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The Mexican Drug War (also known as the Mexican War on Drugs; Spanish: guerra contra el narcotráfico en México) is the Mexican theater of the United States’ War on Drugs, involving an ongoing low-intensity asymmetric war between the Mexican Government and various drug trafficking syndicates. Since 2006, when the Mexican military began to intervene, the government’s principal goal has been to reduce the drug-related violence. The Mexican government has asserted that their primary focus is on dismantling the powerful drug cartels, rather than on preventing drug trafficking, which is left to U.S. functionaries.
Although Mexican drug cartels, or drug trafficking organizations, have existed for several decades, their influence has increased since the demise of the Colombian Cali and Medellín cartels in the 1990s. Mexican drug cartels now dominate the wholesale illicit drug market and in 2007 controlled 90% of the cocaine entering the United States. Arrests of key cartel leaders, particularly in the Tijuana and Gulf cartels, has led to increasing drug violence as cartels fight for control of the trafficking routes into the United States.
Analysts estimate that wholesale earnings from illicit drug sales range from $13.6 to $49.4 billion annually.
By the end of Felipe Calderón’s administration (December 1, 2006 – November 30, 2012), the official death toll of the Mexican Drug War was at least 60,000. Estimates set the death toll above 120,000 killed by 2013, not including 27,000 missing
Given its geographic location, Mexico has long been used as a staging and transshipment point for narcotics and contraband between Latin America and U.S. markets. Mexican bootleggers supplied alcohol to the United States gangsters throughout the duration of the Prohibition in the United States, and the onset of the illegal drug trade with the U.S. began when the prohibition came to an end in 1933. Towards the end of the 1960s, Mexican narcotic smugglers started to smuggle drugs on a major scale.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, Colombia’s Pablo Escobar was the main exporter of cocaine and dealt with organized criminal networks all over the world. When enforcement efforts intensified in South Florida and the Caribbean, the Colombian organizations formed partnerships with the Mexico-based traffickers to transport cocaine through Mexico into the United States.
This was easily accomplished because Mexico had long been a major source of heroin and cannabis, and drug traffickers from Mexico had already established an infrastructure that stood ready to serve the Colombia-based traffickers. By the mid-1980s, the organizations from Mexico were well-established and reliable transporters of Colombian cocaine. At first, the Mexican gangs were paid in cash for their transportation services, but in the late 1980s, the Mexican transport organizations and the Colombian drug traffickers settled on a payment-in-product arrangement