BY THE NUMBERS: Why The Mexican Drug War Should Keep You Awake At Night

drug moneyThe largest cash seizure in history

Photo: Justice Department

Felipe Calderon sent 50,000 soldiers after the drug cartels when he became president of Mexico in 2006.So far the offensive to root out top drug traffickers, combined with conflicts between cartels over territory, has claimed more than 55,000 lives.

Here are some more numbers — drawn from reports including in-depth pieces by Reuters and the New York Times — that show just how scary the conflict is:

• 3,000 police officers and soldiers have died since 2006, which is equal to the number of coalition soldiers who have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

• An additional 5,000 people have disappeared since 2006.

• The Zeta cartel, which now controls more territory than any other cartel in Mexico, commands 10,000 gunman stretching from the Texas border to Central America.

• 49 corpses were decapitated, dismembered and dumped on a highway in northern Mexico last month. One of the worst atrocities of the drug war, it was allegedly done by Daniel Elizondo, alias “The Madman,” who is a leader of the Zetas drug cartel.

• The United Nations estimates that the U.S. narcotics market is worth about $60 billion annually.

• The Justice Department estimates that Colombian and Mexican cartels take in $18 billion to $39 billion from drug sales in the United States each year.

• In 2007 Mexican authorities made the largest cash seizure in history when they discovered $205 million in the home of a suspected cartel supplier of meth-precursor chemicals. The money weighed more than 4,500 pounds.

• Last December officials seized 252 tons of precursor chemicals for manufacturing meth at one of the Pacific ports used by cartels to supply their superlabs (which make industrial volumes of meth).


Photo: DEA

• In 2008 Mexico’s former top anti-drug official, Noe Ramirez, was charged with receiving $450,000 per month for providing information about investigations to drug cartels.

• The Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence centre estimates that cartels operated in 1,286 U.S. cities in 2009 and 2010, which is more than five times the number reported in 2008.

 • A surge of Mexican black tar heroin into Ohio lowered the price per kilogram from $50,000 in 2008 to $33,000 in 2009.

• In 2009 U.S. authorities found 2,400 marijuana plants belonging to La Familia Michoacana cartel in rural North Carolina.

• 8,500 trucks from Zetas’ stronghold in northeastern Mexico cross into Texas on a daily basis.

• In a 2010 speech, Mexico’s secretary of public security said that the cartels combined spend more than $1 billion each year just to bribe the municipal police.

• In 1993 the boss of the Sinaloa cartel, Joaquín Guzmán (i.e. El Chapo), paid $3 million to escape from maximum security prison in Puente Grande.

• At any given moment, El Chapo may have 150,000 people working for him, according to the author of a recent book about Chapo.

 2,143 Mexican women have been arrested in the U.S. over the past decade for involvement in drug trafficking — and 46 female cartel leaders have been arrested by Mexican authorities as of last October — as cartels have been increasingly placing women in key management roles.

• Hundreds of replica Mexican military uniforms were found last month in a workshop in the border town of Piedras Negras (across from Eagle Pass, Texas).

guns cartel

Photo: AP

One American agent has been murdered on duty in Mexico since 1985. That agent, Jaime Zapata of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was reportedly killed while investigating ‘Fast and Furious’ weapons that were being walked across the border by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents from 2006 to 2011.

The sting operation led to the sale of over 2,500 firearms, of which fewer than 700 were recovered as of October 20, 2011, and has not led to the arrest of any high-level cartel figures targeted in the operation.

No wonder why some of America’s closest South American allies have called for the end of the war on drugs and former top cops are coming out in favour of legalization.

SEE ALSO: 16 Maps Of Drug Flow Into The United States >

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