The declaration of war against organized crime and drug cartels that Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón issued in 2006 has plunged the country into an unprecedented spiral of violence, constantly accelerating and spreading geographically and horizontally throughout the state. Over 28,000 people have been killed in drug related violence as drug cartels fight local authorities to feed their hungry market in the United States and the rest of the world. It is a brutally irrational circus putting the democratic system at test.
The frustratingly simple reason for the war is the perverse demand and supply of drugs. Drugs produced in South America, smuggled to the U.S. and shipped overseas for hedonistic use. In Colombia, the production is today bigger than twenty years ago. But it is Mexico, the transit country to the United States, that has been struck the hardest from the inhumanly violent war on drugs. Police and military stand powerless towards the violence, which was not what President Calderón had envisioned when he came to power in 2006. His strategy included to organise the military in the fight against the Mafia, to give the authorities time to reform deeply corrupt police forces. In 2007, Calderón deployed around 45,000 troops and 5,000 federal police to 18 states throughout the country with the aim to find and fight the drug cartels. But these military efforts have proven to be futile. The cartels’ response has been massive and unmerciful. When one cartel gets in trouble, another one is immediately ready to overtake the power.
It’s about money. Revenues totalling about ten billion dollars are at stake for those who dominate the Mexican smuggling routes to the States. Soon, war broke out between two major alliances of drug syndicates, one led by the Sinaloa cartel and the other by the Gulf and Juárez cartel. The violence soared. During three years of time, hundreds have been brutally killed and abducted each week. Pinioned, abused, decapitated and dismembered bodies are often left with notes revealing who is next in line. The government’s inability to control the situation is a more complicated story to unravel, but has to do with deeply rooted issues of a flawed democratic system. Corruption has left it paralysed. Drug dealers are now part of the judiciary, military, police, media and politics. President Calderón himself recently acknowledged that only half of Mexico’s police officers can be trusted. And as soon as the drug cartels’ top boards get arrested or killed, others come to power and the carousel keeps spinning.
The immense recruitment of regular people is also a reason to the rapid growth and power of the cartels. Mafia pays its way forward in this underpaid society where the minimum wage is paltry 25 pesos a day. The drug industry pays much better than almost every legal job. Between 1,000-2,000 pesos for one murder, and more if it is a high risk job. Many people in Mexico are poor and with an underdeveloped social security system, people are left with no choice. Gangs recruit members from poor suburbs, why the murderers often are young boys who see an opportunity to earn status and money.
I wish everyone could see the heartrending, brutal fear in the eyes of the people of a once prosperous country. A country which has lost parts of its soul with the injustice. While westerners bring their lives to a higher level thanks to their friend cocaine, they are probably comfortably unconcerned about the endless amount of corpses they are treading on. The drug war is a global issue. It is not just a threat to several constitutional states, but also an infected situation where democracies collapse, mafia states grow and underprivileged get dispelled. As long as there is demand, ‘the avenue of the dead’ will keep on growing.
Photo and article by me.