Rapporteur’s Report: Mexico and Brazil
Driven by high levels of demand, the Latin American drug trade continues to flourish despite efforts to dismantle it. While narcotrafficking was originally concentrated in the Andean region of Latin America, as counterdrug programs force traffickers to branch out and establish new channels, a sort of spillover effect has occurred in both production and trafficking activities. Source-country drug control programs have only resulted in minor reductions of overall cultivation and production but moreover caused shifts in the illicit industry leading to heavy permeation across both South and Central America and Mexico. America’s “War on Drugs” has ultimately led to the creation of smaller, vertically-integrated drug production and trafficking networks throughout Latin America. The following articles provide a broad analysis of these growing illicit networks involved with narcotrafficking. They cover important topics such as the permeation of the drug trade in countries like Mexico and Brazil, the role of intermediaries in narcotrafficking, the creation of micro-cartels, and the importance of narco/political nexus in the LATAM drug trade. Ultimately, the works suggest that counternarco efforts over the past couple of years in Latin America have only challenged the traffickers to seek new channels and form new networks at best and exacerbated the problem at worst.
Bruce Bagley: La Conexión Colombia-Mexico-Estados Unidos (Atlas de la Seguridad y Defensa de México 2009) The essay begins with an introduction explaining how organized crime groups in Mexico are becoming increasingly involved in the cocaine trade, which was originally dominated by the Andes and Colombia. The author uses blunt statistics such as 350 metric tons of cocaine consumed annually in the US and 11,297 recorded drug murders in Mexico from 2006-2009 to demonstrate the gravity of the drug market which now heavily permeates most facets of society within Latin America. Bagley suggests that Mexican drug trafficking cartels have become dominant intermediaries between the Andrean producers and traffickers and the North American Market over the course of the past decade. He uses this paper as an opportunity to analyze the main factors that indicate why Mexico has become the hub for cocaine smuggling from Colombia into the US. Smuggling of refined cocaine was originally done across the Caribbean into south Florida by Medellin and Cali, the two dominating drug trafficking organizations in Colombia. The initial success of trafficking into south Florida sparked response from US government officials which resulted in the creation of task force to halt cocaine smuggling; while this did not halt all operations, it did have a lasting effect on trafficking patterns. With the help of the Panamanian head of state in the 80’s, Colombian drug kingpins hiding out in efforts to escape persecution for the murder of a government official began to reroute the cocaine trade through Central America and Mexico into the US. While it began as a fixed fee-for-service, Mexican drug organizations quickly became involved as heightened enforcement efforts by the South Florida Task Force made the Central America/Mexico trafficking route the preferred route. The Juarez cartel was the first major actor and soon after came the Tijuana cartel along with other minor trafficking organizations. During this time, structural changes in the cocaine industry in Colombia lent themselves to the growth of the role of Mexican organizations in the drug trade. Events such as the capture and later death of Pablo Escobar significantly weakened the Medellin cartel while the capture of Cali capos had similar effects on their organization as well. Smaller criminal organizations, what Bagley calls cartelitos, increasingly filled the gaps while beginning to forge commercial relationships with criminal organizations outside of Colombia to aid in the...
Cited: Luis Astorga, Mexico: Drugs and Politics,” in M. Vellinga, ed., The Political Economy of the Drug Industry: Latin America and the International System. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2004, pp. 85--102.
Hal Brands, Mexico’s Narco-Insurgency and U.S. Counterdrug Policy. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, May, 2009, 61 p.
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