Mexico was a relatively peaceful country before it became a drug-related war zone, where executions, kidnappings, extortions and beheadings became normal in some cities. Although it is true that many drug lords were arrested and many tons of narcotics were seized during the drug war, more than 100,000 Mexicans died during this time, and cartels are actually more powerful than prior to the war.
According to the Mexican magazine, Proceso, before the war in Mexico the country was having the most peaceful moment in its history, with only eight murders per every 100,000 people. This compares to a world mean of 8.5 during 2007. Yet, in the war’s worst period, this rate reached 25 murders per every 100,000 and in cities like Ciudad Juarez, the murder rate reached 200 per 100,000 people. Actually, Ciudad Juarez was declared the most violent city on earth.
Also, before the war, cartels weren´t so much of a problem for Mexicans. In general, they did their business without hurting locals. In reality, drug lords were eager to forge an image of being the people´s benefactors: they built churches, clinics, hospitals, schools and roads. Consequently, drug lords were not necessarily seen as evil by many.
Although cartels were not so problematic for Mexicans, they were for Americans. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Mexico is one of America´s main drug providers. It is the largest supplier of methamphetamine and marijuana, and up to 90 percent of cocaine travels through Mexico. Also, Mexico became more powerful with the demise of Colombian cartels. Once Colombia started to fall, Mexican cartels seized the opportunity to become the new kings.
The war began on December 11, 2006 when President Calderon declared his intention to fight cartels frontally. He started by sending 6000 troopers to the state of Michoacán, a well-known dealer´s nest. Although seizures of drugs by the authorities rose, Juan Carlos Hidalgo, drug analyst from the Cato Institute, points out that a cartel may lose up to 90 percent of their drug merchandise and still make profits. Moreover, soon after the war started in Michoacán, it was evident that fighting in one state was not going to be enough. They would also need to fight in the northern states controlled mainly by the Sinaloa cartel, the Gulf cartel and the Zetas.