International Criminal Organizations Research Paper

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International Criminal Organizations

Over time, Mexico has experienced significant growth in crime levels -- something that has led to an increase in criminal activity not only in Mexico but also across the entire region as well. In this text, I concern myself with the rise of international criminal organizations in Mexico. In so doing, I will amongst other things explain the role poverty and/or corruption has played in the creation of fertile ground for organized gangs and how the Mexican government has responded to the rise in criminal activity. Further, in addition to evaluating the effect of the said criminal organizations on the stability of the nation as a whole, I will also speculate over what the situation in Mexico means to the United States from a national security perspective. Recommendations with regard to how the government of Mexico should respond to the situation will be offered at the end of the paper.

The Rise in Criminal Activity and the Role Played by Poverty and/or Government Corruption

Mexico is home to some of the most ruthless and efficient criminal gangs in the region. It is important to note at this point that the said gangs and cartels have used their relative success at home as a launch pad for regional and international criminal operations. The role drug trafficking plays in the sustenance of criminal activity in Mexico cannot be overstated. Indeed, based on my review of literature, drug trafficking in my view remains one of the key drivers of crime in Mexico. Having devised ways of beating security systems back home, the Mexican drug cartels have spread their tentacles far and wide - with the U.S. being one of their most lucrative markets.

From the onset, it is important to note that the rise and further expansion of criminal organizations in Mexico has largely been fueled by poverty and corruption. With regard to corruption, it should be noted that it has been established that law breakers in Mexico often work in cahoots with law enforcement officials. In the words of Gossop (2013), "police corruption is widespread at all levels." Instances of bribery are common. With police officers in Mexico being amongst the worst paid in the region, they are easy prey for drug cartels as they are likely to accept a bribe than their well paid counterparts in other countries. Indeed, as per 2011 data, the salary of a police officer in Mexico according to Barkan and Bryjak (2011) generally ranged between $350 and $600 U.S. dollars per month. This figure has not changed much within the last two years. It is not hard to see why a police officer would accept a hefty bribe from criminal elements seeking protection or immunity from apprehension. In any case, most people including law enforcement officers do not have many options except full cooperation. As it is often said in Mexican lingo, gangs and drug cartels in Mexico as Edmonds-Poli and Shirk (2012) point out generally offer Plata (silver) o Plomo (lead) -- you choose between bribe or death. Many choose Plata 'by default.' As I will point out in the recommendations section of this text, this is a problem that can only be fixed through the adoption of strategies that protect against the demoralization of the police force.

Poverty is also to blame for the escalating crime rates in Mexico. Indeed, there are those who claim that poverty and crime in Mexico are joined at the hip with some like Ramsey (2011) referring to poverty as a recruitment tool for Mexican crime cartels. According to the author, poverty and lack of opportunities continue to supply "Mexico's drug trafficking organizations with waves of fresh recruits" (Ramsey, 2010). The prevalent joblessness in the country makes crime and criminal activity a very appealing 'job provider' for thousands of youths seeking to make ends meet by whatever means possible. Other factors that have contributed to the soaring crime rates include but they are not limited to the inefficiency of the Mexican judiciary, absence of a properly organized police force, lack of political goodwill to combat crime, citizen apathy, etc.

Combating Criminal Organizations in Mexico: The Mexican Government Score Card

The Mexican government has failed to combat crime in Mexico. This is despite the numerous policies that have been adopted over time by the government and its various agencies in an attempt to bring down crime rates. For instance, in the past, the country's police force has been expanded significantly - yet crime rates remain particularly high. As I will point out elsewhere in this text, the government seems to forget that numbers do not matter; it is the morale of the officers on the ground that matters when it comes to combating crime. Without the appropriate working conditions and better pay, the police force will continue to be as ineffective as it has been in the past.

The government has also failed to address what Ramsey (2011) refers to as "abysmal youth unemployment." As I have already pointed out elsewhere in this text, poverty (a consequence of lack of opportunities including employment opportunities) continues to be one of the main forces driving individuals (particularly the youth) to crime. This is a social issue the government has refused to address conclusively over time. Indeed, many are the times the government has adopted the wrong strategy in dealing with criminality. For instance, as Forbes reports, data from the National Statistics Institute of Mexico clearly indicates that during President Felipe Calderon's tenure, homicide numbers nearly tripled (Flannery, 2013). The cause of this was the adoption of an ambitious but defective approach to fighting criminality. According to Flannery (2013), the president "pushed forward with Operation Michoacan Together and sent 4,000 troops to patrol the hills of his home state." Approximately four years after the implementation of this ill-advised strategy, crime rates soared across the country as drug cartels resorted to inter-gang competition to control drug trade. In Flannery's (2013) words, "Calderon's War failed to address the direct needs of Mexico's population." I couldn't have put it better. The president chose to address the symptoms as opposed to the root cause of the problem. Currently, what the Mexican political leadership lacks is not the opportunity to tackle widespread crime and lawlessness; but rather, the political will. It is for these reasons that the government has largely been ineffective in combating criminal organizations.

How the Nation's Stability has been affected by Criminal Activity

The claim that Mexico's stability has been affected by the activities of criminal organizations is nether a media hype nor a common misconception. It is a fact. Writing in the Forbes magazine four years ago, Kurtzman (2009) -- in reference to Mexico - told his U.S. readers not to "discount the possibility of a failed state next door." Not much has changed. Instead, in some of the country's regions, things have gone from bad to worse. For instance, in some regions like Tijuana, it has become nearly impossible to track, apprehend, and prosecute criminal elements as they have not only penetrated the law enforcement agencies but also the judiciary. The confidence with which these elements execute their illegal activities is an indicator of high level impunity -- something that has an actual and real effect on the stability of the entire nation. When top police and judicial officers are severely compromised, this is taken to be failure of some critical state organs -- a sign of a nation's instability.

Further, when criminals overrun entire regions, especially border towns, this is a sign of regional instability. According to Edmonds-Poli and Shirk (2012), drug cartels in some regions are better equipped than law enforcement agencies. In such areas, they are the 'government' -- albeit an informal one. When criminals get away with high profile murders, this is a sign of an unstable nation. Some of those who have suffered the wrath of criminal elements in the recent past include law enforcement officers and journalists. Francisco Arratia, a member of the fourth estate was murdered for his criticism of drug cartels. The perpetrators are yet to be brought to book. In a stable state, injustices of such magnitude are conclusively and decisively investigated and perpetrators prosecuted.

Effect on the United States

As I have already pointed out, the U.S. remains one of the most lucrative markets for illegal drugs originating from South America (with Mexico as the transit point) and Mexico. According to CNN Library (2013), a significant percentage (up to 90%) of cocaine consumed in the U.S. has South America as its origin and Mexico as its transit point. Other drugs that easily find their way into the U.S. from both South America and Mexico include but they are not limited to marijuana, and heroin. Further, as CNN Library (2013) further points out, a significant portion of methamphetamine that finds its way into the U.S. originates in Mexico. In effect, the cartel related activities taking place in the U.S. Mexico border are a threat U.S. national security. This is particularly the…

Sources Used in Document:


Barkan, S. & Bryjak, G. (2011). Fundamentals of Criminal Justice: A Sociological View (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Center for International Cooperation -- CIC (2013). Organized Crime. Retrieved from

CNN Library. (2013). Mexico Drug War Fast Facts. CNN. Retrieved from

Edmonds-Poli, E. & Shirk, D.A. (2012). Contemporary Mexican Politics (2nd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

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