The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime wants to facilitate civil society’s contribution in tackling corruption in South America and Mexico. The report, released on the 20th of this month, reveals that the UNODC wants to fast-track the United Nations Convention against Corruption’s (UNCAC) implementation in the region.

Tackling Mexico’s Monstrous Drug Cartels

In 2013, Mexico was one of the two most corrupt countries in Latin America, according to the Global Corruption Barometer. Last year, Mexico fell down to the 15th out of all eighteen Latin American countries, with 61% of those surveyed saying that the Mexican government is doing well in tackling corruption. But this is not enough.

A significant propellant of corruption and violence in Mexico is its illegal drug trade. In 2017 alone more than 30,000 people were killed in Mexico by drug cartels. The country’s brutal drug war kills tens of thousands of people yearly. Since 2006, murder rates have more than tripled in the country.

Drugs are an important global financial resource, along with oil and weapons. Our globalized financial system would not survive without the profit from the drugs trade. In 2017, Global Financial Integrity reported that the global market in drug trafficking had an annual estimate of between $426 billion and $652 billion. Although it is impossible to accurately calculate due to its illegality, the global illicit drug trade surpasses the GDP of many countries. It is the second most lucrative illicit market in the world, after counterfeit and pirated goods.

Mexico’s Troubled History of Drug Trafficking

In Mexico, the illicit drug market has a history steeped in neocolonialism. During the 1980s, under President Miguel de la Madrid, drug trafficking rates increased significantly. The creation of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) in 1991 accelerated these rates at incredible speed.

Executive Intelligence Review reports that free trade under the FTAA created “overnight, multi-million dollar fortunes”. Under this new drug boom, criminal activity grew, including among high-level and low-level officials. Presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio and other members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party would be politically assassinated, as huge profits spread corruption among Mexico’s leaders.

In November last year, US President Donald Trump, vowed to “wage war on on the [Mexican] drug cartels”, designating them terrorist groups, under the same classification as Al Qaeda in the Middle East. Under this new classification, Mexican drug cartels would be considered “foreign terrorist organizations”, leaving Mexico open to a US-led counterterrorism military operations in Mexico and other Latin American states.

The United States’ hard stance on Mexico’s drug trafficking is, however, a different development to the country’s stance prior to — and during — the creation of the FTAA, an extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Indigenous revolutionaries protesting against this imperialist trade agreement were crushed and murdered under the authority of Mexican officials. The FTAA deal brought in mass privatization of Mexican resources, sold to the highest US bidders. It proved to be highly successful, leaving the country’s citizens poor and susceptible to the financial profits offered for joining drug cartels.

‘US Agencies Allowed Him Access to His Money’

In 2017, Juan Pablo Escobar Henao, son of the infamous Medellin cartel drug kingpin Pablo Escobar revealed in an interview that his father “did not make his money alone, but with US agencies that allowed him access to this money.”

In his second book, Pablo Escobar in Fraganti, Escobar, writing under the pseudonym Juan Sebastian Marroquin, explained that Mexico’s drug cartels are only a part of “international ties of corruption in which [his] father had an active participation”.

The financial, globalized and governmental operations of the global drug trade is an intricate and interconnected – albeit illegal — market. From the powerful, hidden figures who control the drug trade under the protection of official titles, to those who buy the drugs globally, the question of who runs the Mexican cartels is a complicated one. Juan Escobar observes that the illegalization of drugs is a tactic for pro-drug propaganda: its illegal status gives it more appeal among users. (The illegality of products and services has always served to make its market more profitable.)

Those who profit financially from Mexico’s drug cartels manipulated the law to prohibit drugs, then manipulated trade agreements to benefit from this prohibition. It is safe to say that those who run Mexican drug cartels are those who propagate, and benefit from, our present capitalist-imperialist system.