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Quest for Integrity: The Mexican-U.S. Drug Issue in the 1980s

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The continuing flow of drugs from Mexico to the United States has been a major source of tension between the two countries over the past two decades. At present, Mexico accounts for a large share -- perhaps more than half -- of U.S. imports of marijuana and heroin it also serves as a transshipment point for a large and apparently increasing proportion of cocaine imports. This study assesses the effectiveness and political aspects of Mexican drug control efforts in the 1970s and 1980s. Using official U.S. government production and price figures, the authors estimate that export earnings from heroin and marijuana in 1988 were between 2.2 billion and 6.8 billion they believe that the lower figure is more likely. These revenues appear to have increased rapidly in recent years. Drug revenues currently constitute between 1.25 and 4 percent of Mexicos gross national product GNP they add 5 to 20 percent to recorded export earnings. The authors were unable to estimate cocaine export revenues. The difficulty of uprooting an industry of this size is compounded by the fact that Mexico has long been a platform for many types of smuggling into the United States. Highly organized smuggling operations e.g., of stolen automobiles and migrant workers developed rapidly in Mexico in the 1970s. Many powerful smugglers have been able, through corruption, to establish protected positions for themselves and their businesses within Mexicos political system. For the past 20 years, Mexico has taken aggressive actions against drug production, with the Office of the Attorney General PGR and the Army having a central role throughout. Mexicos drug control effort is unique among major source countries in three respects Mexico has allowed aerial spraying of herbicides, it has involved the military in a central role perhaps a quarter of the Armys resources go to drug control, and Mexico seems to have no significant problems related to domestic consumption of the drugs it exports.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Pharmacology

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