International Drug Related Violence; Who Is Responsible, the Buyer or the Seller?

The latest episode of escalating violence at the U.S.-Mexican border was the September 30th fatal shooting of David Hartley, an American tourist who was jet-skiing on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake with his wife.  Two weeks later, the severed head of the lead Mexican investigator was delivered to police in a suitcase.

In response to the incident, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, echoed Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s sentiments that the impetus of the violence stems from the high demand of drugs in the United States and therefore the U.S. shares the responsibility in controlling the violence.

Contrary to this view, a recent Department of Justice report indicates that Mexican methamphetamine labs have saturated the market thus driving down prices and increasing availability of the drug.  With prices at a six year low and purity levels reaching new highs, methamphetamine use in the past year has increased, reversing a three year trend in declined usage.  The report indicates that the increase in production is due to the Mexican drug trafficking organization’s ability to circumvent the Mexican Government’s restrictions on acquiring the chemicals used in methamphetamine production.

Does the United States bear responsibility for the increase in drug related violence occurring in Mexico and if so, should money like the $1.3 billion that the U.S. government has given to the Mexican military and police, be used instead for anti-drug and rehabilitation programs in the United States?

See Nat’l Drug Intelligence Center, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Product No. 2010-Q0317-004, National Methamphetamine Threat Assessment (2010).

See Mexican Drug Trafficking, The New York Times, (Sep. 22, 2010),


  1. It is hard to believe that the U.S. has no responsibility in the increasing drug-related violence in Mexico. The demand for drugs in the U.S. remains high and Mexican drug cartels will continue to use this to their advantage. Furthermore drugs and weapons are easily being crossed over the border. There are still debates as to whether the implementation of NAFTA is contributing to an increase in drug trafficking.
    I don’t think that handing over $1.3 billion to the Mexican government has proven to be an effective solution. The money should be aimed at rehaibilation programs and cross-border investigations.

  2. The United States’ high demand for drugs combined with lax gun laws seem to create an ideal environment for Mexican drug cartels.

    So why isn’t the United States acting more aggressively in its efforts to disrupt the drug cartels?

    Stricter gun laws, particularly along the U.S. Mexico border might help prevent deaths such as Mr. Hartley’s.

    The New York Times noted that selling assault rifles along the U.S. Mexico border has become a niche industry which is characterized by little regulation. (

    The article, which was written before the enactment of the new Arizona immigration laws, notes that Arizona’s guns laws are some of the country’s least restrictive.

    When Governor Brewer signed the legislation, she noted that the immigration laws were instituted, in part, to combat the effects of the Mexican drug wars. Would a change to Arizona’s gun laws have been a more appropriate response?

  3. An interesting debate of this topic was held last year as part of the Intelligence Squared Debates on NYU’s campus. This debate brought together a former Mexican presidential candidate and foreign minister, Fareed Zakaria, an NRA executive, a congressman, and two intellectuals to debate the issue. After the results of the debate and the poll, 72% of the audience was convinced that USA was responsible for Mexico’s drug war.


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