History of drug trafficking ( Second part)

The 1980’s and 1990’s

During these years, the trafficking of drugs expanded to a volume never seen before.  Indeed, social, political and cultural conditions entailed that drug trafficking became the most profitable business in the country.  The amount of money generated in the business was so great that it caused corruption at all levels of the Mexican Government.  As a result, the Mexican citizens began to witness the changes.  In particular, it became apparent the connections between the traffickers and the police agencies, this being a good example of how drugs were entrenched within the Mexican society.  Drug trafficking began to reproduce, spread and diversify even faster than the demand in the U.S. and, of course, much faster than the Governmental agencies in charge of fighting trafficking.[1]

During the 1980’s and 1990’s, Mexico fell into a wave of crime, starting with the assassination of the DEA agent Enrique Camarera by traffickers (and covered up by the police).  Later, it followed the assassination of Cardinal Posadas Ocampo, and then the murder of both PRI’s Presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colossio and o the brother of the nations’ Attorney General, Francisco Ruiz Massieu.  Consequently, the violence within the country started to rise:  in particular, the northern part of Mexico, especially Sinaloa, became the center of both violence and growing and transporting drugs.

According to the Secretary of the Interior, in 1995 there were approximately 900 armed-gangs in Mexico.  Half of them consisted of current or retired members of agencies of the government.  Thus, the fight was not necessarily between the police and the “criminals,” but between members of the security forces.  According to the statistics provided to Andres Oppenheimer by the Secretary of the Interior, more than 60% of the members of Mexico’s police forces were receiving bribes or had previous criminal records.[2]

It is important to note that, by the end of the 1980’s, the PAN party won its first governorship in Baja California and, thereafter, the political opposition began to challenge the authoritarian regime of the other political party, PRI (Partido Revolucionario Industrial), which had been in power since the end of the Revolution and had created a strong structure that incorporated and controlled drug traffickers.  For the ruling political elite, it would have been unthinkable to give absolute freedom of action in any profitable business, and much less to allow semi-illiterate ranchers to pocket the profits without giving anything in exchange.[3]  Therefore, as Luis Astorga argues, “it is no accident that the higher levels of violence connected with drug trafficking in the 1990’s have been observed primarily in states where the political opposition had gained power.”[4] This author adds that traffickers were not subordinated to the political authorities and thus “enjoyed more greater [sic] freedom of action locally since an opposition governor did not have the same stretch and was not backed in the same way by the federation as one belonging to the same party as the President.”[5]

The restructuring of the “post revolutionary” political system, which gave extraordinary powers to the President, collapsed in 2000.  The democratic elections of that year, when Vicente Fox was elected president, changed the relationship between the executive branch of government, Congress and each particular State.  In the turmoil, the drug traffickers have achieved greater independence from the Government since they have been able to escape surveillance.  Looking at this from a historic point of view, we see that the end of 71 years of old regime – where traffickers were basically self-ruled –destabilized not only the Government but the drug trafficking organizations as well


[1] Luis Astoga, El Siglo de las Drogas p. 126.

[2] Andres Oppenheimer, Mexico en la frontera del caos , p. 340.

[3] Luis Astorga, The Limits of Anti-Drug Policy in Mexico (UNESCO, 2001), p. 427.

[4] Id., p. 430.

[5] Id.

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