WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
HOW DID THINGS GET THIS BAD IN MEXICO?
Smuggling has existed in Mexico ever since there has been a border. 100 years ago it was marijuana and weapons, then alcohol for a short period during Prohibition. As the popularity of heroin, cocaine and prescription drugs increased in the US from the 1950s onwards, the Guadalajara cartel became the de facto power in Mexico. It was a natural partner for Pablo Escobar’s cocaine empire, funnelling tons of white powder more easily through Mexico’s well- worn smuggling routes to the US than the risky Caribbean corridor.
Guadalajara made a fatal mistake in 1985 when it captured, tortured and murdered DEA agent Enrique ‘ Kiki’ Camarena.
This prompted a vigorous DEA crackdown that ultimately split Guadalajara into smaller cartels that have evolved into the factions we see today. In the meantime, the increasing appetite for cocaine has put billions of dollars into the pockets of the Mexican drug lords, giving them access to military- grade hardware, allowing them to hire corrupt soldiers to commit terrible atrocities and bribes to those with military and political power to turn a blind eye.