Mexico faces an array of drug-related problems ranging from production and transshipment of illicit drugs to corruption, violence, and increased internal drug abuse. Powerful and well-organized Mexican organizations control drug production and trafficking in and through Mexico, as well as the laundering of drug proceeds. These organizations also have made a concerted effort to corrupt and intimidate Mexican law enforcement and public officials. In addition, the geographic proximity of Mexico to the United States and the voluminous cross-border traffic between the countries provide ample opportunities for drug smugglers to deliver their illicit products to U.S. markets. The purpose of this study was to develop informed and timely answers to the following research questions: (a) How serious is the trade in illicit drugs between Mexico and the United States today and what have been recent trends? (b) How does drug trafficking fund terrorist organizations in general and trade between Mexico and the U.S. In particular? (c)
What interdictions have proven most effective in stemming the flow of drugs into the United States from Mexico? And (d) What further steps need to be implemented to reverse the tide of drugs and violence that continues to threaten Mexican-U.S. security relations? These answers are presented in the study's conclusion together with recommendations for law enforcement authorities in both countries.
Table of Contents
Purpose and Need
Goal and Objectives
Critical Assets Identification
Purpose and Need
In the United States, Pennsylvania and Delaware are home to over 13 million people; the cities of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, are part of the sixth largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in the country. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania comprises the 22nd largest Metropolitan Statistical Area. This paper will address an analysis of heroin availability, purity, pricing, and abuse trends for Pennsylvania and Delaware. At the conclusion of this document the source country that supplies most of the heroin, cocaine and often prescription medication into the United States will be identified as Mexico.
Heroin poses a formidable threat throughout Pennsylvania and Delaware, as evidenced by the increasing availability of high purity, low priced heroin and the resulting escalation in abuse, drug treatment admissions, and overdose deaths. This threat is exacerbated by the widely-reported trend of prescription drugs abusers migrating to heroin, seeking a cheaper and more available high. The DEA Philadelphia Division routinely assesses and ranks the drug threats to Philadelphia and the Delaware area as determined by availability, threat to public health, community impact, attendant crime, enforcement activity, seizures, drug abuse and treatment statistics, as well as propensity for abuse. Analysis of these factors, supplemented by investigative reporting, human intelligence, liaison, and open source data, allows for a comprehensive overview of each drug area, culminating in the ranking of drug threats throughout the Philadelphia and Delaware area. Based on the aforementioned analysis, for each the past five years, heroin has ranked as the primary drug threat to the Philadelphia area and the State of Delaware. In addition, in each reporting area (Allentown, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Scranton, Pennsylvania, as well as Wilmington, Delaware), heroin has ranked as either the primary or secondary drug threat in each of the last five years.
Along with Canada, the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship is one of the most important for the United States today (Montesclaros, 2011). The U.S.-Mexican relationship, though, is characterized by a number of ongoing serious problems, including how to best manage the relationship in view of the deteriorating security in border regions and even into the interior of Mexico, as well as how to conceptualize the salient issues from a security perspective that takes into account the legitimate views of both Mexico and the United States (Montesclaros, 2011). According to Montesclaros, although bilateral trade and immigration remain among the most important issues facing both countries, there are also three security threats that have assuming higher priority in recent years: (1) organized crime (this category also includes narcotics trafficking and arms smuggling); (2) illegal migration and trafficking in persons; and (3) terrorism (Montesclaros, 2011). Many authorities agree that there is an inextricable interrelationship between the former and latter categories as well (Trafficking and transnational crime, 2010).
Although these problems have been recognized for some time by law enforcement authorities in both countries, there have been some changes in the situation in recent years that have made the Mexican-U.S. border conditions worse than ever, with escalating levels of violence that Mexican law enforcement authorities have been unwilling or unable to address. In this regard, Montesclaros (2011) emphasizes that, "What is new in this mix are the unprecedented levels of violence and audacity displayed by criminal organizations, particularly the drug trafficking organizations, which are increasingly emboldened-committing more acts in public, targeting Mexican police forces without hesitation, and even hiring ex-special forces members from the Mexican military" (p. 98). These recent violent trends in the narcotrafficking industry along the Mexican border have been well publicized in the international media in general and the United States press in particular, causing growing public condemnation and demands for resolution of these increasingly serious issues by the governments of both the United States and Mexico (Montesclaros, 2011).
Indeed, drug-related violence has already claimed the lies of more than 43,000 Mexicans, the majority of them civilians, just since December 2006 when Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a military initiative designed to counter the growing power of the drug cartels (Carpenter, 2012). Government authorities in the United States, though, remain concerned about the possibility of the growing violence destabilizing the Mexican state as well as the potential for the violence to cross the border into America (Carpenter, 2012). Indeed, the editors of Americas Quarterly (2010) emphasize that, "Narcotics trafficking and the transnational criminal organizations that sponsor it represent the gravest and most complex threat to democracy and human rights that our region faces today" (Trafficking and transnational crime, p. 38).
In response to these growing threats, some analysts have formulated three broad policy options that should be applied to the Mexico-U.S. drug trade problem: (a) increased engagement with Mexico, (b) maintaining current levels of aid and support, and (c) retrenchment from the status quo (Montesclaros, 2011). According to Monteclaros, "Recent dialogue has centered on variations of the first two options, while there is little talk of pulling back. In fact, most observers say "more, faster, wider, and deeper" with regard to the amount, speed of application, and breadth and depth of U.S. aid to Mexico" (2011, p. 98). These are vitally important issues because the suffering that has taken place as a result of the drug war in Mexico has been appalling (Buxton, 2012). Indeed, some estimates indicate that more than 60,000 people have been killed in violent exchanges between drug trafficking organizations and law enforcement authorities since 2006 (Buxton, 2012). Moreover, the ability of Central American governments to stem the flow of drugs and violence is minimal, and the optimal outcome that most of these nations can hope for is to minimize the so-called "bridge" factors that keep them vulnerable to drug trafficking activities (Buxton, 2012).
With respect to the ability of Mexico to respond to the growing threat, many authorities agree that there are few viable alternatives available. According to Kilmer and Caulkins (2010), "The difficulty is that, for Mexico, there are almost no alternative sources to the press, in either Mexico or the United States, which typically reports whatever large number a government agency chooses to provide" (p. 37). Currently, the Mexican government does not release this type of information so gauging the effectiveness of interdictions can be problematic (Kilmer & Caulkins, 2010). Although drug-related violence has become a global problem in recent years, this study focuses on these issues as they relate to the United States and Mexico as discussed further below.
While precise numbers are not available, it is possible to estimate the amount of the revenues that are being generated by Mexican drug cartels each year, at least in a general fashion. For instance, Kilmer and Caulkins (2010) posit a scenario wherein heroin users in the United States spend $30 billion at an average retail price of $145 per pure gram, those figures translate into about 207 metric tons of pure heroin, an amount that is increased to 252 metric tons when the drug is cut to the 82% purity levels that are typical of U.S.-Mexico border trade. Based on these calculations, it is estimated that approximately $4.3 billion worth of heroin alone is being smuggled into the United States from Mexico, a figure that does not take into account marijuana or other drugs (Kilmer & Caulkins, 2010). Also assuming that Mexican drug trafficking organizations receive the standard 80% of the $4.3 billion total, their share comes to about $3.4 billion per year, and many authorities are concerned that a significant percentage of these funds are being diverted into terrorist organizations around the world, funding attacks against U.S. interests domestically and abroad as well as introducing a continuing supply…