US-Mexican Border and Drug Problem


The American and Mexican drug trafficking problem is complex and multifaceted. Statistics show that drug cartels in Mexico account for more than 10,000 deaths, annually (Caulkins, 2012). Some of these drug cartels are sophisticated and manage complex trade networks in the US and Mexico.

The complex drug problem has forced the Mexican government to deploy the military to stop drug cartel activities (Weintraub & Wood, 2010). However, most of the measures taken by the Mexican government, to solve the drug problem, have yielded minimal results. Consequently, the Mexican government has sought the help of the US government to eliminate drug cartels and their associated drug menace in the country (Weintraub & Wood, 2010).

This paper evaluates the potential for future cooperation between the American and Mexican governments in combating drug trafficking and eliminating the drug cartels. Details of this paper analyze the views of two articles that explore the use of US military assets to manage drug trafficking and explain America’s disengagement with the Mexican government for its failure to manage the drug problem.

After weighing the findings of these reports, and the broader conceptual understanding of the drug issue between the US and Mexico, this paper supports the use of US military assets to manage drug trafficking between the US and Mexico. However, this paper opposes America’s disengagement with the Mexican government for its institutional failures in managing the drug problem.

The American Connection

Mexican drug-related problems affect America because the US shares a porous border with Mexico (Caulkins, 2012). Partly, the economic differences between Mexico and America explain the nature of the drug problem. For example, Shally-Jensen (2010) says the high demand for illegal substances in the US fuels the Mexican drug trade. Caulkins (2012), a fellow at Carnegie Mellon University, also affirms this fact when he says that the high demand for illegal substances in America is the main driver of corruption and violence in Mexico.

In my earlier report, I stated that erecting a security fence along the US-Mexican border could control the spillover effects of the Mexican drug trade in America. This measure explains the interconnection between the criminal activities of the drug trade and illegal immigration in America because illegal immigrants use existing drug trafficking transport networks to reach America (Dell’Orto & Birchfield, 2013). Therefore, erecting a security fence along the border would (possibly) solve the drug trafficking problem and illegal immigration. However, because the government has not adopted this measure, America faces a wider problem of illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

To What Extent Should America Accept Responsibility?

America should accept responsibility for the Mexican drug problem because it supplies weapons to drug cartels and provides the demand for illegal substances from Mexico. Most of the structural factors that support the drug trade in Mexico come from institutional failures of the Mexican government. For example, corruption, the lack of alternative employment, and ineffective law enforcement are institutional weaknesses of the Mexican government, which support drug cartels and violence (Weintraub & Wood, 2010).

By narrowing down on the corruption issue, Dean, Derouin, & Fogel (2012) say, “Extensive corruption in the Mexican government, judicial system, and law enforcement is a significant obstacle challenging the government’s ability to stop drug trafficking and cartel violence in Mexico” (p. 14). Indeed, through the influence of corruption in Mexico’s judicial and law enforcement systems, the authorities have ignored the activities of drug cartels and their associated businesses. The drug problem also thrives on the high unemployment rate in Mexico, which forces many young people to engage in criminal activities (drug trade) as an alternative source of living.

The lack of a community-supported initiative to support law enforcement measures in Mexico also contributes to the poor responses by law enforcement officials to criminal activities (Dean et al., 2012). America should not take responsibility for any of these internal failures of the Mexican government. In fact, as shown in my earlier report, America has enough problems of its own and it cannot take responsibility for most of Mexico’s institutional failures.

To What Extent Should America be involved?

America should not infringe on Mexican sovereignty to manage the Mexican drug problem. It only needs to support Mexico from a legislative and policy perspective. For example, my partner’s report shows that drug cartels have thrived on the poor enforcement of anti-money laundering laws in Mexico and America. The US needs to intervene by reinforcing counter-financing of narcotics efforts to starve these drug cartels.

