Making bad economies: The poverty of Mexican drug cartels

By Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero

Some stories say that local economies benefit from cartels in Mexico. But research suggests that the areas most plagued by drug-related violence have seriously suffered economically. 

Mexico is facing one of the most violent episodes in its recent history. The country has had over 200,000 drug-related killings since 2006. Last year alone, 29,168 homicides were recorded, reaching the highest homicide rate over the last 20 years, surpassing the previous historical peak in 2011 when drug cartel violence accounted for nearly half of all national homicides.

Drug cartels have operated in Mexico for well over a century and until not long ago without significant violence occurring. Since 2006, however, when the Mexican government started to actively prosecute cartels with military force, violence has erupted to unseen levels. As the efforts against drug cartels increased, so too did the killings, mostly of drug cartel members, and expansion of cartels into new areas.

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