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What Should I Know About Mexico’s Drug Cartels?

Kelley studies social issues, including crime, punishment, the Drug War, and America's criminal justice system.

Cartel members busted by Mexican authorities

Cartel members busted by Mexican authorities

Mexico’s Drug Cartels Are Everyone’s Problem

Mexico’s drug cartels seem to be at war wherever there's money to be made. Sophisticated and deadly, these drug armies have spread their dastardly trade throughout Mexico and into many other countries in Latin America. Incredibly ruthless and vengeful, the cartels’ paramilitary units kill tens of thousands of people each year, while controlling much of the world’s supply of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana, generating an estimated $40 billion per year in profits.

The tentacles of the cartels have also reached into the United States, where they control as much as 70 percent of the drug trafficking. (This struggle has sometimes been called America’s Third War.) If a country with the resources of the U.S. can’t eliminate the cartels or at least reduce their strength significantly, what can be done about them?

Please read on to see what the world is up against in this herculean battle against perhaps the most formidable army of organized criminals the world has ever seen.

Cartel Head Threatens Journalist

Per an article on CNN’s website, dated 8/10/2021 and entitled “Mexico Drug Cartel Threatens Prominent News Anchor,” written by Karol Suarez, seems to show how dangerous it is to be a reporter in Mexico. In a video message posted on 8/9/2021, six armed men surround a man claiming to be Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias “El Mencho,” the leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), who threatens to "hunt down" and “get” news anchor Azucena Uresti. The man goes on to say, "I assure you that if you continue talking about me, Azucena Uresti, wherever you are, I'll get you, and I will make you eat your words, even if they accuse me of (committing) femicide, because you don't know me."

Azucena Uresti said she has entered a federal protection program and that she supports hundreds of other journalists who risk their lives reporting the news in Mexico.

According to the Mexico office of Article 19, 141 journalists have been murdered in the country since 2000. And, in 2021, the organization Reporters without Borders wrote, "Year after year, Mexico continues to be one of the world's most dangerous and deadliest countries for the media. Despite some limited recent progress, it is sinking ever deeper into a spiral of violence and impunity."

Mexico’s Drug Cartels Launder Money the New Fashioned Way

Not ones to fall behind the curve, it seems, Mexico’s drug cartels are beginning to utilize Bitcoin (BTC) when dealing with the illicit activities. According to the article, “Mexican Authorities Struggle to Keep Up as Cartels Embrace Crypto,” on cointelegraph.com, dated 12/9/2020, Santiago Nieto, head of Mexico’s finance ministry’s financial intelligence unit, explained that Latin cartels often put $7,500 or less in various bank accounts to avoid having the amount flagged by law enforcement investigators.

In April 2019, Ignacio Santoyo and his sister were arrested for making crypto currency transactions in the amount of $22,000 on Bitso, a local BTC exchange. Authorities hope this bust and other involving members of the Latin cartels will deter organized crime from using digital assets in the future.

Unfortunately, Orlando Rosas, Mexico’s attorney general for the Cyber Investigations Unit, told Reuter’s new service that the Mexican government lacks the resources to pursue criminals using digital currency, which may have happened more than a 1,033 times in 2020.

In January 2020, the US Drug Enforcement Agency reported a steep decline in hard currency seizures from $741 million in 2011 to $234 million in 2019, suggesting that organized crime may be using BTC transactions to conceal much of their money laundering activities.

DEA Arrests Hundreds of Cartel Members in the US

Quoting from an article on breitbart.com titled “600 Mexican Cartel Members Arrested Across the USA,” dated March 11, 2020, the Drug Enforcement Administration targeted members of the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), one of the fastest-growing criminal organizations in Mexico. Called Operation Python and centered in Texas, the DEA made 600 arrests and confiscated $5.7 million in cash, 1,490 kilograms of methamphetamine and 690 kilograms of cocaine. The CJNG is run by Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes who has recently ramped up the drug dealing of the CJNG, causing much violence in parts of Mexico once free of such mayhem.

US authorities recently extradited El Mencho’s son, Ruben “El Menchito” Oseguera, removing him from a Mexican prison and taking him to the US for trial. (El Mencho, the father, has a $10 million bounty on his head.) Jessica Johanna “La Negra” Oseguera, El Mechito’s sister, has also been indicted for money laundering by US authorities. These busts may weaken the CJNG and also perhaps end the reign of terror by the Oseguera family.

Mexico's Drug Cartels Could Make More Money than Walmart

In reference to an article on the website for the Washington Post, dated June 24, 2019 and titled “Do Mexican Drug Cartels Make more than $500 billion a Year?” by Salvador Rizzo, Senator David Perdue says Mexico’s drug cartels make more than half a trillion dollars per year—that’s more than America’s largest companies, including Walmart, which reported over $500 billion in revenue in 2018. Comparing relevant numbers, in 2011 the United Nations estimated that organized crime throughout the world made $870 billion from the drug trade in 2009.

But estimates vary regarding the amount of drug money generated by Mexico’s drug cartels in the 2000s and 2010s. According to various agencies of the US and Mexico, as well as Reuters and Rand, the totals were $15.5 billion in 2005, $18 to $39 billion in 2008, $11 billion in 2010 and over $21 billion in 2018. None of these numbers approaches $500 billion per year, as Perdue claims. Nevertheless, $500 billion for the total worldwide drug trade seems a more accurate estimate and, fortunately, considerably less than the $870 billion suggested by the UN.

Mexico’s Drug Cartels May Want the Wall

Per an article on CNN.com, dated Jan. 8, 2018, entitled “Trump’s Mexico wall would be a gift to the drug cartels,” written by Alice Driver, who wrote that since Mexico’s drug cartels use such a wide variety of strategies to get drugs into the US—drones, submarines, scuba divers, ultra light planes and even frozen sharks—building a border wall would actually benefit the cartels.

