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.