The Mexican Narco-Insurgency

Benefiting from the artificially inflated margins of the illegal drug trade, Mexican cartels move billions of dollars worth of cocaine, methamphetamine, & marijuana to the high-demand markets of the United States, using sophisticated weaponry and horrific violence to defend their markets against competitors and directly challenge attempts by state militia to control their activities. In return, they purchase guns from border states like Texas, Arizona, and California to arm their narco-insurgency. The Mexican state apparatus has become a hollow shell, heavily militarized but incapable of managing it’s territories.

PEMEX, the major oil developer along the Mexican Gulf, has reported that cartels siphon about $1B in oil annually, reselling it on the open market to fund their insurgency. This tactic has escalated to include the kidnapping of PEMEX workers, possibly to further infiltrate the company. It was recently reported that cartels may be using IED’s to attack the Mexican military, suggesting that the techniques of full-scale insurgency developed in Iraq are now finding their way to Mexico.

Of particular interest are cartel incursions into the United States. The DEA is tracking cartel networks across the major cities of the southern United States. Americans have been indicted smuggling weapons south across the border. Arrests of compromised Customs and Border agents has increased 40% in the past year. Agents say that substantial cartel violence in the US is only a matter of time. The US DHS has submitted plans to deal with cartel incursions into the United States.

Recently, Pinal county sheriff, Paul Babeu, states that Mexican drug cartels control parts of Arizona. ‘We are outgunned, we are out manned and we don’t have the resources here locally to fight this,’ said Babeu, referring to heavily-armed cartel movements three counties deep in Arizona. Even Phoenix has seen ongoing cartel violence.

It’s important to understand that the Mexican narco-insurgency is possibly the most direct threat to the stability of American communities, far more so than any of our foreign wars. Immigration laws will not work, just as drug laws have failed to stem the flow of drugs across US borders. Legalization of drugs is perhaps the most obvious solution, though it’s not without it’s own costs. In all likelihood, near-term management will take the form of increased troop deployment to southern states, coupled to advanced enforcement technologies. For example, Wired recently reported that the FAA is considering how to integrate drones into US airspace. Certainly the landscape of the America’s southern states is shifting to include a more violent and militarized gang presence.


  1. Eric Garland

    Unmanned drones were a regular overhead presence in Washington DC, so that news doesn’t shock me. But cartels stealing $1 billion in oil? I’ve been led to believe that that’s quite a bit of oil!

    Now, when will you be uncovering the threat posed by rogue maple syrup-trafficking Québécois? This is ready to be blown wide open as a story.

  2. DonbenitoJuarez

    much of this is regurgitated news, but i would not call the mexican state hollow or defunct. They are still waging war in nearly every state. Military checkpoints (i have been stopped by these more times than i have toes and fingers) are everywhere. Again, the main points are cartel excursions into US, that is, mexican military already infiltrated crossing in to usa territory illegally. To me, and this is something I have studied for years having lived in mexico on and off since 2001, the jungles of guatemala and southern mexico are an even greater factor. These areas becoming like Pakistan. Lawless and outside of govt reach. Peten in guatemala was formerly the haven of leftist guerrillas. Most of this are gone now and being replenished with narcos and former civil war vets form Guatemala being recruited into zetas. While the US border may seem like our biggest concern. The power of the cartels is growing further south.(they already have plenty of power into all countries in L.A.) an destabilizing those countries that cannot take the battle to the narcos like the Mexican govt can. Also, there are tons of weapons coming from the Middle east into peru and then to mexico. I had a source on this, but it is in spanish, and I cant find this. While guns are being sold from US infiltrated military members!! YES! amazing number coming from plaaces like YEmen where cost of guns are much cheaper. The colombianization of Mexico is now yielding to the Mexicanization of Peru!

  3. chris arkenberg

    Eric: Ha! We can’t blame the Québécois without acknowledging our own relentless thirst for sweet sweet maple.

    Donbenito: very astute and important observation. I’ve recently been seeing info about the southward trends of violence into Guatemala and further into Central & South America but I was not aware of the African arms trafficking inputs. Fascinating and unfortunate.

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