Results of Mexico’s antinarcotics strategy in 2016 show that seizures of all types of drugs and of weapons reserved for military use are down while homicides and the production of synthetic drugs and heroin have increased dramatically.
That balance showing negative results on virtually all fronts is drawn from statistics reported by the Mexican government, the United Nations, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Mexican Army.
Seizures of methamphetamines have fallen by more than 99 percent, heroin seizures are down by more than 16 percent, and confiscation of other types of drugs are down by 80 percent.
Data from the statistical annex of the Fourth Annual Report of the Government of President Enrique Peña Nieto also indicate a reduction of close to 40 percent in weapons seized from cartels, as well as decrease in the number of arrests and vehicle seizures connected to organized crime.
These drops in law enforcement results were accompanied, as indicated by the report, by an increase in homicides, an increase in crimes like assaults on cargo transport and a reduction in the eradication of marijuana and poppy crops.
More Production and Fewer Seizures
The Report of the UN International Narcotics Control Board published in March 2016 said that methamphetamine production in Mexico has grown at a rate of more than 200 percent a year since 2009.
Data from the Ministry of Defense corroborates the increase, noting that discoveries of clandestine labs for the manufacture of synthetic drugs went up by almost 65 percent between 2014 and 2015.
The president’s recently released fourth year report indicates that seizures of methamphetamine fell 99 percent over the previous year. The 25,950 methamphetamine tablets seized between January and July of 2016 is just a fraction of the 7 million “speed” pills confiscated in 2015.
The UN report on the growth of methamphetamine production in Mexico indicated that Mexican drug cartels are turning to increasingly sophisticated systems for producing and trafficking in methamphetamines. For example, they are moving from the solid form of pills or crystals to a liquid form that is more easily hidden among other, legal substances.
Heroin is another drug for which Mexico has seen decreased seizures despite growing production. The president’s report says the authorities have found almost 195 kilograms of the drug, a reduction of more than 16 percent from the previous year’s seizures totaling 233 kilograms.
The DEA reported in 2016 that Mexican cartels have become the main suppliers of heroin to some of the United States’ largest markets.
The US agency warned that organizations like the Sinaloa Cartel have succeeded in mastering techniques for the production of more potent white heroin varieties that have allowed them to increase their share of the growing market in the United States.
Figures from the US Justice Department have raised the alarm about a possible increase of 62 percent in opium poppy cultivation in Mexico’s Golden Triangle region, made up of portions of Chihuahua, Durango and Sinaloa states. That prediction contrasts sharply with figures showing a 7 percent decrease in the discovery of poppy fields.
Fall in Marijuana, Opium and Cocaine Seizures
President Peña Nieto’s fourth state of the union report indicates that 18,026 hectares of drug crops — 2,459 hectares of marijuana and 15,967 hectares of poppy — were eradicated in the first 7 months of 2016. That represents a 7 percent decrease from the same period a year earlier. Marijuana eradication fell by 3 percent.
Marijuana seizures experienced an even bigger decline. In the first seven months of 2016 Mexican officials reported the confiscation of 414 tons of marijuana, or 25 percent less than the 558 tons seized during the same period of 2015.
Opium seizures by federal officials plummeted by more than 80 percent to 86.4 kilograms in 2016 from the 510 kilos confiscated by the end of July 2015. Cocaine seizures in 2016 totaling 4.2 tons represented a decrease of about 14 percent from a year earlier.
Organized Crime Gets Off Easier
The recent presidential report indicates that in 2016 authorities confiscated fewer weapons from organized crime groups and arrested fewer of their members.
Operations targeting drug traffickers from January through July of 2016 reportedly seized 3,477 firearms, or 40 percent fewer guns than confiscated over the same period of 2015. Vehicle seizures from the cartels dropped by 28 percent, to 6,400 in seven months of 2016 from almost 9,000 by August in 2015. The seizure of cartel aircraft and destruction of airstrips experience little change from a year ago, with 11 planes confiscated and 237 clandestine runways discovered in the first seven months of 2016.
With 9,959 people suspected of involvement in organized crime captured by August in 2016, the cartels lost 8 percent less of their human resources than last year. Federal officials say that even though the number of arrests have declined, the blow to organized crime is significant considering that authorities have taken down 102 of the 122 individuals identified as the highest priority targets by the federal government. Those targets include financial operators, area and regional crime bosses and even chiefs of cartels.
A Rise in Crime
Security indicators showed a deterioration in the central Mexico region, made up of Mexico City and the states of México, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala. The region’s federal crime rate — organized crime, kidnapping, weapons violations, etc. — increased from 74 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2014 to 77 at the end of 2015.
Northeast Mexico — where the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa and Chihuahua all have a significant organized crime presence — registered the highest incidence of federal crime even though the rate actually showed improvement. There the rate was 123 federal crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015 compared with 138 per 100,000 in 2014.
The president’s report also confirmed the rate of intentional homicide increasing to 14.1 cases per 100,000 in 2015 from 13.1 in 2014. The trend for this year indicates that 2016 will register a 16 percent increase in homicides, making it unlikely that the government will achieve its 2018 target of a homicide rate below 12.8 per 100,000.