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South America’s violence has claimed over 40,000 lives in Mexico since January 2008 questioning the public safety and human rights of the country. Mexican civilians, law enforcement and government staff have suffered from bodily injuries and casualties. Women are targeted for sex slavery and prostitution while abductions for ransom and extortion are used by drug cartels. Mexican officials have authorized military armed forces aid against notorious drug cartels.

Perpetrators of Mexican Drug Trafficking Violence. Source: Wikipedia

Drug Trade

Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo Source: wikipedia.org

Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo. Leader of the Guadalajara Cartel, Gallardo smuggled marijuana and meroin inside US borders with assistance from Columbian drug cartel distribution. The protection from Mexican politicians and cartel members assisted Gallardo’s rise as the number one drug lord of the 1980’s in Mexico.

Dubbed “El Padrino” (The Godfather), Gallardo was arrested in 1989 for the kidnapping and killing of Enrique Camarena, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agent (D.E.A.) assigned to investigate Mexico’s drug cartels. Agent Camarena reported a marijuana plantation in 1984 to the agency and Mexican officials. 450 Mexican soldiers were deployed to “Rancho Búfalo”, destroying marijuana plants and drug paraphernalia. Gallardo ordered the kidnapping and killing of Camarena in 1985 as a message to government officials. During his 40 year prison sentence, “El Padrino” continued drug operations via cellphone until transferred to Altiplano, a maximum security facility in 1990.

Gallardo’s absence encouraged cartel members to begin their own operations, including his niece Sandra Ávila Beltrán who became a smuggler and money launderer.

The U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center released its National Drug Threat Assessment in 2010 stating:

“There have been significant and prolonged shifts in cocaine smuggling routes that most likely have been caused by a combination of factors, particularly decreased cocaine production in Colombia, but also enhanced counter-drug efforts in Mexico, high levels of cartel violence and sustained interdiction pressure”

The U.S. National Drug Threat Assessment continued to address common overland Smuggling Methods:

“Mexican DTOs [Drug Trafficking Organisations] dominate the transportation of illicit drugs across the Southwest Border. They typically use commercial trucks and private and rental vehicles to smuggle cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin through the 25 land POEs as well as through vast areas of desert and mountainous terrain between POEs. Asian traffickers, OMGs, and Indo-Canadian drug traffickers transport significant quantities of high-potency marijuana and MDMA into the United States across the U.S.-Canada border.”

**U.S. Drug Seizures along the Southwest and Northern Borders, in Kilograms, 2005-2009** 

Cocaine                                                   2005               2006                   2007                   2008                 2009
Southwest Border

22,653

28,284

22,656

16,755

17,085

Northern Border

>1

2

>1

>1

18

Total

22,654

28,286

22,657

16,756

17,103

Heroin                                               
Southwest Border

228

489

404

556

642

Northern Border

3

2

<1

<1

28

Total

231

491

405

557

670

Marijuana
Southwest Border

1,034,102

1,146,687

1,472,536

1,253,054

1,489,673

Northern Border

10,447

4,177

2,791

3,184

3,423

Total

1,044,549

1,150,864

1,475,327

1,256,238

1,493,096

MDMA
Southwest Border

23

16

39

92

54

Northern Border

479

351

240

616

303

Total

502

367

279

708

357

Methamphetamine
Southwest Border

2,918

2,798

1,860

2,201

3,478

Northern Border

>1

>1

136

>1

10

Total

2,919

2,799

1,996

2,202

3,488

Source: U.S. National Drug Threat Assessment 2010

Public Safety

Drug cartels established fear over civilians and law enforcement. Corruption runs rampant in Mexico’s streets, plagued with violence and chaos. Kidnapping, extortion, and bribery are common for violent areas of South America.

Tamaulipas Massacre (2010)

Tamaulipas Massacre Ceremony Source:Reuters/Edgard Garrido

The Los Zetas drug cartel murdered 72 immigrants in Mexico. A group of immigrants began traveling to the U.S. from San Fernando, Tamaulipas, as the Los Zetas intervened and forced the group out of their vehicles. The cartel kidnapped the group for ransom until no funds were raised. Los Zetas executed the party with 72 of the bodies found by Mexican authorities in mass graves and 2 survivors who barely escaped.

State investigator Roberto Jaime Suárez led the investigation. The day after Suárez found the immigrant grave site, he went missing for two days. His body was found on the road of a highway days later. Los Zetas participation was suspected in his disappearance.

Months later, the Mexican Federal Police captured Édgar Huerta Montiel “El Walche”, the man responsible for the deaths of the immigrants. Montiel admitted to ordering the kidnapping and deaths of the immigrants to receive money and information from the traveling group.

Awareness

Pro-active organization Human Rights Watch issued a report summarizing Mexico’s Human Rights cases against military abuse, criminal justice and freedom of expression. PEN Canada and the International Human Rights program exposed Mexico’s failed attempts to protect journalists in the country. Amnesty International criticized the Mexican justice system obstacles for women reporting cases of abuse:

“Susana filed numerous complaints at the local public prosecutor’s office, but each time was told that it was not a crime and there was nothing they could do. When a case was finally opened and her husband charged, he was detained for just one day before being released on bail. Susana and her family remained in hiding until being referred to a women’s shelter.”

Women face a range of obstacles when trying to report cases of domestic violence, including according to Amnesty International (2008):

  • The refusal of officials to accept complaints
  • Deficient investigations
  • Poor enforcement of protective measures

Amongst the violent land of turmoil lies hope. The Mexican Navy seized a large weapons cache in June 2011 from the Los Zetas cartel. February 27, 2012 Judge Jose Alvarado ordered an investigation into the murder of women from Mexico City. The Mexican armed forces battle with Los Zetas ended with the slaying of operation leader Gerardo Guerra-Valdez on March 6th 2012. Small steps forward will not remove the past but progress can save the future.