Cooperative Mexican-U.S. Antinarcotics Efforts

  • Contributor: Nathan Jones, Jonathan M. Winer, Jonathan P. Caulkins, and Eric L. Sevigny
    Nov 22, 2010

    Because of high U.S. narcotics consumption and Mexico’s role as the main transit country for cocaine from Colombia, the dominant narcotics activity in the Western Hemisphere takes place between the United States and Mexico. Competition among the large Mexican drug-trafficking organizations to maximize their sales in the United States has led to terrible violence in Mexico, and that country’s “war” against those organizations has amplified that violence. Mexico was a small player in the movement of cocaine to the United States before the 1980s, when the main route was from Colombia through the Caribbean to Florida. After that route was largely abandoned because of heavy U.S. sea and land interdiction, Colombian cocaine began to enter the United States through Central America and Mexico.

    This report focuses on four drugs: cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana. Mexico produces the last three of these drugs, which are shipped directly to the United States. If reliance on Mexico as the final transit country for cocaine sales to the United States were to become too costly for the drug-trafficking organizations, the route could change again. And while the violence in Mexico might then diminish, cocaine would still come into the United States because of the demand for the drug.

    For many years the U.S. government was unwilling to admit explicitly that U.S. narcotics consumption bore some responsibility for the violence in Mexico. During a visit to Mexico in March 2009, however, the U.S. secretary of state finally stated the obvious: that U.S. narcotics demand was fueling drug violence in Mexico. This report thus comes at a time of antinarcotics cooperation between the two countries. This cooperation does not mean that the problems related to drug trafficking and consumption are on their way to solution, only that issues not discussed earlier can now be put on the table. The purpose of this report is to provide a full discussion of such issues.

    Publisher CSIS
    ISBN 978-0-89206-607-0 (pb)