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Top Drug Cartels Penetrating Mexican Government, Judiciary at All Levels


June 1993

The multibillion dollar Mexican drug trade has led to corruption at all levels of the government and judiciary there, prompting fears that such corruption could spark Colombian-style violence in the near future (Tod Robberson, "Mexican Drug Dealers Cut Pervasive Path: Nation Is Top Narcotics Supplier To U.S.," Washington Post, 5/31/93, A21).

The picture is familiar -- bribery, threats, tremendous economic clout, and occasional acts of violence -- are used to influence Mexico's governing institutions. Mexican drug dealers have tens of billions of dollars, huge arsenals, sophisticated communications gear, a fleet of aircraft and executive jets, and an extensive network of influence that enables them to operate almost unscathed. The extent of the corruption became evident after Mexican Cardinal Juan Posadas was killed in the crossfire between drug dealers at Guadalajara airport. Airport officials then held up departure of a Tijuana-bound Aeromexico passenger jet for 20 minutes and allowed eight of the gunmen, including two without boarding passes, to board the jet and escape. Mexican officials made no attempt to halt the jet or intercept the gunmen at their arrival in Tijuana two hours later.

U.S. officials estimate that 50 to 70 percent of all cocaine reaching the United States comes through Mexico. RAND Corporation drug policy analyst Peter Reuter, Ph.D. estimates that cocaine traffickers generated roughly 20 percent of Mexico's total export income in 1988. Mexico is the number one source for opium gum that is refined into heroin bound for U.S. markets, producing four to five tons yearly. About a half-ton of heroin or raw opium is seized annually, leaving about four tons on the open market. Mexico is still the number one source of foreign marijuana in the U.S. and a major supplier of key precursor chemicals essential in the manufacture of cocaine and heroin.