What ISIS and Mexican Cartel’s Have in Common.

Currently the world has it eyes on the Middle East, where the growing threat of the Islamic State has gotten many countries on edge. With the lack of near constant media coverage that the Middle East has usually received, some may have forgotten of our neighbors down south, where the Mexican government has been engaged in a bloody war with the Mexican Cartels for several years. Now both conflicts in the Middle East and Latin America have vastly different traits and purposes. One stems from religious radical groups, and other illegal drug organizations. However both types of organizations have vastly similar origins as well. Both consist of relatively small splinter organizations engaged in illegal or hostile actions. Also they have found many ways to successfully fund themselves, in part leading to their efficiency and threat as non-state actors.

The history of Mexican Drug Cartels is a long and complex history. Rising to prominence in the 1980s, the war with the gangs has reached new highs when former President Felipe Calderon started a War on Drugs in Mexico. Since then the combination of constant power struggles within the gangs and intense corruption within the police department has escalated the Mexican Drug War into one of the deadliest in the world. Yet has the war against drugs had have any effects on the cartels? Reports indicate that the cartels have caused Mexico to be the largest producer of Heroin, as well a major foreign distributor of Marijuana and Methamphetamine (cfr.org). What’s more the US suffers directly of these consequences, as the US is the largest consumer of illicit drugs. Conversely extremist groups have risen to fame and influence in a markedly similar way to the cartels. Beginning in the 1960’s as Mujahedin fighting the soviets, organizations such as Al Qaeda and ISIS have risen and fallen in the last several years. Despite widespread opposition from foreign state such as the US, Islamic groups have spread throughout much of the world and have seen some success in their actions. Some organizations continued to be funded by illegal means, whether it is from foreign contributors or from illicit sale of drugs and other contraband (nbcnews.com).

There are connections between Cartels and terrorist groups as to how they are able to support themselves and continue to carry out illegal actions. One of the more interesting things that they both share is the common ally of large governments, primarily western organizations. Both Al Qaeda and cartels such as the Knights Templar have been in constant contact with the larger more powerful countries. In fact the rapid escalation of violence in Mexico started around the same time the War on Drugs started. It is also not hard to find evidence of revenge killings and attacks carried out by extremist against US military. Now the point isn’t to argue that western governments are to blame for the violence from non-state actors. But it may be safer to assume that the direct confrontations against such violent groups, as opposed to the “soft power” negotiations, have inadvertently help aggravate the problem.

Lee, Brianna. “Mexico’s Drug War.” Jan 2013. Council on Foreign Relations. Oct 2014.



5 thoughts on “What ISIS and Mexican Cartel’s Have in Common.

  1. I’ve thought about the similarities between the Drug Cartels and ISIS as well. Both are incredibly powerful, filled with military personnel, and have such control over parts of territory that they are almost like the rulers of their own states. It is very interesting to observe, and a huge problem for those that oppose them or get in their way.


  2. An odd but obvious pairing. Quite scary too, as Mexico is along our border and the Middle East affects nearly everything the US comes in contact with overseas, as well as individual cells popping up domestically (http://wivb.com/2014/09/17/man-allegedly-traveled-to-buffalo-to-recruit-fighters-for-isis/). Since Mexico is one of our largest trade partners, I wonder if there is any effect that trade would have on the drug use within Mexico/US relations. Transporting it would become significantly more difficult, possibly easier to catch too, but it may disrupt our economy more than relieve the affects of drug use within the countries.


  3. This is a very accurate comparison in terms of structure and actions but the two fundamentally differ in motivation and ideology. While DTO’s like the Knights Templar are quasi religious and islamic extremists use drug money as funding, at the end of the day the DTO’s are motivated by profit while islamic extremists are motivated by religion and ideology


  4. I like how you compare ISIS and Mexican Cartels and point out the similarities in how they support themselves as groups. It is very accurate and its something I haven´t though of before. The cartels really is something that kills many peole every year. I just read an article about how mass graves are found in different areas around Mexico as a consequence of the drug cartels´ violence. They have such a great power over areas just like ISIS have in areas in the Middle East.


  5. Though I do appreciate the very clear similarities between ISIS and other extremist militant/terrorist organizations and Drug trafficking organizations such as the Mexican Cartels, I think there is one very distinct difference worth mentioning in the way ISIS/IL specifically and Mexican Cartels are motivated to organize and gain power. Whereas drug cartels are unconcerned about the law and the corruption necessary to pursue their goals, they are not trying to explicitly become or replace the Mexican government in the same way that ISIL is trying to establish a caliphate throughout the Middle East starting with Iraq and Syria and potentially moving onward. Thus dismantling governments and replacing them with their vicious regime is a major aspect of their goals in a way that is not desirable for Mexican Cartels. I think this is why there has been such controversy over the name ISIS as opposed to ISIL which implies much broader territorial expansion goals and power, not to mention all of the military infrastructure and capabilities ISIS has the capacity to gain control over if they are not stopped in their tracks. Though they do function in many similar ways and learning to defeat one may help with controlling or defeating the other I think that this motivating factor explains the much greater urgency in the global community behind forming coalitions against ISIS/IL.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s