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Approaching and addressing international drug issues in 1999 is not a simple task due to numerous contradictions that involve the inherent nature of economics, politics, culture, and individual ideologies. The normal attributes of drugs, as well as the changing characteristics of these mind-altering substances, makes them the center of complex studies that end up producing contradictory and inconclusive reports. Furthermore, confusion results from the study of available literature due to moral prejudices and sensationalism by journalists. There is a scarcity of serious, objective research as well as a lack of reliable data.
Moreover, discourses corresponding to specific economic and political interests have masked the true nature and dynamic of the drug issue by casting it in mythical terms. Consequently, a battle has emerged between United States political and economic factions shaping popular opinions as well as government action. In the 1970 s, this conflict intensified when certain drugs became international commodities on a grand scale. Drug trafficking was born and the subsequent drug trade movement created economic, political, and social repercussions among the countries of the Western Hemisphere. By examining the institution of drug trafficking in regard to bilateral relations between the United States and Mexico, one can clearly trace these same repercussions and the difficulty in creating successful policy to combat them. Economic Background of Drugs and the Drug Trade Since the beginning of human existence, societies have attempted to regulate mind-altering substances, prohibit them, or establish some sort of moral control over their use, possession, and distribution.
Man has always used them for diverse purposes including magic, religion, aphrodisiacs, medicine, and war (Del Olmo 1). These mind-altering substances carried no monetary value until nation states began creating laws and penalties against the consumption and possession of drugs. With these prohibitive laws firmly in place, drugs lost their exclusive use value and acquired exchange value as commodities, subject to the laws of supply and demand (Del Olmo 2). Thus, individuals who realized that there was profit to be made from a steady demand for drugs, created a "black market" firmly rooted in the economic conventions of free-enterprise and capitalism.
Capitalism due to prohibition, then, has been a major force in the creation of a market for these substances, elevating them to privileged position among the most profitable raw materials for foreign exchange. In the form of raw materials, these drugs - which include heroine, cocaine, and marijuana - begin as the poppy, coca, and marijuana plants respectively. These plants grow well, and quickly, in Latin American countries that experience a relatively hot, humid climate year round such as Colombia, Mexico, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru. Due to these favorable weather conditions, Latin American farmers can easily harvest these plants three to four times a year and stand to earn a much greater profit than many of the farmers who produce other regional crops such as bananas, coffee, and sugar (Economist 35). Interestingly enough, the illegal drug trade existing between the United States and Latin America contains all of the variables involved in the economics of sanctioned trading activity. Individuals from the United States and other developed countries take the role of those who demand the finished good or service, in this case, cocaine, heroine, and marijuana.
Thousands of Latin American farmers assume the supplier role by harvesting and selling the drug producing plants to middlemen. These middlemen, often part of powerful Mexican or Colombian drug cartels, Mafia, or guerrilla groups, then produce the final consumable drug that is smuggled into the United States or other developed countries where demand exists. This process is referred to as drug trafficking or narcotrafficking (Monitor 16). Despite government official's knowledge that drug trafficking is an underground economic activity, as well as an illegal form of free enterprise, it is practically impossible to carry out an economic analysis of the international drug trade.
Due to varying estimates of the amounts of drugs produced, refined, exported, and consumed, there is no clear way to accurately measure the money made or spent on all of the different phases of drug trafficking (Report 8). However, U. S. government officials do acknowledge that thousands of Latin Americans rely on the drug trade as a means of income. For example, farmers in the Andean region in Peru harvest coca and poppy plants, and then sell these raw materials to drug cartels, as their dominant source of income. The drug cartels then proceed to create thousands of jobs for Mexican citizens in agriculture, chemical processing, packaging, transportation, accountancy, and administration in order to produce the finished goods that will be smuggled into the United States (Salgado 945).
Past Strategies Used to Combat Drug Trafficking The two Republican Party administrations that wielded the power of Washington bureaucracy in the 1980 's approached the problem of drug trafficking in a much different manner than it is today. Reagan and Bush's main policy in combating the flow of illegal drugs consisted of interdicting the substances when they first crossed the United States' border. This approach was generally ineffective at reducing the supply of drugs indicated by the 5 to 15 percent of drug imports seized annually. Furthermore, traffickers effortlessly adapt to such disruptions by using new smuggling innovation and routes (Handbook 1).