Indeed, as portrayed in my partner’s three-step process of eliminating drug cartels (starvation, negotiations, and systematic eradication), starving the cartels of their money flow is an effective step in stopping the activities of Mexican drug cartels. If America reinforces its narcotic counter financing efforts, by strengthening its intelligence structures, it would support this initiative and curtail the activities of the drug cartels. Dean et al. (2012) support my partner’s proposal to introduce personal accountability in preventing money-laundering activities by saying that drafting new legislation to compel the authorities to freeze the assets of the drug cartels is an effective way of eliminating drug cartels.

Adopting new measures of preventing Mexican drug cartels from obtaining American arms should also outline America’s initiative in preventing drug trafficking. Based on this suggestion, America should take responsibility for supplying most of the weapons used in the drug-related violence in Mexico.

Adopting stringent measures for firearms and ammunition identification is an effective way of attaining this goal (Carter, 2002). Dean et al. (2012) propose that the creation of a task force to help in locating, documenting, and securing old stockpiles of abandoned weapons should decrease weapons and ammunition supplies to Mexican drug cartels.

The American government needs to respect the sovereignty of the Mexican government when adopting the above interventions. Particularly, the US should use the Merida framework to guide future engagements with Mexico (the Merida initiative was a security agreement between the American and the Mexican governments to stop drug trafficking). America should increase the size and scope of this security arrangement to create a stronger impetus for both governments to tackle the drug problem. One way of doing so is labeling the drug cartels as terrorist organizations and treating them as such (Dean et al., 2012).

This recommendation aligns with my partner’s observation, which warns that the Mexican drug cartels are not harmless organizations, but terrorist organizations. In line with the goal of expanding the scope of the Merida initiative, the US government should also invest more resources in training and equipping the Mexican military to better combat drug cartels. For example, creating specialized units to manage specific facets of the drug war could be an effective strategy of improving the effectiveness of the Mexican military in combating the drug cartels (Dean et al., 2012).

Similarly, the Mexican military and law enforcement agencies could better use public relations skills to target top cartel leaders and eliminate the hopelessness and fear associated with their activities. Lastly, the US government could help to improve the effectiveness of its joint security operations (with the Mexican government) by tying Merida funds to local initiatives in Mexico (by the government or local leaders).

This measure would ensure resource allocation supports community initiatives. Comprehensively, these initiatives outline “politically correct” strategies that the American government could pursue to help the Mexican government better manage the drug problem. These proposals do not infringe on the sovereignty of the Mexican government or substitute the role of the Mexican government in managing the drug problem.


This paper supports the potential use of US military assets and joint security arrangements to manage drug trafficking between the US and Mexico. Mainly, this paper proposes the use of these assets, within the existing Mérida framework. Expanding its scope and size would increase more cooperation between the US and Mexican governments, further improving the effective deployment of military assets. Therefore, since the US contributes to the drug problem, it needs to strengthen existing laws and enforcement strategies for the identification of firearms (to limit the flow of illegal weapons to Mexican drug cartels).

Furthermore, America needs to strengthen existing laws concerning the counter-financing of narcotics. Nonetheless, America should protect the sovereignty of Mexico when adopting the above strategies because infringing on Mexico’s sovereignty (using force) would create political problems concerning the future association of Mexico and the US. Thus, this paper supports a diplomatic approach of managing the drug problem.


Carter, G. (2002). Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law, Volume 1. New York, NY: ABC-CLIO.

Caulkins, J. (2012). Legalizing Drugs in the US: A Solution to Mexico’s Problems for Which Mexico Should Not Wait. Web.

Dean, W., Derouin, L., & Fogel, M. (2012). The War On Mexican Cartels Options For U.S. And Mexican Policy-Makers. Web.

Dell’Orto, G., & Birchfield, V. (2013). Reporting at the Southern Borders: Journalism and Public Debates on Immigration in the U.S. and the E.U. London, UK: Routledge.

Shally-Jensen, M. (2010). Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues. New York, NY: ABC-CLIO.

Weintraub, S., & Wood, D. (2010). Cooperative Mexican-U.S. Antinarcotics Efforts. New York, NY: CSIS.