Although the United States (US) has always had a Foreign Policy, for decades the US has emplaced polices regarding Mexico and it’s rogue and hostile drug cartels. Furthermore, since the 1920s, the United States and Mexico has had raised tension, not only for oil, politics, immigration, but drug trafficking, leading to the rise of drug cartels. The United States Foreign Policies are in place to safeguard its national interests from threats such as these.
For more than a decade, Mexican authorities have been waging war against drug trafficking organizations (Gamboa). The war on drug cartels is an ever changing due to them battling one another for territory, either leading to them splintering, or forging alliances. During this time, over three hundred thousand homicides (Gamboa) have been in response to antidrug campaigns of the Mexican government. Many of these homicides are linked to drug cartels, which hit a new high of almost thirty-six thousand deaths, with a trend of around ninety murders daily.
Drug cartels, also known as Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), are the largest foreign suppliers of heroin, methamphetamine (meth), and cocaine to the United States. Furthermore, they are also responsible for most of the heroin and meth production, while the cocaine is made Columbia and Peru and then transported through Mexico. In recent years, US seizures have shown DTOs are manufacturing a synthetic opioid called fentanyl, that is more potent than heroin and the numbers of seizures is soaring at an alarming rate. A vast quantity of marijuana is produced and smuggled into the United States, but legalization in Canada and the majority of US states has led to DTOs pushing harder drugs, such as heroin.
The demand for heroin has caused the US Opioid Epidemic, increasing heroin production in Mexico by 37%, from 2016 to 2017 (White House). Opioids, a class of drugs derived from the poppy plant, can be divided into two broad categories: approved FDA medications and manufactured drugs. Opioid medications, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine, are commonly prescribed to treat pain, while methadone is primarily used in addiction treatment centers to reduce a patient’s addiction to opioids.
The crisis has reached such a point that, beyond the risks it poses to public health, it is hurting the economy and is a threat to national security. Cartels control production and operating distribution hubs in major US cities. Mexican cartels, which the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has called the “greatest criminal drug threat to the United States,” (Editors) transport drugs across the US southwest border. The two countries share a two thousand mile border with over fifty active ports of entry.
U.S. relations with Mexico are strong and vital. However, the scope of US and Mexican relations is broad and goes beyond diplomatic and official relations. It encompasses extensive commercial, cultural, and educational ties, with some 1.7 billion dollars of two-way trade and hundreds of thousands of legal border crossings each day. Bilateral relations between the two have a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans.
Furthermore, the demand for narcotics remains strong, and according to the U.S. Department of Justice, ‘the availability of illicit drugs in the United States is increasing” (Engelhart). Drug cartels are constantly fighting for power, especially along the Mexico, US border, like places such as Juarez, Mexico. The Mexican authorities are trying to stop them with no avail. The push for power by cartels has landed them into the US itself. Authorities have reported they are on a move through El Paso, heading North, East, and West. Raids by authorities have uncovered cartel factions in Atlanta, Phoenix, New York, and a presence in 230 U.S. cities (up from 50 in 2006), from Little Rock, Ark., to Anchorage, Alaska (Engelhart).
According to an August 2011 Pew poll, less than half of Mexicans believe that the government is making progress in its battle against the cartels (Bonner). Some Mexicans believe that the president is allowing the cartels to operate above the law in exchange for less violence from the cartels. When President Calderón took office in 2006, there were 5 cartels cells, each fighting for power and control. These DTOs, the Gulf, the Juárez, La Familia Michoacana, the Sinaloa, and the Tijuana cartels — dominated large swaths of Mexican territory and operated abroad, as well (Bonner).
The war on drug cartels is an ever changing. Battling one another for territory, either splintering, or forged alliances. Formally led by the infamously known drug cartel Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Sinaloa Cartel is Mexico’s most powerful and oldest DTOs. They own strongholds along the Pacific Coast of Mexico, allowing them to have a larger international footprint. During a battle for territory, Jalisco New Generation splintered from the Sinaloa Cartel in 2010, who are known for their willingness and aggressive confrontations with other cartels and with the Mexican Authorities.
Headlines from Mexico are worrying, from US officials being killed, Ranchers being murdered by drug smugglers crossing the border, and numerous lethal engagements between the Mexican authorities and the cartels. Mexico is in the throes of a battle against powerful drug cartels, the outcome of which will determine who controls the country’s law enforcement, judicial, and political institutions. It will decide whether the state will destroy the cartels and put an end to the culture of impunity they have created (Bonner).
Mexico’s drug cartels are moving into the gasoline industry and waging open war with the military. Can the country’s new populist president contain the chaos (Harp)? As stated prior, the war on drugs is ever changing, and even oil is a major asset for the cartels. They are using brute force on the small oil companies to take over the business of distribution of gas to those even if they want it or not. The armed conflict between the cartels and Mexico’s military, which has dragged on for 12 years, now ranks as the deadliest war in the world apart from Syria (Harp). Mexico’s military has stated they will continue to hunt down and take out each cartel one by one, even working with the US government such as the DEA and CIA. While most of Mexico’s stolen gasoline is sold domestically, plenty of it winds up in the U.S., especially when the variable price of fuel on the world market rises above the fixed price in Mexico (Harp). One of the largest oil companies Pemex even filed a lawsuit in 2010 in the US federal court accusing dozens of Texas companies of purchasing stolen gasoline.
This policy paper will discuss US foreign policy regarding drug cartels in Mexico and the United States starting from 1920s through the present day, with emphasis on how the cartels have come to power and become a threat to national security in the United States. It will also discuss the rampage the cartels are on for a struggle for power against other cartel factions and the Mexican government. Furthermore, how the Mexican government has worked with the US to control and eradicate the threat of cartel violence. For some time the threat of Mexican authorities not controlling their own country has forced the United States to once again help another country with its own problems due to the threat of it affecting the way of life we as Americans love and fight for.