Mexico and the Drug War


For much of the last decade, Mexico has been embroiled in a brutal war, inspired by numerous multi-billion international illegal drug industries. Major popular drugs include cocaine, meth, and marijuana. Not only do they have a popular market base in their country, they are also some of the biggest contributors to the American black market for drugs, especially marijuana, which was legalized in Colorado and Washington state in 2012.

The war on drugs, a popular term in the United States for the policy to combat drug use which then President Nixon implemented in the 1970s, has a much more different context in its nature, reports historians and legal experts on the world of pot use.  In the western Mexican state of Michocoan, a three-way war is playing out. In Mexico, the Knights Templar drug cartel are feuding with local vigilantes who have banded together since violence spiraled out of control in the last six years. On the side of the vigilantes is the Mexican government and military. However, despite having common goals in their interests, the military has asked on numerous occasions for the vigilantes to step aside from the war. In response, vigilantes have continually backed their stance as protectors of their own towns and families.

On Saturday, the Knights Templar moved against the vigilantes, assailing them with gunfire. None of the vigilantes were hurt, but their leader reports that two Knights Templar soldiers were injured, forcing them to withdraw from the battle. The Knights Templar are reportedly notorious for their acts of murdering innocent men and women, staging kidnappings, and carrying out ransoms and extortion on many high-profile figures. The recent intensity and ramping up of violence and warfare comes on the heels of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán’s arrest in February. He was the world’s most wanted criminal and drug-lord, beating out only Osama Bin Laden, infamous for planning the 9/11 attacks. Since his arrest, vigilantes, the government military, and innumerable drug cartels across Mexico have taken part of a natural power vacuum.

The Scope of Carnage in Mexico

Since the country’s war on drugs began, over 50,000 people have fallen victim to murderous shoot-outs, bombings, and mutilations. Reports from the northern section of the country claim that 49 decapitated bodies were found. The spate of violence has escalated to heights rarely seen elsewhere in the world, with Ciudad Juarez being deemed by most as being the most dangerous city in the world to live in. Those who operate in the realm of drug trafficking kill for a plethora of unknown reasons, but  they are staged to be strewn across public bridges, inside restaurants, village neighborhoods, and public roadways. These actions, according to Mexican officials and local citizens, are meant to inspire fear across the country.

In Mexico, the term “War on Drugs” has wider, more dangerous implications than its American counterpart. Due to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the consequences for possession and distributing the drug is starting to transform. However, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor Mark Kleiman tells proponents and opponents alike that legalization does not equate to a disappearance of America’s existing black market. The black market for drugs currently in existence in the United States is supplied by Mexico and their drug war.

If local growers in the southwest choose to take over the black market with their own product, the American and Mexican war on drugs poses the risk of overlapping, something being closely watched by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and public policy experts like Kleiman. Moreover, the legalization and taxation of marijuana does not shield people selling pot on the streets, as policymakers want all product to be taxed. For Mexico, however, the concern for the war that has claimed thousands of lives is much more concentrated, according to many who study the ongoing crisis. Although many families of the victims, as well as Michicoan vigilantes and the military, feel as if there is no end in sight, the operations that have captured numerous drug cartel leaders is a telling step in the direction the war is headed.

Opinion by Tyler Collins


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