Inside The Deadliest Year of Mexico’s War On Drug Cartels

By Victoria Kim 11/10/17

A lot of the recent violence is being attributed to the 2016 arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Federal policemen in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Drug war violence is only getting worse in Mexico, Al Jazeera reports.

So far this year, more than 18,000 Mexicans have been murdered, primarily due to drug war violence. These deaths are projected to surpass 24,000 by the end of 2017, a record-breaking increase from last year’s 23,000 total murders.

The Mexican government declared a war on drug cartels in 2006. But somehow this campaign against drug traffickers has resulted in the murders of more than 100,000 people, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

This past May, Newsweek reported that Mexico had been ranked the “second deadliest conflict area in the world” after Syria—flanked by Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

Much of the recent violence is attributed to the 2016 arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the former head of the powerful Sinaloa cartel. According to Al Jazeera, in the absence of El Chapo, Mexican drug cartels have had to establish new power structures—fighting for control, occupying new territories, and “splintering” into smaller, more violent groups.

Now, violence that was previously concentrated in a handful of states is spreading across Mexico. The Los Angeles Times reported in July that 27 of Mexico’s 32 states recorded increases in homicides compared with last year.

Another factor behind the growing violence is the opioid crisis. Mexico is now the largest supplier of heroin to the U.S., feeding off Americans’ hunger for potent opioids. The extra cash is reportedly enabling drug cartels to “step up the warfare.”

“Rising demand for heroin in the United States and a bloody power struggle inside one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels have put the country on track to record more killings in 2017 than in any year since the government began releasing crime data in 1997,” the LA Times reported.

Mexican officials argue that the U.S. also has a responsibility to reduce demand for drugs like heroin, saying there are two sides to the drug problem. “Drug trafficking is a shared problem that will end only by addressing its root causes,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a June statement.

Even more disturbing are reports that the Mexican military is also to blame for rising violence. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights group based in Washington D.C., issued a report this month that detailed the brutal human rights violations committed by Mexican soldiers in their crusade against drug traffickers.

The reported crimes committed by the military include raping and torturing civilians, murdering suspects with insufficient evidence against them, and burning corpses to destroy evidence of torture. This abuse has been going on for “almost two decades.” 

The WOLA report states, “Soldiers often commit human rights violations while carrying out public security tasks such as vigilance, counterinsurgency, and combating organized crime.” 

The U.S. government has provided $521 million in anti-drug funding to Mexico since 2008.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr