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Drug trafficking is $10 bn business in Mexico

The increasingly violent illicit drug trafficking in Mexico is now worth more than $10 billion a year and is growing. It has left some 3,000 people dead during the first six months of 2008 which is 300 more than all of 2007.

business Updated: Sep 06, 2008 12:08 IST

The increasingly violent illicit drug trafficking in Mexico is now worth more than $10 billion a year and is growing.

Drug-related violence in Mexico has left some 3,000 people dead during the first six months of the current year. The number is 300 higher than in all of 2007, according to unofficial figures quoted by the Spanish news agency EFE.

Mexico's Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna, who appeared before the security committee of the lower house of parliament last week, said that the size of the illicit drug trade was revealed in a recently published study.

Luna also warned that drug trafficking would continue and grow unless a comprehensive strategy was developed to fight it.

He said criminals used cell phones to carry out 98 per cent of kidnappings and also use the devices to demand ransom.

Mexico does not have a cell phone registry and officials have vowed to create a database to allow police to track down criminals who use mobile phones to commit crimes.

The government is restructuring the country's deeply corrupt police department after the model in Spain where law enforcement agents have a high level of "public approval".

The public safety secretary acknowledged that Mexican police departments were several decades behind in terms of organizational development, adding that 44,000 officers had been vetted in 2008.

Luna admitted to lawmakers that there were cases of officers owning yachts, vehicles and houses that were beyond what they could afford by their salaries, but he did not provide further details.

Out of Mexico's more than 370,000 police officers, some 40.5 per cent are employed by municipal departments, 54.1 per cent work for state forces and only 5.4 per cent work for federal agencies.

Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces, as rival gangs vie for control of lucrative smuggling and distribution routes.

Tackling the problem of drug-related violence, according to experts, is a major challenge both because of Mexico's notoriously corrupt security forces and because honest police officers are fearful of taking on the heavily armed drug mobs.

Some 40 army and navy personnel, 30 federal police officers and about 200 state law-enforcement agents were killed last year, with most of the killings occurring in northern and southern parts of the country, according to official figures.

Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 30,000 soldiers and federal police in nearly a dozen of Mexico's 31 states in a bid to stem the wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers.

The goal of the operation was to regain control of territory controlled by Mexico's drug cartels.