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months, U.S. authorities have found two sophisticated tunnels used to smuggle drugs between Mexico and San Diego, California. One of the tunnels was one half mile long had lights, ventilation and a rail system to move the drugs. Mexico has produced and its northern border has been a passage for illegal drugs for many years. However, at the moment, the Mexican government finds itself in an all-out war with the powerful drug cartels determined to get rich by pushing their drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border and it is a problem that American authorities have been powerless to solve.
The demand for illegal drugs in the United States is one of the most lucrative businesses in the world. As a result, many of the people involved in have become ruthless, sophisticated, and aggressive and will do anything to protect their industry. Drug enforcement agencies are faced with a huge challenge in their attempt to protect the country's borders. The Mexican illegal drug business is a multi-billion industry dominated by cartels-large, often family-run, corporate-like organizations-which operate in collusion with elements of the corruption-ridden national state and in violent competition with each other (Campbell, 236).
The Mexican drug trade has spread through every part of the country and has touched just about every person in some way. This has a consequence of causing many Mexican citizens to flee for their safety. With nowhere else to go, many of these individuals cross the U.S.-Mexican border looking for a better life but this only has the secondary effect of increasing the volume of illegal immigrants in our country. Beside the problem of illegal immigrants and illegal drugs crossing the border into the U.S., there has been an increase in violence over the last several years in Mexican border towns. The National Drug Intelligence Center says that "in 2009, between 6,500 and 8,000 individuals (according to unofficial estimates) were murdered in Mexico as cartels battled for control over smuggling corridors." (National Drug Threat Assessment, 15).
The United States has always tried to stop illegal drugs from coming into the country but the effort has rarely succeeded. When the U.S. stops one of the cartels methods of transporting drugs, they come up with another way. Tunnels have always been the most popular way and once one tunnel is discovered, another is dug to replace it. The Department of Justice says that "The number of tunnels extending from Mexico into the United States has increased, suggesting that Drug Trafficking Organizations consider these tunnels as useful investments to smuggle drugs into the United States" and that in 2008, "U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers along the U.S.-Mexico border discovered sixteen subterranean tunnels." (National Drug Threat Assessment, 15).
Many different groups are involved in the trafficking and distribution of illegal drugs. There are several different ways that drugs are smuggled and different transportation methods including land, sea, and air associated with each drug type, but overall, the National Drug Intelligence Center using drug seizure data and law enforcement reporting, point out that overland smuggling and subsequent transportation by vehicle exceed all other methods combined (National Drug Threat Assessment, 19). Therefore, it seems that the biggest effort to stop illegal drugs from coming into the country should be concentrated in this area.
Most foreign-produced illegal drugs obtainable in the United States are smuggled into the country overland across the border with Mexico. The success of this method can be attributed to Mexican cartels transporting drugs through territories in which they have bribed politicians, police, military officials and border guards. (Campbell 236). Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations dominate the transportation of illicit drugs across the Southwest Border. They typically use commercial trucks and private and rental vehicles to smuggle cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin through the 25 land Point of Entries as well as through vast areas of desert and mountainous terrain between Point of Entries (National Drug Threat Assessment, 21).
The rise of violence in Mexican border towns can also be attributed to the fact that the cartels are now getting weapons from the United States. The same way that drugs come into the U.S., guns are being sold and transported back into Mexico. The New York Times reported in April 2009 that smugglers had transported at least 339 high-powered weapons to Mexico over a year and a half (McKinley Jr.). The government of Mexico has requested that the U.S. do more to stop the flow of guns into Mexico but like the drugs coming north, this has proved to be a difficult task.
There is a war taking place in Mexico. The most important fight involves drug trafficking organizations, largely between the Sinaloa cartel and its main rival, the Gulf cartel as the fight to gain control over the smuggling routes into the United States. The Mexican government is also at war with these cartels in their effort to stop them. The solution to the problem has baffled both Mexican authorities who must deal with widespread corruption among government and law enforcement officials. In December of 2008, the U.S. Justice Department said that Mexican cartels are the "biggest crime threat in the United States," present in 230 American cities (Hsu and Warrick). In the states, a massive network of street gangs distributed the drugs smuggled from Mexico to communities all across America. In 2009, midlevel and retail drug distribution in the United States was dominated by more than 900,000 criminally active gang members representing approximately 20,000 street gangs in more than 2,500 cities (Jeffery).
In the 1980's, the United States sent military troops to South American countries to help train foreign forces in their fight against drugs. As the violence has grown on our own border though, there has been no commitment by the American government to aid the Mexicans in the same fashion. The 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment says that "Without a significant increase in drug interdiction, seizures, arrests, and investigations that apply sustained pressure on major Drug Trafficking Originations, availability of most drugs will increase in 2010, primarily because drug production in Mexico is increasing" (53).
If the flow of drugs into the United States is at the very least slowed, then there would be a lessening of the violence along the border. This requires more border patrol agents to inspect traffic into the country as well as patrolling the remainder of the border area. The topic is discussed frequently among politicians but to date, as shown above, we have seen no significant change. Funding seems to be the main issue. We are currently in a recession that has crippled our economy and reduced the available funding. The amount committed to the war on drugs is minuscule compared to the $2.5 billion the U.S. military spends in Afghanistan each month and the $12 billion going to Iraq (Hsu and Warrick). As a county we have declared a war on terrorism and committed a large amount of money and military assets in that fight. We declared a war on drugs long before September 2001 and have yet to take the same measures to win that war. A show of American troops along our border helping with the effort will send a strong message to the cartels that our borders are off limits to drug trafficking and gun running.
Local and state governments hold auctions to sell items confiscated from low-level drug dealers and the money from those sales go to help cities fight drugs. The same idea could be applied to the bigger war on drugs. An estimated $18 billion to $39 billion in cash, wire transfers and other smuggled payments move each year from the United States to Mexico (Hsu and Warrick). The American government is already committed resources to cut off the movement of drug money. As in local areas, this money would be more than enough to pay for the American effort and would also weaken the cartels that ship the drugs. U.S. troops are needed to assist in the securing of our border although at the present with troops being used in the war against terrorism, this seems unlikely. If that is the case, then the money confiscated from the cartels can be used to hire and train more border agents and at the same time strengthen our borders.