The Latino drug cartels constitute of an extensive well organized network operating in rural Mexico especially on the northern frontier. The cartels have been able to thrive because of the minimal presence of the government authorities in this area. The cartels have also infiltrated the government with police authorities, judges and legislators being lured by the cartel with their narcodollars. Corruption within the government bodies has also weakened the rule of law with the cartels having insiders to warn them of dragnets and any operations targeting them. The northern region also borders the U.S. state of Arizona which acts as entry point to the U.S. market which is the largest market for the cartels (Abadinsky, 2007). The drug business rakes in a whooping $20 billion dollars annually.
Sinaloa Cartel is currently said to be the largest drug trafficking cartel in Mexico and has its operations in the states of Baja California, Sinaloa, Durango, Sonora and Chihuahua. The cartel basically smuggles and distributes Colombian cocaine, Mexican marijuana and Mexican and Southeast Asian heroin into the United States. The leader of the Sinaloa Cartel is Joaquin Guzmán who escaped from a maximum security facility after being arrested and charged with drug trafficking.
Contrary to popular belief, the cartels are not directly involved in the distribution of the drugs and killing of policemen as well as members of rival cartel groups. Instead, they outsource the dirty work to distributor gangs and paramilitary groups which carry out executions. The MS-13 is a street gang with networks in both the U.S. and Central America which coordinates the buying and selling of drugs in the U.S. (Mares, 2007). MS 13 and the Sinaloa Cartel are distinct entities whose relations are strictly business related.
On the other hand, the Zetas are former military personnel with extensive training both locally and abroad who are hired by the cartels to hunt down government agents as well as members of rival groups. They are ruthless in their operations and have successfully employed tactics similar to those of guerilla groups including ambushing policemen and killing them on spot. It Is estimated that approximately 2,000 firearms are sneaked into Mexico from the U.S. on a daily basis and delivered into the hands of the Zetas (Abadinsky, 2007). The Zetas have sophisticated weapons at their disposal which includes AK-47s and hand held grenades.
The Mexican drug cartels pose a problem to both the Mexican and the U.S. governments. The current government has undertaken an extensive operation employing a total of 25,000 military personnel to counter the drug cartels. However, the Sinaloa cartel has counteracted this operation using the Zetas. It has also employed psychological tactics such as circulating names of marked military personnel, asking the military personnel to quit the operation as they will end being recruited in the Zetas and circulating posters for recruitment of new members. U.S. on the other hand has employed prohibitions aimed at restricting the trade of drugs in the U.S. This has not yielded much as this has led to the development of a large black market for the drugs.
A more practical approach needs to be enforced in the fight against these hardcore drug cartels. First it is important to acknowledge their military capabilities. Apart from being made up of ex-military personnel, the Zetas have access to sophisticated weapons. The current government operation is laudable but the government needs support from the U.S to successfully fight this vice that threatens to make Mexico a failed state. The U.S. should also deploy its troops to the border to monitor the activities of the cartel. This will minimize activities such as smuggling of arms on the border and help smash the distribution network. The U.S. military is better trained and equipped as compared to the Mexican army. It has been able to contain insurgency in Afghanistan as well as Iraq and thus dealing with the Mexico drug cartels will not be an uphill task.
Mares R.D. (2007) U.S. drug policy and Mexican civil-military relations: A challenge for the mutually desirable democratization process. Springer.
Abadinsky., H. (2007) Organized Crime, Eighth Edition