Who is armig the Mexican Drug Cartels?

The arming of Mexican drug cartels remains as a complex element of the “War on Drugs.” These criminal groups clearly benefit from weak regulations in the United States. However, there are multiple actors contributing to this problem. A condition that complicates the situation and makes the application of policies to reduce the levels of violence in Mexico close to impossible.

Drug Trafficking groups are using weapons that sometimes come from Central America. According to Inside Costa Rica, “Central American corrupt militaries are the ones responsible for arming  the Mexican cartels.” The report was made after Mexican authorities captured a group of criminals with light anti-tank weapons and military-grade M433 grenades. Later, the equipment was traced to the United States arming the Honduran government in the 1990s. This transaction was part of a foreign policy to empower non-communist government in Central America. Some segments of these institutions are selling their equipment to Mexican non-state actors. Honduras is not a special case because there are multiple nations in this region with huge stacks of weapons.

Some sectors of the Mexican authorities have also been blamed for supporting these criminals groups. As in the case of Central American governments, Mexican authorities present high levels of corruption. According to Nuevo Leon’s state secretary, drug cartels have infiltrated in 50 percent of the municipal and state police. Consequently, this condition creates a perfect environment of corruption where an exchange of weapons can take place. Moreover, the Mexican military has been characterized by high levels of deserters. A problem that President Felipe Calderon tried to eliminate by increasing the salaries of the Mexican troops. The combination of these issues should be taken into consideration with the implementation of the Ley de Seguridad Interior (Internal Security Law). This policy provides the Mexican military forces and the president with more power to mobilize the troops and protect them against accusations of human rights violations. Thus, this policy could also contribute to the armament and empowerment of the Mexican drug trafficking groups.

Another element that is contributing to this problem is the globalization of drug cartels. These groups have made connections with different actors outside the continent. Brian DeLay makes the argument in his article, How Not to Arm a State, that Mexican cartels “can arrange for massive arms transfers from China, Eastern Europe, and other regions.” This condition releases these groups from the need to deal with American authorities and expensive weapons in the US market. China is a special case because criminal groups are also buying chemical ingredients from this nation to make synthetic drugs. The drug cartel of La Familia became known for having control over the exportation of chemicals from China. Based on this information, it is appropriate to assume that this group was also buying weapons from Chinese producers or from the Asian market. However, there is not enough information to measure the levels flow of weapons and the exact sources.

Finally, the drug trafficking groups are also arming themselves. Jose Carreno Figueras reported in Excelsior how the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) is making their own weapons in clandestine steel factories. The information originated in a Global Post report by drug trafficking expert Ioan Grillo. The CJNG’s factories used industrial metal to make AR-15s. This transformation on the nature of drug cartels contributed to the CJNG acquiring control over multiple regions of the nation. Moreover, this organization also used its eliminate access to weapons to wage a war against historical crime syndicates such as Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel. The evolution of this organization makes the fighting against its development extremely complex. This condition forces the Mexican authorities to expand their range of operations in this “War on Drugs.”

The armament of drug trafficking groups is a complex subject. It is clear that the United States has contributed to this problem by its inability to stop the flow of weapons to Mexico. While the topic could take complex political dimensions in the US, the problem should not remain inside the northern state. These criminal organizations have taken international unprecedented dimensions. Consequently, nations such as China have become involved in this issue. Finally, the CJNG getting involved in the making of weapons represent a new level of emergency for the Mexican authorities. A successful campaign to stop the armament of the Mexican cartels needs to try to address these elements or expect negative results.

For this piece of writing, I incorporated a combination of books and articles. Michael Deibert, In the Shadow of Saint Death, 2014. George W. Grayson, La Familia Drug Cartel: Implications for U.S.-Mexican Security, 2010.  Brian DeLay, “How not to Arm a State,” Southern California Quarterly, Spring 2013. Jose Carreno Figueras, “El Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion se extiende como cancer en Mexico,” Excelsior, 2015.



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