Driver also claims that President Trump doesn’t realize how hard it would be to build a border wall with Mexico, because the wall builders would have to deal with numerous obstacles: floodplains, arroyos, canyons, rivers, streams, mountains, hilly terrain and boulder fields, and would also have to deal with international treaties and the rights of landowners who may refuse to sell their land to the federal government.

Moreover, in spite of the many obstacles to building the wall, the cartels would consider it nothing more than a mild distraction, and also realize that it could even increase their profits and strengthen criminal networks.

Driver also emphasized that most drugs enter the US via legal ports of entry or are stashed aboard container ships or other seagoing vessels. Drugs can also be smuggled into the US when the cartels utilize a vast underworld of interconnecting tunnels. She also pointed out that the drug war is made much worse because of America's insatiable desire for illegal drugs.

She concluded that none of the above would be stopped by the building of a border wall or fence (or extending the existing fence).

Could Drug Money Help Build the Border Wall

According to an article on Newsweek.com, dated 5/15/18, in an interview by Breitbart News, a right-wing news organization, Senator Bill Cassidy says that border security could be increased by using drug money seized or confiscated from Mexico’s drug cartels. Cassidy says the cartels take about $110 billion from the US each year and this money could be used to help build the wall. But there’s at least one obstacle to that idea: the Internal Revenue Service won’t allow confiscated money to be used to enhance border security or build infrastructure unless an amendment is passed.

Crackdown on Opioids Leads to Cartel Production of More Cocaine and Meth

According to an article on Nypost.com, dated 1/4/19 and entitled “Cartels Up Their Cocaine, Meth Game After Opioid Crackdown,” after the crackdown on opioid abuse in recent times, Mexico’s drug cartels are smuggling more cocaine and meth into the US, and these illegal products are even stronger and cheaper than what they sold before. Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy said this Mexican meth is so cheap that if you made it yourself, you’d spend more money than if you bought it on the street!

This increase in cocaine and meth smuggling has led to a steep rise in drug overdoses in states such as Kentucky, where cocaine and meth-related drug deaths rose 100 percent from 2015 to 2017. And often opioids such as fentanyl are laced with cocaine and meth, leading to even more deaths from overdoses. In Connecticut, deaths from cocaine mixed with fentanyl more than doubled from 2015 to 2017. Incidentally, this combination of cocaine and fentanyl gives the user a “speedball” like high, similar to heroin mixed with cocaine.

Moreover, this increase in the trafficking of cocaine and meth has led to an uptake in the number of seizures of such drugs in many eastern states; in fact, parts of Alabama, Illinois and Minnesota have experienced record-breaking busts in recent years.

Cartels Use Genitalia-shaped Candles to Sneak Meth into US

According to an article on FoxNews.com, dated 8/31/17, members of a Mexican drug cartel were busted while trying to smuggle candles laced with methamphetamine into the states of New York and New Jersey. These wax candles, shaped as phalluses or ones with religious or archaeological themes, were confiscated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which tricked the traffickers into delivering 1,300 pounds of these candles. Reportedly, agents of the DEA were shocked that the cartels would try to smuggle meth into the US using such an unusual method. The candles contained more than $1 million dollars worth of dope.

Cartels Increase Smuggling of Pot and Heroin into US

According to the story “Mexico’s Drug Cartels Adapt to US Pot Legalization,” as shown on MSN.com, dated March 7, 2015, the cartels are expanding production of pot in Mexico, because three states in the US have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, while 23 states have legalized medical use. The US marijuana market is worth an estimated $41 billion per year.

As for heroin, the cartels have expanded their production in recent years too. In the state of Guerrero, where 43 students were allegedly murdered by a police-backed gang in September 2014, heroin production has increased by 300 percent. The main reason for this expansion is that in the US restrictions have increased on prescription opioids in recent years, making them harder to obtain and more expensive. Heroin, however, is often much easier to get and cheaper as well.

Jalisco New Generation Cartel May Be Mexico’s Largest

Per the article “Fighting Mexico’s New Super Cartel,” as provided by thedailybeast.com, dated March 25, 2016, the crumbling pueblo of Tecalcatepec has become a major distribution point for methamphetamine and controlled by the so-called Jalisco New Generation Cartel (JNGC), a Mexican mafia crime organization that’s incredibly violent even by the standards of the country’s other drugs cartels. Extremely large and ruthless, the JNGC murdered in 2011 30 members of a rival cartel, 12 of whom were women, and then dumped their bodies on a busy highway.

In recent times, the JNGC has attacked police and military units, killing dozens of police officers and shooting down an army helicopter and then slaughtering the crew. Also, the JNGC has cells within the US, and its founder, known as El Mencho, has been trafficking drugs into the US for over two decades, prompting a price on his head of five million dollars. Fairly soon, the JNGC hopes to capture Tijuana, an extremely lucrative drug entrepot to the US.

Ciudad Juarez Has Suffered Greatly from Cartel Violence

No city in Mexico has suffered more from the ravages of the cartels than Ciudad Juarez, located just across the border from El Paso, Texas. This entry point into the lucrative drug market in the U.S. has become a battleground where everyone seems to be a target. In July 2010 a car bomb planted by the Juarez Cartel killed 15 people, most of them young people. Drug-related violence has killed thousands of people in Juarez.

