the history of the Mexican drug war?

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History of the Mexican drug war (Photo: MundoNOW Archive)
  • Mexican drug war and its history.
  • How it has affected Mexico and the world.
  • There’s no end in sight.

The Mexican drug war, a long-standing and complex conflict, has its roots in the latter half of the 20th century, when illicit drug trade began to emerge as a significant issue in Mexico.

Initially, Mexico was primarily a transit point for drugs like cocaine, marijuana and heroin from South America to the United States.

However, during the 1980s, as U.S. law enforcement intensified anti-drug measures, Mexican drug cartels began to gain power, taking control of major drug trafficking routes.

This shift not only increased the cartels’ influence within Mexico but also led to escalating violence as they fought for control over lucrative smuggling routes and territories.

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Photo: MundoNOW

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, several major drug cartels had established themselves within Mexico, the most notable being the Guadalajara Cartel.

This period marked a significant transformation in the nature of drug trafficking in Mexico, with cartels becoming more organized and violent in their operations.

The fragmentation of the Guadalajara Cartel led to the formation of new cartels, including the Sinaloa, Tijuana and Juarez Cartels, each vying for dominance in the drug trade.

The competition among these cartels sparked a series of brutal conflicts, significantly escalating the level of violence in Mexico.

Government response and escalation of the Mexican drug war

cartel, drug trafficking, Mexico, map, army
Photo: MundoNOW Archive

The Mexican government’s response to the rising power of the cartels began in earnest in the early 2000s, with increased military and law enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking.

In 2006, President Felipe Calderón launched a major initiative, deploying thousands of troops to cartel strongholds, which marked a significant escalation in the government’s approach to the drug war.

This militarized response, while intended to weaken the cartels, often resulted in intense and violent confrontations, leading to a dramatic increase in drug-related homicides.

The government’s strategy faced criticism for its focus on capturing or killing cartel leaders, which often resulted in the fragmentation of cartels and subsequent power struggles.

Societal impact and human cost

Mexican army, operation, son of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Ovidio Guzman, Sinaloa
Photo: MundoNOW Archive

The Mexican drug war has had a profound and devastating impact on Mexican society, affecting countless lives.

Communities caught in the crossfire of cartel conflicts have experienced a significant rise in violence, including kidnappings, extortion, and homicides.

The war has also led to widespread human rights abuses, both by the cartels and sometimes by government forces.

The societal impact extends beyond the immediate violence, with long-term effects on public health, economic stability and the internal displacement of citizens seeking safety.

Changing dynamics of the Mexican drug war

El Chapo, Guzman, cartel, Sinaloa, MundoNOW
Photo: MundoNOW Archive

Over the years, the dynamics of the Mexican drug war have continued to evolve, with new cartels emerging and old ones reorganizing or dissolving.

The capture of key cartel leaders, like Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán of the Sinaloa Cartel, has often led to power vacuums and subsequent surges in violence as new groups vie for control.

Additionally, the cartels have diversified their criminal activities, engaging in human trafficking, illegal mining, and extortion, among other crimes.

Despite ongoing efforts by the Mexican government and international cooperation, the drug war remains a significant challenge.

International implications and the role of the U.S.

mexican drug war, police, dog, trafficking, crime
Photo: MundoNOW Archive

The Mexican drug war also has significant international implications, particularly concerning the United States.

As the primary destination for most of the drugs trafficked through Mexico, the U.S. plays a crucial role in the dynamics of the conflict.

The U.S. government has provided support to Mexico through initiatives like the Mérida Initiative, aimed at improving security and reducing drug trafficking.

However, the demand for narcotics in the U.S. and the flow of firearms into Mexico complicate efforts to resolve the conflict.

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