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Jellie's avatar

How much power do Mexican drug cartels really have?

Asked by Jellie (6454 points ) September 21st, 2011

I was reading this article about the dumping of 35 dead bodies on a road in a Mexican city. In addition to this piece of news I often read about the warring drug cartels and the police and other protective services seem unable to even curb their activities. I also am aware that unless you live in a certain country, the news can give you a distorted, one-sided view of the situation.

So I want to know how much power do these drug cartels really have? Do they influence (bribe, threaten etc) the government and law enforcement agencies? How powerless is the government against them?

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8 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

It’s not that they have power, but that they can’t be controlled. They don’t decide where a building can go , or if a road will be built, or award contracts. But there doesn’t seem to be any effective opposition to their crimes.

In many areas, just simply stating you are against them is a death warrant. Police departments have quit en masse, because of being threatened. And because of that, they have infiltrated many higher level authorities because of fear of death.

In April of last year, the death toll from the drug wars stood at 22,000. It is thousands more since then.

In some parts of Mexico, there is essentially no government.

wundayatta's avatar

There are towns where they are the law. In fact, things seem safer in some towns when there is no longer any fighting. Of course, it is a tyranny, so you can’t say anything against them, but I guess fewer people are killed and you can go out on the streets. Killing, perhaps (I’m making this up) would be done indoors after the drug cartel takes over.

In other parts of Mexico, it is not that bad. But there are big cities where they are nearly in control, and also places where there don’t exert nearly as much control, if any.

The government keeps on making efforts to fight them, partly because the US gives them lots of money to do so. I don’t know if the Mexicans use this money to fight drug cartels, or if they just pocket it, after giving a share to the cartel in their area.

My impression is that the government has pretty much given up and that we are seeing an experiment in chaos in Mexico. Perhaps it will run its course and eventually the citizens will take government back, but that will only happen when the money goes out of the business. The US will have to decriminalize drugs, which should drop the prices, which should make the business unprofitable, and then drug cartels will turn to other semi-legal activities, like union corruption or something.

mrmijunte's avatar

I will speak from experience because I was once part of that life. Originally the governement would give plazas to the cartels, ( I hope I’m clear with my explanation ), say for example I am the governor of “X” northern state, so because I control the state police and have to respond to my President ( if same party ) I hace access to Federal police as well. So I come to power after being elected and say “Blue” is one of the heads of the cartel, I will let him work without problem but I will tax him and “demand” that other groups that try to traffic drugs in my state without paying due taxes either to the cartel or directly to me, then “Blue” will let the Comandante Judicial de Plaza P.J.F. or P.G.R. ( FBI or DEA kinda of orgs ), so he can incarcerate them or “Blue” takes care of them.
Under the system I just described, the violence was very, VERY limited, sure there was some killings but never innocent people nor there was fear from the citizens.
Now, what happened with President Calderon when he took over, he decided to protect one cartel, and tried to make a monopoly so this cartel had all the control. So after all the years of bribing, risking my life and the ones that I love, I’m supposed to agree to that BS? Hell no! we are fighting for what is ours, bring it on! ( Obviously this is not me, but you get the narrative I hope ) :)
So that is how all the violence started, it is that simple and that is the true.
When I was locked up in Atlanta back in 2006 ( Had been down for a bit by that time ), every mexican in the prison (cartel members and other criminals ) were so nervous because we knew what would it mean if Calderon took over. To give you an example Atlanta is one of the main hubs of distribution for the east coast in the U.S. and the Cartel del Golfo had it pretty much in lock, after Calderon took over little by little the jail started getting crowded of these guys, and people from Sinaloa started to come in slowly but surely to take over the distribution.
So to answer your question right now there is total chaos in Mexico because of these failed take over, people got up in arms, there has so much impunity because cops are scared, and it seems that anybody can commit a crime and get away with it, so now we see a lot of people that have nothing to do with the cartels but now they want some action, because they can get away with it.

chewhorse's avatar

Primarily their power comes from covertness, like sneaking up on an unaware animal for the thrill of the kill, leaving the carcass to rot for the sole purpose of warning other animals that a monster is nearby. What these soulless creatures don’t intimidate with death, they control with bribes thus it’s almost impossible to convict them.. And their strength comes in numbers so that when one ring is taken down, three rings of the same cartel replaces them.

wundayatta's avatar

@mrmijunte Out of curiousity—do you know of any websites where current of former members of these cartels hang out and talk about what their experiences are? Do they discuss the politics of it?

Jellie's avatar

@mrmijunte thank you. That was interesting!

mrmijunte's avatar

@wundayatta I would be very surprised if such thing existed. For the lucky ones that got out of it it’s more like a bad dream and really don’t talk much about it. Not one of my coworkers know about my past for example. Now there is a website called “blog del narco” but is more about the news than anything else. In this website there is a forum as well but I susperct it’s filled with teens that are wannabes cartel members.

linguaphile's avatar

I couldn’t match the quality of @mrmijunte‘s response even if I wanted to—GA!

Recently, someone brought up the conspiracy theory that our US government is funding the Mexican cartels in some big scheme… has anyone else heard of this?

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