As an example of how devilish the Juarez Cartel can be, it has developed an insidious way to smuggle drugs across the border by planting them in the cars of innocent people. The cartel gains entry to the vehicles by using locksmiths who have access to the VIN of automobiles, for which keys can then be made. Using GPS devices, the vehicles are tracked from Juarez to El Paso and then the contraband picked up. Numerous people have gone to jail or prison for smuggling drugs they didn’t know they had in the trunks of their cars!

Also, as cartels tend to do, the Juarez Cartel has been responsible for numerous kidnappings, business extortions and murders for hire, generating sidebar profits to the drug trade. This nefarious “business” has led to a turf war between the Juarez Cartel and the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, also known as the Golden Triangle.

Sinaloa Drug Cartel Engages in Drug Trafficking throughout the World

According an NPR article entitled “A Look at Mexico’s Drug Cartels” published in April 2009, the Sinaloa Cartel smuggles Colombian cocaine and Mexican marijuana into the U.S. The cartel also operates numerous methamphetamine labs and ships heroin from Southeast Asia, much of this international junk ending up in the U.S.

But trafficking in cocaine seems to be the cartel’s major game. Its operation reaches from Mexico into Southern California and across the country to New York City, moving tons of cocaine into seemingly insatiable markets, overseen by local gangsters working in league with the cartel.

Cartels Use Weapons Bought in the US

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Guns in the U.S. Equip Cartels,” the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) estimates that 90 percent of all guns seized in raids come from the U.S. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean 90 percent of all firearms used by the cartels are of U.S. origin. Many are purchased from countries such as Guatemala and Portugal. The percentage for U.S. origin may be closer to 27% to 44%, according to the Office of Inspector General, in a study done in November 2010. The exact percentage may be impossible to ascertain.

Many of these weapons are military in nature – high-caliber rifles, semi-automatic pistols and assault rifles, including AK-47s. Moreover, many gun shops have opened north of the Mexican border, and area gun shows offer buyers easy access to guns of all sorts. Tom Mangan, an ATF special agent pointed out that as the drugs head north, the firearms flow south, making armies out of the cartels.

Cartels Use Armored Vehicles or “Tanks”

Also called cokemobiles, some cartels have made their own tanks by converting cargo trucks. These makeshift armored vehicles are used to transport drugs, weapons and some can hold as many as 20 men. Antitank weapons are needed to combat them. However, these narco tanks have a weakness: they use rubber tires that can be shot out and deflated. The tracks used on heavy equipment and military tanks would probably be more effective.

On a related note, in July 2008, a 30-foot narco submarine carrying more than five tons of cocaine was confiscated off the southwest coast of Oaxaca.

Mexico's Drug Cartels in the US

It’s been estimated that 70 percent of the drug trafficking in the U.S. is controlled by the Mexican drug cartels. But the U.S. appears to have no Mexican-like drug cartels. Why? According to a story entitled “Why the U.S. Doesn’t Have Mexico-style Drug Cartels” on the website Insight.org, the answer is that the U.S. does have drug cartels —they’re called street gangs and prison gangs.

In the U.S., where law enforcement is more effective and well-funded than it is in Mexico, any large drug cartel would attract the attention of the police and, aided by the military if needed, thereby bring about its own demise. Instead, the drug trade is handled by smaller units that work with Mexican partners. In fact, drugs are often distributed on consignment, that is no money is paid upfront, allowing the gangs greater latitude in distribution. The cartels operate wholesale, while the gangs manage the retail. According to the World Drug Report, the U.S. drug market is worth an estimated $30 billion per year.

America’s Frankenstein Monster: Los Zetas

In an effort to help combat the Mexican cartels, the United States trained a group of Mexican soldiers that could confront the cartels with advanced weaponry. (Some of these soldiers may have been trained at the military School of Americas.) Los Zetas were among the first cartel thugs to use paramilitary tactics, brandishing weapons such as 50-caliber machine guns, grenade launchers and even ground-to-air missiles.

Unfortunately, the Zetas switched sides, becoming enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, the chief narcotraffickers on Mexico’s east coast. It’s likely the Gulf Cartel paid better than the Mexican government. Evidence of this is that one-eighth of Mexican soldiers eventually desert.

Los Zetas Recruits Kids

Throughout the state of Texas, Los Zetas is recruiting children as young as 11 to perform tasks for the cartel. For instance, Los Zetas has children move cars to see if the vehicles are under surveillance; it also has kids sell drugs or act as lookouts. Of course, when children are busted they receive much lighter sentences, a situation which Los Zetas exploits as much as possible. The cartels have a name for these kids: the expendables.

Corruption in Mexico Helps the Drug Cartels

As many people know, corruption in Mexico is legendary. But since the rise of the Mexican drug cartels in the late 1990s, corruption has blossomed like a vast plain covered with opium poppies. The drug cartels are difficult enough to fight, but corruption compounds the battle significantly. Police, military and public officials have been implicated in taking bribes by the cartels. The list of alleged instances of corruption would be too long to list here.

Be that as it may, for example, in December 2005, 1,500 of Mexico’s Federal Investigations Agency’s 7,000 agents were under investigation for possible collusion with the drug cartels. In addition, in June 2007, President Calderon, suspecting bribery among his law enforcement people, dismissed 284 federal police commanders from states throughout Mexico.

Cocaine Economy May Have Saved Banks during the Great Recession

In March 2010, the U.S. bank Wachovia paid $110 million in fines for receiving as much as $378 billion from various Mexican drug cartels, in spite of the anti-laundering protocols in place. (Many other banks have been implicated in such illegal practices.)

According to the story “How a Big U.S. Bank Laundered Billions from Mexico’s Murderous Drug Gangs,” as provided on the website Guardian.co.uk, Antonio Maria Costa, head of the United Nations office on drugs and crime during the banking crisis in 2008, said he had evidence suggesting the proceeds from drug trafficking and other crimes were "the only liquid investment capital" available to banks facing financial collapse. “Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drug trade,” he said. "There were signs that some banks were rescued that way."

