MEXICO CITY, Mexico—On 4 November 2011, the Viễn Đông shared Ms. Sandra Martinez’s story about her cousin becoming a victim of a Mexican drug cartel.
Ms. Martinez is a Huntington Beach, California resident who used to live in the border town of Nuevo Laredo in the Northern Mexican state, Tamaulipas. Prior to the Mexican military’s heavy presence in the town, the Zetas, a large Mexican drug cartel, were consistently seen in the Nuevo Laredo, using violent force to intimidate the residents and procure youth as personnel.
Original Zeta members were once part of the Mexican military. When they found out how much money they could make in the drug trade, they left the military and used their training to beat their competition and recruit younger members to work as spies and drug dealers.
The money made off the drug trade is the driving force behind it, California’s 34th Senate District Senator Lou Correa told the Viễn Đông. He is of Mexican descent and still has family living in Central Mexico.
Senator Correa continued, saying that the violence is not contained to border towns and is seen in small villages throughout Mexico.
“People are afraid to walk the streets,” he said. “It’s a shame to see that.”
Senator Correa told the Viễn Đông that the money going into Mexico for drugs is creating major problems for Mexican democracy, yet certain legislation being pushed by U.S. voters could further contribute to violence in Mexico.
For instance, there has been ongoing debate in California on legalizing medical marijuana. If a proposition to legalize such marijuana appears on upcoming ballot measures and voters vote to legalize it, there will be more incentive for Mexican drug lords to sell it, thus making their cartels larger and stronger.
Senator Correa added that former U.S. policy for stopping drugs from entering the United States has contributed to all of Mexico being disrupted.
Ten to fifteen years ago, the U.S. federal government was concerned about drugs coming in through boats or planes to Miami by way of the Caribbean islands. The drugs had originally been sent to the islands from countries in South America, like Venezuela and Columbia.
By intervening in the drugs being sent to the United States from the Caribbean islands, the U.S. government forced drug traffickers to find alternate routes. They went from flying and shipping drugs in and over waters, to transporting them inland through Mexico.
If the United States is successful in stopping drugs coming in from Mexico, drug traffickers will only seek alternative ways to get the drugs in, Senator Correa told the Viễn Đông.
They could even sneak drugs in directly through California or consider Canada as an option for entrance.
Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, Native American civilizations including the Olmec, Toltec, Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Maya and Aztec inhabited the area of Mexico.
African slaves were also brought to Mexico for labor, contributing to the blend of culture within the country.
In 1821, Mexico gained its independence from Spain, though civil wars and border disputes with the United States weakened the country. Texas, what is today California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma were lost to the United States in 1848.
French forces invaded Mexico in 1861, staying until mid-1867.
The beginning of 20th century contained revolutions within Mexico, where its citizens revolted against the powers ruling the country. There was a period of economic growth from the middle to late century and then in 1982, the economy plummeted.
Difficult times followed, as people rebelled and foreign interests stepped in to help rescue the country. Some of the countries, like the United States, are still present, represented by their interests.
Mexican arms trade
The United States is still present as a foreign interest in Mexico, reportedly encouraging the sale of military-style weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
A report released in June 2011 by three U.S. Democrat Senators, including U.S. Senator representing California, Ms. Dianne Feinstein, found that 70 percent of the guns seized in Mexico between 2009 and 2010 came from the United States.
Drug cartels use these guns in the violence against Mexican citizens.
“The Americans began to sell arms as a voracious, ambitious industry,” Mexican President Felipe Calderón, who has been outspoken against arms trading between the United States and Mexico, said in 2010. “This [U.S. arms trading] often provokes conflicts in countries that are poor and less developed.”
He continued, saying that arms traffickers view selling guns to criminals as a business and international public opinion needs to unite against the “irresponsibility of the Americans.”
Senator Correa told the Viễn Đông that if the Mexican cartels did not receive guns from the United States, they would get it from countries like Russia, China, or Venezuela and there would still be carnage in Mexico.
Again, he said, the money involved in drug trading keeps the operation going.
“The best way to stop this is to make sure our kids don’t start,” he said, adding that teaching children to refuse drugs at an early age is an effective strategy in not only keeping them drug free and safe, but helping to end the violence inflicted by the Mexican drug war.