The narco trade is one of the biggest global illicit enterprises, with $20 billion worth of illicit drugs trafficked every year.
But how does the business of making drugs run?
This is the subject of this story.
“This is the first story of the year that doesn’t involve a narco lord,” says a former senior US drug enforcement official who asked to remain anonymous.
Drug trafficking is illegal in the US, and the cartels operating in Mexico are also banned by the US government.
They’re not even on the same level as organized crime in the United States, though, with US law enforcement officials saying they are concerned that Mexican cartels have been emboldened by US President Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric against them.
It’s a concern that’s spurred the US Drug Enforcement Administration to issue new guidelines last year to try to limit the profits of these criminal enterprises, but even that doesn of course apply to cartels operating outside of Mexico.
“We’re going to continue to work with Mexican partners to ensure that the cartels operate in a manner that complies with all of our laws and that is consistent with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) guidelines,” DEA spokesperson Michele Carr said at the time.
But some are skeptical.
“The cartels are still running the drug trade,” says Daniel Rodriguez, director of policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group.
“They have all the resources, all the weapons, all of the time, they’re still getting it done.”
The cartel cartel is a Latin American cartel based in Sinaloa, Mexico.
(AFP) The cartels’ profitability is a big problem for Mexico, as well as the US.
“There’s a lot of money laundering, drug trafficking, and trafficking of fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin,” Carr says.
“And we are seeing that with the cartels.”
There’s also the fact that the US has the largest cocaine trade in the world, which is why the cartels are using Mexico as a base to import their drugs.
The cartels’ profits are also lucrative in other ways.
“It’s not the money they made from selling cocaine in the U.S., it’s what they can make from selling the drugs in Mexico,” Rodriguez says.
“We’ve got about $2 billion to $3 billion in profit each year in Mexico alone, and it’s not even counting the money the cartels can make selling marijuana and marijuana-related drugs, as much as 90 percent of their profits are from those drugs.”
The cartels have also become very adept at exploiting the legal system.
“As long as they can get their drugs out of Mexico and then into the US without paying taxes, it’s all gravy,” says Rodriguez.
“There’s not a lot they can do to change the laws in the country that allows that.
The US government doesn’t really have any power over the cartels, but there’s still an effort going on by the DEA and other government agencies to try and get some of those laws changed.”
The DEA has been pushing for stricter drug enforcement laws for years, and Carr said last year that the agency had made progress.
“We’re continuing to build on our work, to try improve our ability to target these cartels,” she said at that time.
“In 2016, we initiated a program to create new guidelines that address the cartels’ ability to move illicit drugs across the border, and to make sure that those cartels that are operating illegally and using people and the environment as their business don’t have the right to operate.”
But many critics say that these new guidelines haven’t gone far enough.
“I don’t think we’ve really seen a change in the way the cartels use the border,” says Alejandro Ramirez, a Mexico expert at the Cato Institute.
“So what I would like to see is for the US to just leave the border alone, to let them continue to operate as they’ve been for the past 40 years.”