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Violence continues to rage in Mexico more than a decade after former President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown on drug cartels.

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A Mexican Army expert shows crystal meth paste at a laboratory in Tecate, Mexico. Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images
Mexican drug cartels are leading suppliers of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and other illicit narcotics to the United States.The cartels and the drug trade fuel rampant violence in Mexico, contributing to the country’s tens of thousands of homicides every year.Since Mexico launched a war on the cartels in 2006, the United States has provided it with billions of dollars in security and counternarcotics assistance.

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Mexican authorities have been waging a deadly battle against drug cartels for more than a decade, but with limited success. Thousands of Mexicans—including politicians, students, and journalists—die in the conflict every year. The country has seen more than three hundred thousand homicides since 2006, when the government declared war on the cartels. 

The United States has partnered closely with its southern neighbor in this fight, providing Mexico with billions of dollars to modernize its security forces, reform its judicial system, and make other investments. Washington has also sought to stem the flow of illegal drugs into the United States by bolstering security along its border.

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What drugs do the cartels traffic?

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Drug Policy

Border and Port Security

Transnational Crime

Mexican drug trafficking groups—sometimes referred to as transnational criminal organizations—dominate the import and distribution of cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine in the United States. Mexican suppliers are responsible for most heroin and methamphetamine production, while cocaine is largely produced in Colombia and then transported to the United States by Mexican criminal organizations. Mexico, along with China, is also a leading source of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid many times more potent than heroin. The amount of fentanyl seized by Mexican authorities nearly quintupled between 2019 and 2020.

The amount of fentanyl seized by Mexican authorities nearly quintupled between 2019 and 2020.

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