The drug war in mexico

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This story examines Mexico’s campaign against the drug cartels and how this drug war is affecting Mexico as well as its North American neighbours: the United States and Canada.

Since 2006 the Mexican government has been locked in a violent battle with its drug traffickers. Shortly after his election in 2006, President Felipe Calderón moved his troops into areas of Mexico long controlled by criminals, the members of what are usually referred to as drug cartels.

The criminals behind the cartels are drug traffickers. Originally they worked with drug suppliers from Colombia, moving their product through Mexico and across the border into the United States, with some of it eventually making its way into Canada. Beginning in the 1990s, two major cartels, one on the east coast and one on the west, controlled much of this business. Thanks to a combination of threats and bribery, local police and officials mostly overlooked the drug trade.

Initially, Calderón’s campaign had positive results. Several drug lords were captured and jailed, and millions of dollars’ worth of drugs was seized. The general public was enthusiastic about the action. The military, seen as the one uncorrupted authority in the nation, were national heroes.

By 2012, however, the campaign has resulted in some unpleasant consequences. The number of cartels has actually mushroomed as the victories over the original ones created opportunities for new criminals groups to fill the vacuum. Turf wars among the cartels have increased both in frequency and level of violence. The cartels have expanded their activities to include crimes like kidnapping, extortion, and human smuggling. They have maintained their influence over the areas in which they operate, and now regularly use murder as their principal means of intimidation. Where they are powerful, no one—police, mayors, or even state governors—is safe. And the army has seen its public reputation badly tarnished by a long series of human rights abuses.

In just a few months Mexico will elect a new president. The election is seen by many as a referendum on the drug war—a war that so far has claimed about 50 000 lives. Three months before the July 1, 2012, election, the ruling party is trailing the opposition in the polls. The drug war is at a crossroads; how it will be conducted after July 1 is unclear. What is certain, however, is that this is a war with no winners—and with Mexico as the loser.
To Consider

In 2009 former Mexican president Vicente Fox attended a gala in Calgary. Speaking with reporters, he said that any Canadian or American who used drugs shipped through his country—cocaine, cannabis, methamphetamines, or heroin—was partly responsible for the drug violence in Mexico (in 2009 Canadians are believed to have used 14 tonnes of cocaine alone).

Do you agree with Fox’s statement? Why or why not? If you do agree, what steps do you think Canada might take to acknowledge this responsibility?

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