In the 1980 's, for example, the notorious Colombian Cali Cartel used the Caribbean Islands, Miami, and the surrounding Florida Keys as a haven for their drug trafficking operations. It was not uncommon for federal agents to hear the sounds of "cigarette" boats entering the area late at night. High-powered motor boats were common means of transporting the drugs from the South American production factories to Caribbean Islands to the "friendly" ports in Miami (Constantine 2). Federal agents eventually made a number of drug seizures and arrests, and forced the cartel to take immediate action. Instead of deterring the cartel's business, the government merely forced it to move. The Cali Cartel began transporting the bulk of its drugs through Mexico.
This move proved to be even more profitable for the cartel, as Mexico provided a country with a 2, 000 mile border with the United States, a history of heroine and marijuana smuggling, and the existence of cross-border family ties. This same relationship exists today however Mexican groups have begun to capitalize on the drug trade as well (Requesters 3). Mexico's Rise to Top Drug Trafficking Country in Hemisphere Since the early part of this decade, drug trafficking organizations in Mexico have become more powerful as they have expanded their operations to include not only the manufacture and distribution of cocaine, heroine, and marijuana, but also methamphetamine's. Initially, Mexican drug trafficking organizations acted as mere transport agents for the more powerful Colombian cartels.
Their only task was smuggling the drugs across the U. S. -Mexican border. As time passed however, the Colombian groups began experiencing direct opposition from the U. S.
government. As groups of Mexicans became key transporters for the Colombians, they began to demand and receive a portion of all drug shipments in exchange for their services. This resulted in Mexican drug trafficking groups substantially increasing their profits and gaining a foothold in the lucrative illicit drug wholesale business (Blair 3). According to Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials, Mexican drug traffickers have almost become as powerful as the Colombian Medellin and Cali cartels were at their height in the 1980 s.
The Mexican organizations presently control one-third of the cocaine distribution in the United States, 20 percent of the heroine, 85 percent of the methamphetamine, and a majority of the marijuana (McGraw 34). Presently, two groups control the majority of drug trafficking leaving Mexico for the United States. These groups include the Tijuana and Juarez Cartels (McGraw 34). The Tijuana Cartel is headed by the Arellano-Felix family and controls the drugs crossing the border on the West Coast between Tijuana and Mexicali. This group is thought to be extremely violent, feuding with all rival drug organizations.
Consequently, this rivalry led to the killing of Catholic Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas-Ocampo at the Guadalajara airport in 1993. This led to the indictment of several drug cartel leaders including members of Tijuana Cartel (Constantine 3). The advent of the Juarez Cartel was a direct result of the Colombian Cali Cartels demise in the early 1990 s. Spearheaded by the Carillo-Fuentes family, members of the Juarez Cartel began their trafficking careers as chief transporters for arrested Cali Mafia leader Miguel Caro-Quintero. The Carillo-Fuentes family owns several airline companies, which enables them to fly 727 s full of illegal cargo from Latin American suppliers, to their ranch in Juarez. They are responsible for much of the drug distribution across the southern Texas border (Constantine 4).
Unfortunately, with each passing day, these two powerful groups only gain more knowledge regarding U. S. and Mexican anti-narcotics policies. The efforts of the U. S. government and the DEA in combating this hemispheric drug problem is often deterred by the drug trafficker's expeditious response time to their counter narcotics policies.
Already expecting interference in their illegal business, traffickers build redundant processing facilities in case current ones are destroyed. Furthermore, these sophisticated drug traffickers often stockpile surpluses of their product inside the United States in case of smuggling interruptions (Boaz 58). Interestingly, many employees of the U. S. border patrol have recently voiced concerns regarding the amount of drugs that pass through customs every day without being discovered. They blame this on the reluctance of Washington to pursue the possibility that numerous employees of the U.
S. Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the border patrol have come under bribery and corruption by the wealthy and powerful Mexican narco traffickers. Also, W...
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Research essay sample on U S Government Drug Trafficking