After Wachovia received pressure from the U.S. Attorney General’s office, the Mexican cartels, essentially in protest, withdrew their money from Wachovia and other banks, and then the world credit crunch began a month later in August 2007. Shockingly, the withdrawal of this drug money from banks around the world may have precipitated the global financial meltdown!

Summing It All Up

It won’t be easy to beat Mexico’s drug cartels. Their numbers are too numerous, their soldiers too murderous, their armies too well-equipment and their pockets too deep. Harder still to defeat is humankind’s penchant for avarice, power, weapons and drugs. An all-encompassing war waged by the Mexican government against the cartels, perhaps in conjunction with units of the U.S. military might weaken them a great deal, but for how long? Wouldn’t they grow back like a weed?

The answer to that question, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

Please leave a comment.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2011 Kelley Marks


Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on December 11, 2015:

Thanks for the heads up, cam8510. I went to that website and left them a comment, which will almost certainly be deleted in a nanosecond. What can we do about these thieves? Later!

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on December 08, 2015:

Kelley, I've been looking into a site that is stealing many HP articles. This article is posted at the following url, http://encyclopedial.com/2015/08/07/what-should-i-... . I thought you might want to know. There is a place for comments a the end of each article. I posted that my article had been used without my permission and it was immediately removed.

Micloven95 on June 19, 2014:

Jay Oz legakizing the drugs wouldn't limit there cash nor solve the problem cartels would just become legal business owners. Ya they would have to pay taxes and all that but they wouldn't have to worry about the DEA knocking on there door, wouldn't have to worry about undercover cops, someone snitching on them so this would help them more than harm them if it was legal they would be able to consent rate more on there other activities such as human trafficking. And if this nation were to legalize every drug known to man it would show that we are weak and open to anything.

Jay Oz on March 07, 2014:

Legalize every illicit drug, and it's over. No money to the cartels for weapons or soldiers or bribes. It's done. No jump in kidnapping. It's an extraordinarily difficult crime to accomplish. Unlike drugs half the pophlation isn't complicit. No jump in theft either. The majority of theft is committed to BUY drugs at insane markup, legal coke could be a buck a gram.

Obviously tbe biggest reason for a prostitute to turn tricks is gone with that approach as well.

Some people would make bad personal choices, as they do now.

But it is that simple. We've been stupid. Time to get smart. We need to stop choosing death and affirm Life.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on July 09, 2013:

Thanks for the comment, Patriot Quest, the U.S. government probably does need to do more. Enacting stricter gun control laws wouldn't hurt the cause. Later!

Wayne Joel Bushong from America on July 09, 2013:

just more reason to shut the borders down with double fences and the national guard.......easy fix for us hard to understand by our weak government.

stephensaldana from Chicago on May 02, 2013:

Very interesting hub.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 02, 2013:

Thanks for the comments, Mercuryservices and JosephSorbara. I really enjoy the forum this article produced. Later!

Alex Munkachy from Honolulu, Hawaii on May 02, 2013:

I enjoy your topics and appreciate a well written article on here. Thanks for keeping it real.

JosephSorbara from New York,NY on May 01, 2013:

I hope that once the US is not preoccupied with the middle east and hopefully N. Korea antics they can start focusing in things that are really of importance and close to home!

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 01, 2013:

Thanks for the comment, moronkee. Perhaps God will help us, but I wouldn't bet a bunch on it. Later!

Moronke Oluwatoyin on May 01, 2013:

All I can say is GOD help us and let thy kingdom come.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 01, 2013:

Thanks for the comment, StantheLifeguard. I liked writing this story even though it shows a tragedy of the human condition. Later!

Stan Castillo from Eastern Washington on April 30, 2013:

Thank you for the article. My family comes from Sonora where they've been surrounded by drugs for a long time and have been affected in thinking and in personal experiences. This article gave me more insight on what the circumstances behind this are.

drparesh on April 29, 2013:

Well structured, well researched, well written. Details of the data revels that you have invested time in gathering information for your topic and pitch of the article shows that how much interested you were while writing this article.

This post was little longer then usual but sectioning the article kept the interest intact until the end.

Congrats for getting so many comments.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 28, 2013:

Thanks for the comment, Domma Leigh. There isn't much that can be done about the cartels except fight them as if in a war, and that's what the Mexican government appears to be doing. Wish them luck. Later!

DommaLeigh on April 28, 2013:

Very informative hub, I enjoyed reading it. I have no idea how to help get rid of the problem. The over spill across our border worries me but I can't come up with a single idea on how to stop it. It is very frustrating to see what those drugs are doing to our young adults and children and have no means of correcting the problem.

ptosis from Arizona on April 20, 2013:

It's hard to beat Mexico's cartels with operations such as Fast & Furious and Wide Receiver!!

kaylaaa on April 16, 2013:

i dont really know much about the cartel, but i know they're very dangerous. i know that they act like an army and attack innocent people... its very scary... thanks for the information!

im starting something new of my own.... i hope you can come check it out...


Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 08, 2013:

Thanks for the comment, skraw. I'm sure the CIA and FBI and other US agencies could kick some ass in Mexico, but I'm not sure the Mexican government would allow them to do so. I think the solution lies with the military of both countries, which would need to search and destroy relentlessly in order to win. Later!

sean crawford from los angeles on April 07, 2013:

The government agencies, cia, fbi, dea etc. more than likely are allowing this to go on. Without out the drug trade, they would lose their budgets and there would be no need for them. With their resources, they could easily kill key members make arrest and so on if they were actually serious about doing all this.

ten21 on December 20, 2012:

i think the drug cartel is just stupid imean the guys in it are just couards the cant do any thing alone so hteyy get into a littke pussy ass club thats only power is that they have numbers and weapons if it came to hand to hand fighting 1on1 the would be at a loss hands down but their to scared to do it

kevin on December 12, 2012:

eradication 500 tanks 2500000 men jet fighters . you have to be bigger and bader then them. it could be done. i would like to be a part of it.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on December 03, 2012:

Thanks for all the valuable information, carlosebotero. Mexico's drug cartels certainly present a perplexing problem, don't they? Later!

carlosebotero from Latinoamérica on December 03, 2012:

Hi, I'm from Latinoamerica. I want to comment about some misconceptions about drugs, cartels and organized crime:

* Drug money is a tiny portion of the overall economy anywhere. But the main part of the economical activities doesn't kill or intimidate or cause disruption to the mobility of some populations. So drug trade means less wealth for the society in general.

* If you live in the jungle or in rural areas far from main cities, the only things that will help you to effectively and continuously finance arms and paramilitaries are cocaine or heroin or maybe marijuana (You could rely on legal products, but you wouldn't have a reasonable need to pay for a private army; there are millions invested in legal stuff by drug criminals, but they ultimately depend on expensive brute force + corruption to come through).

* Kidnapping is quite limited to finance a big permanent criminal operation.

* Drug crime fundamentally varies in urban scenarios. Guerrillas cannot succeed in cities. In the Mexican region these urban criminal groups have been able to prevail in some zones because they could expel or substitute the legal government. But they have to stay mixed with the rest of the population.

* Only the modern slavery (sexual or labor camps) can produce as much money as the drug trade. But this is more difficult to implement.

Of course the only reasonable way is the controlled legalization. The best economist of the Colombian region has proposed a model:

* Drug crops cultivated through cooperatives. So you control where, how and with whom the plants grow.

* Only those cooperatives are allowed to sell the production, and at marginally profitable prices. So, less incentive for black market production.

* Distribution of drugs through medical and social institutions, with free and supervised dosages. So no criminal gang can beat free.

* Narcotic substances are basically invincible. There are more than 4500 substances that can be used as psychoactive drugs.

* So the war on drugs is the ultimate modern stupidity.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on December 02, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, themadimadimadi. I'd hate to classify the cartels as having genius, though much of what they do constitutes criminal genius. Later!

Madison Gardiner. from Denver, Colorado on December 02, 2012:

Learning about drug Cartels is always interesting. Some of the shit they do is truly insane! And ok, as bad as drugs are let's just admit... They're absolutely genius.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on December 02, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, bean 1234, whatever. As time goes by, I continue to add material to this story, which keeps me abreast of the issues. Later!

Melody on December 01, 2012:

This is a super impressive hub! Thanks so much for all the info. You clearly know your stuff.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on November 30, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, jose7polanco. Even if the U.S. legalized drugs, Mexico's cartels would simply find something else to do, like kidnap celebrities on a massive scale. Nothing lesss than waging war against them will end their reign of terror. Instead of terrorists in Afghanistan, the U.S. should be fighting them. Later!

Jose Misael Polanco from Los Angeles on November 29, 2012:

Things will get worse, and much quicker, after legalizing drugs. Not only because the financial loss by many local and national gangs and other dealers will cause them to branch in other crimes like kidnaps, hire murders, and kidnaps of children for sex prostitution like already does MS13. But also in an effort to defeat the high rate tax the cartels and other international strong agencies will create far more violence and deeper corruption. Also, we learn from economics that increasing demand will also increase supply to balance things...i do not believe most of the drug in US comes from US, otherwise it wouldn't be called smuggling. I think much of the drug comes from Mexico and Colombia. Increasing demand here (already the number one consumer) will just increase production there.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on November 27, 2012:

Hey, Julie, I doubt legalizing pot in the U.S. will hurt the cartels - there are too many other drugs for them to sell. Nevertheless, pot should be legalized on the federal level, and thank you very much for your educated comment. Later!

Julie on November 27, 2012:

I confess my last comment was rambling, deranged & ridiculous. I'm sorry. Golffitnesshelp has the best idea. The answer isn't through killing & force. I'm not going to suggest killing off drug cartel people. The real problem is corrupt politicians & people who buy the dope. First off, people who aren't corrupt need to run for office here in the States. It's so obvious. Granted, the system is such that you have better chances if you have more money....but not all wealthy people are evil. Power may corrupt but not every person who achieves power becomes a monster, they still retain some goodness. We need people who aren't sociopaths to run en masse from the bottom up. Good people are legion. Why let the sociopaths have all the fun.

When there are more folks with scruples within Washington's walls, there may be something done in a big way. Also, the legalization of Marijuana alone could put a huge blow on the cartels. 70% of Mexico's drug imports consist of pot. Legalize the pot & you weaken then cartels...then these guys will be easier to defeat! Already, several states are legalizing marijuana. Progressives are finally reaching momentum but we have to keep on going....keep on fighting....keep on exposing....keep being savvy & get them before they get us.

We will win this! It's a give-in. Remember The Law Of Karma.

