A little-known drug trafficking group in Mexico called “Las Moicas” has not only successfully defended its foothold in the U.S. heroin market for years against Mexico’s most powerful cartels, but recent reports suggest that it might be expanding.
In an interview with BBC Mundo published on March 15, a spokesperson for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said that the Moicas had been expanding their territory in Mexico and that the little-known group had come into conflict with some of Mexico’s biggest criminal organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco Cartel-New Generation, or CJNG.
The staggering death toll in Mexico’s drug war has outpaced the number of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
A new documentary by Spanish journalist David Beriain discloses what and who is behind the brutality that has turned Mexico into one of the most violent places in the world.
Beriain spent several weeks in northwest Mexico filming the inner workings of the Sinaloa Cartel, whose leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s arrest and recent extradition to the United States has thrown the group—and Mexico—into an even more chaotic spiral of violence.
As Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman awaitsextradition to the United States, he leaves behind what appears to be a new landscape for Mexico’s drug cartels.
Last week, his son, Jesus Alfredo Guzman, was kidnapped by men authorities believe were members of a rival cartel. Sources tell CNN he was released Saturday, but his abduction signals that the game of thrones for Mexico’s next top drug cartel has already begun.
MEXICO CITY – The growing legalization of cannabis in the United States is forcing Mexico’s drug cartels to rethink their illicit business model, turning to opium poppy plantations and domestic pot consumption, experts say.
Americans have been legally allowed to light up joints in the U.S. capital since late last month, joining Washington state and Alaska, while Oregon will follow suit in July.
A total of 23 U.S. states have legalized the drug for medical use, and opinion polls show that a slim majority of Americans favor legalization.
The changes in the world’s biggest drug market appear to have prompted the criminal organizations producing narcotics in Mexico to switch strategies.
“As (U.S.) domestic production increases, this will affect production in Mexico,” Javier Oliva, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said.
Drug cartels “will seek to increase their exports to Europe and the opportunities for consumption within the country,” Oliva said this week at a presentation of a report by the International Narcotics Control Board, a United Nations agency.
With Americans now able to grow their own cannabis in many places, one market the cartels appear to be tapping is the growing consumption of heroin in the United States.
Oliva said the number of opium poppy fields has surged by 300 percent in the last five years in Mexico’s southwestern state of Guerrero, one of the country’s most violent regions, where 43 students were allegedly slaughtered by a police-backed gang in September.
The scarlet blossoms are also popping up in the north, including in the state of Durango, which forms a “Golden Triangle” of drug plantations with the neighboring regions of Chihuahua and Sinaloa.
Poppy fields outnumber marijuana plantations by three to one, said Adolfo Dominguez, a military commander in Durango.
“The criminals have obviously seen an improvement in this type of cultivation and they also pay attention to the demand factor,” Dominguez said.
Heroin consumption in the United States has surged due to tighter controls of prescription opioid drugs, said Alejandro Mohar, a member of the International Narcotics Control Board.
“Opiate-dependent drug users are increasingly turning to heroin, which is typically easier to source and cheaper than prescription opioids,” the board’s report says.
“Law enforcement authorities in the region have also identified significant increases in heroin purity,” it says.
The U.S. heroin market was worth an estimated $27 billion in 2010. But marijuana is a more lucrative business, worth $41 billion that same year, according to U.S. government figures.
America has a huge appetite for marijuana.
More than 1,000 tons of marijuana are seized along the U.S.-Mexico border every year, the report says, citing U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration figures.
And the cannabis confiscated by U.S. Customs authorities represented 94 percent of worldwide seizures in 2013.
With Americans now able to grow their own, higher-quality marijuana in some places, Mexican drug cartels will look to sell their weed to local consumers, experts say.
Cannabis now ranks third after alcohol and tobacco in a government ranking of “drugs of impact” that require some kind of medical treatment, said Raul Martin del Campo, representative of the National Commission Against Addictions.
Movements to legalize marijuana have also emerged in Mexico, including in the capital, with the backing of former President Vicente Fox.