Mexican Drug Cartels

8 August 2016

Mexico was once sought a place to go and visit just south of the border. Many American Citizens would go to see the nice beaches, eat some delicious seafood that was surprisingly better priced than it was here in the U. S and just have a mini vacation that was only about a 2 hour drive. However those days are long gone. Ongoing violence has broken out, even Mexican citizens fear for their safety in their own home. That cause of all this you ask; Mexican Drug Cartels.

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Mexican Drug Cartels have hit the news and have become more than just a group of people dealing drugs, they reached the highest level of crime there is too reach, and they are an Organized Crime organization. Let’s take it back to see how this once tourist filled country became the home to some of the most violent and heartless organizations the world has seen to date. Crime in Mexico has existed for years now, but it became more noticeable during the time of Pablo Escobar. At one point in history he was the main transporter for Cocaine coming directly from Colombia.

As enforcement agencies kicked up their efforts to stop this drug trade, especially in Florida, Escobar formed a partnership with Mexico-based traffickers to transport their drugs through Mexico and into the United States. Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo is known as “The Godfather” of the Cartels seeing how he established the Guadalajara Cartel, which is recognized as the first Mexican cartel and were the first to link up with Escobar to transport cocaine through Mexico. It is said that once Mexico became involved in the drug trade with Colombia it opened a door for Mexico to become independent and they began to branch out on their own.

After a while the Guadalajara Cartel took a heavy blow when one of its members was arrested, so it was decided to split it up into three separate groups. As a result the Tijuana, Juarez, Gulf, and Sinaloa Cartel came to exist, after that it was a domino effect and the fight for power/territory began. Not all the cartels are still in effect to date. There are only handfuls that truly still hold power, and these are the most violent cartels out there. To begin there is Los Zetas; this is more of a private army that branched out from the Gulf Cartel.

They began as 31 members but later grew to 300 and detaching themselves from the Gulf Cartel and becoming a fully independent drug, arm, and human trafficking network. The Sinaloa cartel, run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is another of the drug cartels that is still very much present in the drug trafficking game in Mexico. Their leader El Chapo is said to be the Mexico’s most wanted drug trafficker. The Sinaloa Cartel was in an all-out war with the Juarez cartel for that territory and in the end Sinaloa ended up defeating the Juarez cartel.

The Gulf Cartel was once one of the strongest but now due to Los Zetas breaking away from them and trying to gain the Gulf Cartel’s territory they have fallen a bit. However they maintain to stay in the game and have maintained control of their primary profit plazas. Other Cartels such as La Familia Cartel, the Beltran-Leyva Cartel, and Tijuana Cartel have either disbanded or are not as active as the other cartels. These Cartels instill fear into the public by the amount of violence they portray. To be honest and blunt these cartels simply do not care who you are or what they are.

They will not hesitate to kill you in the most brutal way possible. The Mexican community fears for their life day by day and do not go to authorities because the majority of them are corrupted by the cartels themselves. Non corrupt cops in Mexico either quit or get killed because they cannot be corrupted. I know this from first-hand experience because I have seen what these cartels can do and will do in my travels. Before the Cartels thrived in Mexico I would go at least once a year to visit my family, worry free I would go with my parents until the age of 15 I began to travel alone to Mexico.

My parents would not worry much and I was able to be out in the street past 10pm with no fear that something was going to happen to me, especially because I was an American Citizen and people believed that American Citizens were in more danger than Mexican Citizens. When I would go there were people roaming the streets, buying food late at night or just going on walks in the Plaza, however all that changed as soon as the threat of the Cartels came into play. By 10pm the streets are empty, not many people are walking around late at night and those who are now are on alert to whoever is walking in front, behind or across from them.

The specific region I go to is Michoacan, which is one of the most affected areas in Mexico by the Cartels, or at least that is what the news likes to inform everyone. I remember I went last year in the summer by myself, my parents couldn’t make it because of work and it was very different. The town I reside in when I go to Mexico is a very small town; it’s the kind of community where everyone knows everyone in a sense. It is well known for the lake that surrounds the town; unfortunately the lake has been poorly cared for and is slowly beginning to dry out.

But what it is most famous for, well what the state of Michoacan is most famous for is that every year the Monarch butterflies migrate to a forest in Michoacan for the winter. The butterflies fill up the trees and cover it from top to bottom, just hanging there relaxing for the winter until it I time for them to go back to where they came from. The population of this town is only about 1,000 maybe even less than that so you would think it was a pretty safe town, apparently not. In my visit during the summer there was military everywhere. They would roam the streets on foot or they would patrol in their vehicles.