Julie on November 27, 2012:

Is there any words of good news or hope? I love to see evidence that the cartels are reaping their karma. Karma is real & it encompasses all that exists. Someday, the cartels will fall! Remember, good is greater than evil. Certainly there will be good triumphing soon. There is no one solution. We need to find that silver lining. First, legalize pot, second, blow away the cartel pansies of different levels, not just cartel kingpins, get the grunts, get the gangstas, get the go betweens between cartels & politicians. Next, teach kids the superior values of being kind, peaceful & generous and of the evil of greed. We can win this! The cartels will fall. Why? Because they are evil & Karma doesn't like evil.

shin_rocka04 from Maryland on October 30, 2012:

It's quite amazing how much power cartels so close to home have even in the United States. The demand continues to soar as long as there are buyers willing to invest and get their "high".

lupine from Southern California (USA) on October 29, 2012:

Kosmo - thanks for answering. There is no easy-short-term solution for this massive problem.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on October 29, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, lupine. I agree - the situation with Mexico's drug cartels is a freaking mess and may never be solved, short of starting an all-out war against them. Later!

lupine from Southern California (USA) on October 29, 2012:

Yes, the cartels are corrupt and they are ruthless in treatment of anyone who stands in their way...and that has been proved many times over. But, what is really shamefull is the corrupt individuals in high places like government agencies that enable this to proceed; that goes for every country, not just Mexico. The USA has spent billions on programs for foreign countries and can't even keep their own economy in check...they don't stop the drug war because it keeps bringing money in. What is heard on the news is only what they want people to hear...a fraction of what really goes on. This is a no win situation for all.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on October 25, 2012:

Thanks for the comments, Chamonixfirst and MayG. More about drug use and abuse should be taught in our public schools, and yes many who partake of drugs don't realize how they're supporting the cartels and other crime organizations when they buy illicit drugs. Later!

Phil, Sarah and Danny from Chamonix on October 25, 2012:

Great article, its nothing like this over in Europe yet and hopefully it will stay like that but who knows. Learnt alot thanks :)

May Galnou from Melbourne, Australia on October 24, 2012:

Very interesting hub. So many people who use drugs don't really give a lot of thought to the industry they are supporting. I think a greater focus on this, not just on the negative physical effects of drug-use should be taught in schools. Obviously people with a severe habit probably aren't in a position to be too concerned about where their next hit is coming from, but it's a sobering thought for recreational users.

Tyler Onelli on October 15, 2012:

Damn Mexicans sure know how to control power, money, and military. Much respect.

ElleBee on September 27, 2012:

This is incredibly interesting/fascinating... so unfortuante for many people living in Juarez, El Paso etc. I can't imagine living somewhere quite so dangerous.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on September 22, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Jose7Polanco. I agree; the US is as responsible for Mexico's drug cartels as any other country or organization. Later!

Jose Misael Polanco from Los Angeles on September 21, 2012:

Most people say the US is dysfunctional and contradictory, that we lead the international drug on war but also at the same time we are the largest customer and the one who keep the drug trafficking alive.

Guess we need to work on that. I mean almost all drugs end up on US.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on August 08, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Anthony. I'll have to check out the story behind Mr. Tamez. At any rate, I don't advocate private citizens starting a war with the cartels, though I wouldn't blame them if they did. Later!

Anthony on August 07, 2012:

Honestly, I think if Mexican citizens had the right to bear arms a lot of innocents wouldn't be taken advantage so easily. Google who "Don Alejo Garza Tamez" was and if ONE man was able to do what he did, imagine 100,000 of good men like Mr. Tamez.

elsiebeth on August 06, 2012:

The thing is that unlike most supply and demand which is linked to business and commerce, addiction has a medical link. The addict is going to demand the drug no matter how little or how much it costs. One thing seems sure, if one keeps doing the same things over and over they will get the same results. It seems like it is time to change tactics. Maybe if we keep changing tactics we will find something that works. The question is how long will that take.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on August 06, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Steve Waugh1965. I also find the subject fascinating, though depressing as well. Law-abiding folks shouldn't have to live among ruthless criminals, fearing for their lives on a daily basis. Later!

SteveWaugh1965 from Sydney, Australia on August 06, 2012:

I really do find this topic so interesting ... I mean, I'm a huge fan of Mexican Border Wars and those sorts of show on the Discovery channel etc. Maybe its just because its such an illicit thing that makes it so intriguing ...

White Wolf on August 05, 2012:

Many people are missing the point behind that behind the cartels is all the cocaine and marijuana that is produced. The production of these drugs will not stop for many reasons; it cannot be contained and so even if one cartel is taken down, another one will take its place. This has been going on for many years now ... Prohibition does not work - history has proved it, in my opinion.

Education may work but looking at the educational system ... it is a sad view.

All the ebst.

elsiebeth on August 05, 2012:

One wonders where this drug activity will ever end.

Thank you for a great hub.

letswriting on August 05, 2012:

maybe they are inspired by movie LOL

marketingbloke on August 04, 2012:

Some interesting facts there, nice hub

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on August 04, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Jenna Pope. The drug cartels need to be dealt with but who's willing to fight them? Only the military could win such a battle. Are they ready? Apparently they aren't. Later!

Jenna Pope from Southern California on August 03, 2012:

I knew that the drug trade was out of control, but it is even worse than I had assumed. The part about the banks laundering the money and this ushering in the financial crisis is a tragedy. The depth of the corruption is unfathomable. Well-researched article. Well written. Voted up.

marufabdullah on August 03, 2012:


Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on August 02, 2012:

Thanks for the comments, vibesites, Jose Bell and Mr. Love Doctor. I really enjoy the fact that this hub has become a forum for many people interested in this perplexing and troubling issue.

Anyway, the drug cartels didn't start the financial crisis, they simply provided some momentum in a way that most people would probably find surprising, that is, suddenly pulling their billions from bank accounts. Are you kidding me?!... Later!

