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Mexico's "War" on Drugs: Causes and Consequences

NCJ Number
M C Toro
Date Published
110 pages
The organization of the illicit drug industry in Mexico and drug control policies of the Mexican government are described.
The illicit drug industry in Mexico primarily targets foreign markets, but the industry's socioeconomic and political effects within Mexico have led to corruption, militarization, violence, and unintended victims. Originally designed to impose order along the border between Mexico and the United States, Mexico's drug control policies gravitated toward prohibiting production and interdicting smugglers. At first, Mexico tried to exercise a semblance of control over U.S. border and drug agents. In the latter phase of prohibition and interdiction, Mexico attempted to deal not only with aggressive U.S. agents but also with a smuggler counterstate growing on Mexican soil. U.S. prohibitionism created an extremely profitable climate for drug smugglers to use Mexico as a country for both production (marijuana and heroin) and transit (cocaine). While socioeconomic and political costs of drug consumption have mounted, Mexico's policy initiatives to reduce these costs have simply aggravated rather than solved the drug problem. Drug trafficking and control policies have particularly affected Mexico's criminal justice system. Courts and jails are full of drug cases, limiting the system in terms of what can be accomplished in other areas of domestic law. The Mexican criminal justice system has concentrated the bulk of its resources on enforcing drug laws, even though domestic drug use in Mexico is relatively low. Realities of the "war on drugs" have dragged the Mexican government into adopting increasingly punitive programs that have rendered drug manufacture and smuggling more appealing. Needed changes in Mexico's drug control policies are discussed that focus on the dynamics of the international drug market and U.S. drug control policies. 75 references, 174 notes, 5 tables, 10 figures, and 3 maps


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