This was a scene I was not use to seeing how before when I would go there was no military at all and hardly any police officers around now that is all you see. Before the Cartels began to flourish in the towns military was hardly ever seen, but now it was strange not to see military in your town. Since my parents weren’t there in Mexico with me I was free to roam the streets and go out whenever I wanted for as long as I wanted, so I took advantage of that. I distinctly remember one day me and my friends were driving to a lake in Michoacan, it was about a 45min drive on the highway.

It was a pretty normal drive, there wasn’t too much traffic and nothing seemed to be odd or out of the ordinary, except for I did see one of the famous “narcomantas” that the cartels hang when wanting to send a message. These are ways that the cartels warn people, or tell people to stay out of the way of what they are doing. This “narcomanta” was from a bridge that went over a freeway. I do not recall exactly what it said but I know it was somewhere along the lines that the cartel could not be stopped and would continue to run things the way they do.

It also said that anyone that got in the way would suffer the consequences and their heads would be cut off for the public to see what they were capable of doing. This scared me a bit to be honest, but my friends didn’t pay much attention to it they said that it was something they saw all the time. On the way to the lake we took the toll road so you had to pay about $2. 00 at every booth. When arriving to these booths there were armed military troops and police officers with fully armed automatic assault rifles scoping out each and every single car.

In some of the toll booths there were even bullet holes from shots that have been exchanged. It was all a new sight for me but it seems as if the people of Mexico are getting used to seeing things like that because my friends didn’t react to the armed men and bullet holes. Another event I remember clearly when I visited Mexico is a fight that broke out at a party I was at. In Mexico people who are part of a Cartel or are associated with it in any way refers to them as being part of “La Mana”.

So we are all at this party and everyone is having a good time, in Mexico if people whom you do not know show up to your party no one really says anything because someone is bound to know who they are. So I am at a table having some drinks with my cousins and a couple of friends when a group of guys walk in and the whole party had a shift in mood all of a sudden. These guys walked in like they owned the place and everyone there was being super friendly to them, someone even set up a table so they could all have a seat and not be standing around.

At first I didn’t really understand what was going on and then my cousin whispered to me in Spanish “Don’t freak out but those guys are part of “La Mana”, they aren’t going to do anything if no one bothers them but just be careful what you do. ” After a couple minutes the party went back to its original mood and everything was good for a couple hours. Then a couple drinks’ later this one guy started to act out in the party, he started to claim that he was part of “la Mana” and that no one better mess with him. He began to say that he was of high power and that he demanded the respect from everyone.

Then suddenly two men from the group that my cousin had told me got up and grabbed the guy. They both grabbed him and threw him out of the party than began to beat him over and over again. They were hitting him and stomping on him but no one could do a thing. One thing led to the next and the whole group of guys was out there beating on the guy, when one of the guys friends tried to stop the beating they proceeded to beat him too. Now these two guys were just being stomped on and beaten and no one could do a thing about it. One of the guys from the group flagged down a taxy threw the two guys in there and slammed the door.

Then everyone walked back into the party as if nothing had happened. I was pretty shaken up about what I had just witnessed but my cousins told me that things like that happened, people from “La Mana” were going to show up to parties I went to or they were going to be walking around and their presence was going to be known. The main thing was to stay out of their way and not make yourself noticeable or make them think you want to start something with them because no one was going to be able to defend you.

Aside from the Cartels roaming around being armed there are also ordinary citizens setting up checkpoints in the entrance of towns to “keep out” the Cartels, or so they say that is what they are there for. I went back to Mexico with my parents December of 2012 to spend Christmas and New Year’s there with family. While we were visiting one of my distant cousins got married and we were invited to the party. It was about an hour and thirty min drive to get to the wedding, so we drive there and everything was normal. We had no trouble getting there; however the ride back was where we encountered some scary situations.

We left at around 1am; it was my uncle and his family in the front, me, my cousins and some friends in the middle, and my parents in the back. Three cars in total were traveling home at this time. For some reason my uncle who was leading us all home decided to take the scenic route back, so it was pitch black through the middle of nowhere and we were completely alone. We traveled for about 20min when all of a sudden we encounter a block in the road. There was a gate just blocking the road and there was no way around it.