Mr Love Doctor from Puerto Rico on August 02, 2012:

The sad, sad part about this whole situation is that the fuel for this fire is the irresponsible use of illicit drugs by people all over the world (not just in the States - for example, this week's Economist reports that 40% of Mexican coke is going to Europe now as U.S. demand drops somewhat). Why don't people see that when they sniff, shoot, or smoke drugs, they are killing people? Because they don't see it. I live in Puerto Rico, and the cartels here are vicious. Just last weekend they cut down 9 people in a hail of gunfire - in a major tourist strip. Last year alone we had more than 1000 drug-related murders. The violence is out of control, and we live in fear with bars on our windows and heavy locks on our doors. Our malls, restaurants, and bars continue to be the scenes of huge shootouts, with innocent people cut down with the guilty. Last year, a lady I knew who had nothing to do with the drug trade was killed in the crossfire of a car-to-car as she was on her way home from work. And this is not Mexico, this is under the U.S. flag. It will be coming to you soon as well, courtesy of the irresponsible, selfish jerks who keep using drugs. Thanks for a Hub full of good, hard facts.

Josh Bell on August 02, 2012:

So we're blaming the Mexican drug cartels for the global financial crisis? Good hub, but for me, that is a bit of a stretch.

vibesites from United States on August 01, 2012:


Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on July 28, 2012:

Thanks for the compliment, AK Turner. It is a very interesting subject, though troubling as well. Later!

Joseph A K Turner from West Yorkshire on July 28, 2012:

top hub, i am fascinated by the topic

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on July 26, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Nick Hanlon. Are suggesting that drugs be legalized in Mexico? Perhaps that needs to happen in the U.S. as well. But it won't happen either place any time soon. Later!

Nick Hanlon from Chiang Mai on July 25, 2012:

This is Mexico's problem.The best long term solution is to legalize it but the problem of corruption in Mexico will remain for a long time.The expectation that it is O.K. to receive money for not doing your job needs to be corrected.Uribe did that in Colombia.It can be done in Mexico with determined leadership.

herbert on July 17, 2012:

It makes me sick to my stomach to read comments tallking about legalising drugs to stop the dealers having anyone to sell to! this is just the most idiotic thing I have ever heard and it is just a ghastly thought!

we need to educate the youth, they need to know that drugs are bad and just to say no, if we educate our children then the drug cartels shall vanish once and for all.

Carlos Garcia on June 08, 2012:

FMR Marine. I agree with what you said, but you can't forget that not long ago, the Zetas cartel killed a few Marines, like three or four, and killed two FBI agents before. A full scale attack on the cartels could work, but only in the long run. I hate the fact that my home country had come to this. It upsets me. Im glad to call myself an American, even though im not a legal citenship.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 15, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, cuttingxedge. I'm also ashamed of some of my own countrypeople for selling guns to drug terrorists. OMG! Later!

Rambo2020 on May 15, 2012:

We need drastic measures taken. A good scenario that parallels this would be the difficulty in putting out directly a large fire. Difficult and near impossible. Removing any combustable it feeds on is more practical and would allow the fire to burn out. The drug cartels profit by supplying illegal drugs to the US. Remove the demand and there is no profit and therefore no more cartels. Make the drugs legal and keep the most dangerous ones under control by rationing and providing alternatives, and rehablitation opportunities to the most severely addicted. The drugs will be readily available here and the greed and violence of the cartels will be turned against themselves and they will implode. Might be expensive at first but the alternative is to keep funding the never ending war on drugs that has created the monsters in Mexico.

Steven P Kelly from Tampa, FL on May 15, 2012:

This article is intense. It is sad to see that licensed American gun dealers are supplying the weapons to fight a war that American demand started and still nurtures today. It makes me ashamed of my countrymen sometimes...

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 15, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, SteveW13. The solution to this problem will take many steps. Reducing the demand in the U.S. would be a first step, I think. Kids simply don't get enough drug education in school. Later!

Steve Wright from Norwich, England on May 15, 2012:

This is a brilliant hub, very informative and you highlight a very serious problem well. I lived in the states for a while in Chicago and while there befriended a Mexican drug dealer, one of the nicest guys I have ever met but when it came to 'business' he was something else. The problem is so widespread because the demand for drugs is huge in the US and is only getting bigger as the poor get poorer and kids are getting into drugs from a young age. Is there a solution? I honestly don't think so, the problem is beyond the point of no return. Voted up and awesome.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 15, 2012:

Thanks for the story, Carlos. I wonder if your captain ever sold the goods. Later!

Carlos Catatonia from new orleans, louisiana on May 15, 2012:

I'm in the navy, we went to South America for six month and came back with 32 metric tons of cocaine. The captain then told us we'd all get 2 million if he sold it. I was wondering how he knew that, but we brought the drugs to America. Put the drugs on the pier and black SUVs came and took them away allegedly to destroy them. This article hit home for me.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 13, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Fmr Marine. In a battle between the U.S. Marines and the Mexican Cartels I'd certainly pick the Marines to win. But this battle could quickly turn into another guerrilla/terrorist war the U.S. probably doesn't want to fight, though it may eventually come to this kind of action, I wouldn't be surprised. Later!

Stranger on May 13, 2012:

I stopped caring about the people of Mexico the second I saw a pic of them disgracing an American flag. So leave em be, they wouldn't be thankful if we stepped in anyhow.

