Drug Trafficking in Mexico: Causes and Consequences of Militarization




Capetillo, Marcus Patrick

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During the period of one party rule within Mexico, drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) funneled narcotics through Mexico virtually unobstructed. Throughout this period, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) protected DTOs, regulated drug trafficking, and prevented infighting between competing DTOs. However, with the transition to a more democratic political system Mexico’s counternarcotic policy changed. The PRI lost power and could no longer regulate drug trafficking or control DTOs. As a result, violence between DTOs intensified, posing a significant threat to Mexico’s nascent democracy. In response to this threat, both President Vicente Fox and President Felipe Calderón chose to militarize their counternarcotic policy. This study explores why Felipe Calderón and Vicente Fox chose to pursue a confrontational, militarized approach and reveals some of the consequences of this policy on the drug trade and Mexico’s democratic consolidation. The study finds that the new political arrangement within Mexico, incompetence of other security forces, high levels of violence, and increased pressure from the United States all contributed to Mexico’s choice to militarize. The militarization of Mexico has produced varied results and its implications are being felt on both sides of the United States-Mexican border.