Then all of a sudden out coming out from the shadows masked men carrying AK-47’s and other automatic weapons approach the car. I was afraid for my life at that moment; I honestly did not know how to react. My best friend was in the car with me and he noticed I was nervous and afraid I grabbed onto his hand and tried not to say a word because I did not want to do anything that would bother the men who were coming towards us. One man approaches each vehicle and I could feel the tears getting ready to pour out from my eyes, but my friend just whispers to me in Spanish, “It’s okay, don’t be afraid.

These men aren’t going to hurt us but you need to relax. ” I remember taking a deep breath and looking back to the car my parents were in and just praying that everything was going to be alright. The man who approached out vehicle began to ask us lots of questions; “Where are you all from? Where are you heading to? Who are the people in the car and in the other cars around you? Do you have identification? Who is the man in the car behind you and why do they have identifications from the U. S. A? ” This is by far one of the scariest experiences I have ever experienced.

At one moment I did believe that my life was either going to end that day, I was going to get kidnapped, or I was going to be hurt in some way. After all the questioning was over the men decided to let us go. The man that had approached the car I was in appeared to be the leader because after he finished questioning us he back away from the car and signaled to the other men that we were good to go. I great pressure was relieved from my chest after we left and I felt like I could relax. When we got back to the house we all began to discuss what had happened.

No one could figure out who those men were, but my cousins and uncle said that they were people who were trying to keep the Cartels out of their town. They said that they were ordinary citizens that were protecting the entrance from Cartels members. Murders happen in plain daylight with citizens around. I recall one time hanging out with some friends at a store called Oxxo, which is Mexico’s version of 7 11, and we hear gunshots go off. Everyone immediately ducked and looked around to see where the shots were being fired from. To my surprise they had been fired directly across the street from me.

Some men in a car pulled up another car and opened fire onto the vehicle, killing the driver. Then they immediately sped off and havoc broke out until the police showed up and closed off the crime scene. I was able to catch a glimpse of the man who got shot. He was shot over a hundred times. There was blood everywhere, the car was full of holes, and it was such a vivid image. Prior to this shooting there was a shooting not too far away from where this one took place. The only difference was that at this other one the town’s police station was shot up.

I do not remember how many cars were involved but I believe it was three. I remember they went up to the police station all armed with fully automatic weapons and just opened fire. The Police Station was filling with holes in the walls and it stayed like that for a while since there were no resources to fix the walls. Rumor was that the reason behind the shooting was that earlier back the police had arrested a man that was affiliated with the Cartels and the cartel did not like that so they expressed themselves, and I believe everyone got the message loud and clear.

The attempt to stop cartels and all the violence they are creating only seems to make things worse. While authorities crack down on a couple cartel members and even leaders it seems as if the battle is far from being won. While American authorities try to keep the drug flow out and away from the border, cartels still find ways to get it in. No one can for sure know when or if this violence and danger will ever end in Mexico. There are people who fear crossing the border down in San Diego because the news over dramatizes the violence that goes on.

From what I have seen in my travels to Mexico the cartels really do not bother you unless you give them a reason to. With the exception of the encounters I have had with them, they never did any harm to me. They only harmed or took away people that were doing something to “bother them”. The corruption in Mexican authorities play a major role in why the cartels are not being taken down successfully because authorities simply look the other way when certain things go on, for the right price that is. It seems as If on day a major cartel leader is being captured and the next day they “escaped” from the grasp of authorities.

In order to crack down on the Mexican Drug Cartels it is going to take a lot more work than what is being done at the moment. Maybe the United States should just declare Mexico a lost country and take over, or maybe they should just go in and wipe out all the cartels doing the Mexican government a favor. Violence has risen in all of Mexico not just in the specific parts that are highlighted in the news. Although the acts that are being committed and the stories that are being shared on the news are horrific and make one not want to visit Mexico it is overdramatized.

The encounters I had with the cartels and people who associate themselves with the cartels are few and are not a daily thing. There is still some peace during the daytime; the citizens of Mexico continue to live there life how they use to but with just a bit more caution in case anything ever happens. The news makes it seem as if the moment an American Citizen steps foot in Mexico they will get picked up by the Cartels and taken away or killed somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

If that was the case then I would have disappeared a long time ago. I’m not saying that Mexico is not dangerous because in fact it is and if one goes they need to be very careful who they interact with and how they interact with people, what I am saying is that the news makes it 10 times worse that what it is. There are many “solutions” to this problem that people propose the key is to finding one that works and taking Mexico back from the cartels and making it into the beautiful tourist filled country it once was.

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