Fmr Marine. on May 13, 2012:


Sir or whoever you are, You are probably right, to fight the cartels in their own backyard would be quite stupid. and again, you are right in the fact that they are well armed and well trained. But sir, you forgot the United States Marines. One Marine M.A.G.T.A.F. stationed in the Gulf of Mexico and its game over. More so if the Marines are told to conduct a "RedBox Drill". Sir, a Redbox drill is when we Marines are told to copy down a set of coordinates onto are maps and then given explicit orders that anything that moves in this grid dies. No prisoners, no mercy. Kill everything. Now, If you haven't seen Marines in action much less served in the Corps, you would be in for a very rude surprise when they land. oh I almost forgot, in addition to the above statement, itd be a very bad day for the Cartels if the Marines drop in S/Ta platoons and being told it's a free fire zone. Very bad day indeed sir.

oh yeah! and by the way, the last time a group threatened the Marine Corps, their whole damn city was leveled. I believe it was called Fallujah. Google it if you're history is a bit hazy.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 13, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, slcockerham. Yes, policy changes definitely have to be made in the U.S. For instance, possession of small amounts of drugs should be decriminalized. As for the cartels, if they can't make money from the drug trade, they'll simply do something else - sell exotic animals or people's organs. We won't be rid of them easily. Later!

slcockerham from Tallahassee, Florida on May 13, 2012:

Good hub Kosmo, since the war on drugs started, profits soared to make these cartels the powers they are now! Most of the casualties are American citizens in prison for simple possession charges or dead in the streets of Mexican cities! It's time to look at ploicy changes to take the profits out of the drug trade.

tanveer2005 on May 13, 2012:

This is really quite unbelievable. I have seen the stories of late of the violence from the cartels. It's really quite a large problem in the world.


Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 12, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Eric-d-Agustin. The cartels are certainly involved in multiple levels of criminal activity. Later!

eric-d-agustin on May 12, 2012:

Mexican drug cartels -- or wherever are but the mothers of most present-day multipliers of various sorts of crimes.

Sinner.Desmadroso.1 on May 07, 2012:

You can't stop us, we are to many, great numbers, and we backed by other countries :) plus the u.s gave us all the weoponry basically, we have money, weapons, power, and we even work with the u.s CIA.. And if the u.s tries to ever invade mexico, it be worse than when they lost against korea trust me :) we are killing machines, proud of mexico, aztecas unidos, and u can't and will not stop us, unlike u.s people we ain't scared of killing/decapetating ur family and loved ones, we do it as if we were at a meat market cutting up sum meat :)

Extemist on May 02, 2012:

Extreme situations call for extreme measures: authorize the border guard to use deadly force against the cartel. Heck invade Mexico if necessary, we invaded Afghanistan, but it seems Mexico is more of a thread than the latter.

Quepassavato on April 30, 2012:

378 billion, u fuckin right it helped crash the market

they prolly shorted it all the way down and doubled up its prolly in the trillions now hahahahahahahahahahaha

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 25, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Mikeydcarroll67. I think I'll also stay away from ol' Me-he-co. Later!

mikeydcarroll67 on April 25, 2012:

Hmm Very important stuff! I think I'll just avoid the country over all. It seems easier.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 24, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Eric Calderwood. What to do about Mexico's drug cartels is indeed a perplexing issue. And I'm not surprised the CIA has been implicated in some fashion. Later!

Eric Calderwood from USA on April 24, 2012:

In order to defeat the drug cartels, our country would have to stop certain segments of our government (allegedly the CIA and others) from supporting and working with them. Also, spurious programs like "Fast and furious," which have a different agenda than it's stated one, don't help much either.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 24, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Jo Goldsmith11. As you have, I'd certainly think twice before I'd move to Mexico. Of course, the cartels are active here as well, they're simply not as visible. If you want to escape the cartels you'll have to move to New Zealand, I'll bet. Later!

Jo_Goldsmith11 on April 24, 2012:

I wish to thank you for doing an outstanding job in explaining what Mexico is like with the drugs and violence. Our family was thinking about re locating to Mexico. And now I have these great facts to argue my point. It would be much safer to keep our feet on USA soil. We have so many rich and wonderful places filled with mountains and the beauty of a sunset over one of the oceans.It appears that because of the situation in Mexico and the people trying to flee. One may draw on several conclusions as to why the USA is having a difficult time with the drug problem in the US. I voted up and shared on twitter. :) Take care

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 23, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Ivona. Controlling the demand of drugs is the only way to truly stop the problem. Later!

Ivona Poyntz from UK on April 23, 2012:

Great hub. I also agree with the comments above that as we can't 'beat' the supply, we should be focussing on the demand. I really do not know how, but on the other hand Portugal is running an experiment at the moment where heroin is provided by the state in controlled conditions. Shall keep my eye on that to see what happens

healthguru72 from Ohio on April 12, 2012:

What an eye opening and awesome hub! I had no idea the extent of this problem. Solutions anyone?

Dr Pandula from Norway on April 11, 2012:

I only had heard about the drug cartels through news and this is the first real insight I got about this mafia. Thanks for sharing and very informative!

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 05, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, jobinfo. This hub is very informative and popular so, as far as that goes, I'm happy, but the cartels are filled with monsters. OMG! Later!

jobinfo from East Coast, U.S.A. on April 05, 2012:

Wow this is an interesting read- especially after watching Breaking Bad which deals with the cartels in the plot. Thanks for the hub!

Richard Davis from from Washington D C now in Capitol Height MD on March 29, 2012:

that they all are back by bankers

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on March 01, 2012:

America's massive drug market, reportedly the largest in the world, is as much of the problem as anything. Thanks for the comment, wba108@yahoo.com. Later!

wba108@yahoo.com from upstate, NY on March 01, 2012:

I guess the answer to limiting the power of the drug cartels is partly one of supply and demand. We have to work to limit the supply of drugs by working with the mexican government more vigorously than we have in the past, maybe applying some diplomatic pressure and even aiding them in the task.

To limit demand in America, penalties will have to increase to anyone connected in any way to the trade. Beyond these efforts, i'm not sure there is any more we can do. The problem is with our own society and its moral decay. We need a national spiritual renewal!

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