The U.S. allows drug cartels to destabilize nations

The relationship of drug cartels with law enforcement and locals, as well as America’s economic support of cartels, allows them to maintain power.

Marc Dejager, Staff Writer

There are nearly 100,000 asylum seekers who cross the Southern border of the U.S. every year. While Mexico has experienced recent difficulty in maintaining peace due to violence caused by drug cartels, they are not the only country facing the impacts of drug-related violence.The vast majority of people at the Southern border of the U.S. who seek political asylum are mostly from three countries in Central America that have become known as the violent triangle: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras

These three countries have among the highest rates of violent crime of any country in the Western hemisphere, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The violence and instability created by drug cartels and gangs in the violent triangle is the most important factor in driving refugees to America. 

Additionally, three women and six children from a Mormon community were recently murdered on a mountain road in the Mexican state of Sonora, as they were caught in an ambush by opposing drug cartels, according to NPR.

These countries are crippled by corrupt law enforcement and pressure for locals to succumb to the demands of drug cartels. These factors combine to create massive incentives for migration and asylum seeking, away from the threat of violence of these cartels. However, the demand for drugs in the U.S. and their supply of weapons to cartels in Central and South America has greatly contributed to the power that drug cartels have in these regions.  


In order for a drug cartel to function it must have near total control over the local police. According to the Guardian, the Mexican government recently released 27 drug suspects of 31 suspected drug cartel members. This happened one week after El Chapo’s son was released from prison, revealing the inability of the Mexican government, as well as their law enforcement and criminal justice system, to control drug cartels and maintain justice. 

A drug cartel, especially a moderately sized to large one, is nearly impossible to conceal. The manufacturing of opioids is a busy, messy and exhaustive process. It is extremely difficult to manage without arousing any attention from local law enforcement. Organized crime always carries along with it an expectation of a contractual relationship with the police. Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and even Mexico, are all plagued with corruption at all levels, and this makes any top-down change near impossible. 


Locals who are simply trying to live their lives find themselves forced to either engage with the organized crime for protection, or risk violent harm to themselves or their families. The only alternative is often to leave, which many families choose to do. The problem with that is the more people choose to abandon their country, the harder it becomes to build meaningful and powerful institutions among the people who remain. 

The cycle continues as the violence worsens, and any aid money fails to make positive change because there are fewer locals, leading to limited institutional structures to direct the money to where it is most needed. The presence of drug cartels in Central America makes it near impossible for the region’s socio-economic condition to improve.


But are these countries so plagued by violence and corruption?

One of the basic laws of economics states that supply will always rise to meet demand. The U.S. has a massive demand for drugs. In 2018, more Americans died from drug overdoses than from car accidents. America is ravenously addicted to drugs, and the markets in Central America have risen to the occasion. 

Additionally, over half of all guns used by cartels in Central America are purchased from the U.S. This supply of weaponry shows that America is funding and enabling the very same violent crime that pushes refugees en masse to our Southern border, then complains that needs of these immigrants cannot be met and drug cartels must be stopped. This is highly ironic because the problems that America faces due to massive overflow across the Southern border is tied directly to our own crippling drug addiction.            

If the U.S. wants to stem the flow of asylum seekers across the Southern border, we must do everything we can to stabilize the regions of origin. This will look like careful economic aid, deliberate building of beneficial institutions, and above all, a stemming of the uncontrolled hunger for drugs that possesses the American people.

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