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Narcomundo: How Narcotraficantes Gained Control of Northern Mexico and Beyond, 1945-1985

  • Author(s): Hernandez, Carlos Armando
  • Advisor(s): Wilkie, James W
  • Gomez-Quinones, Juan
  • et al.

Mexico’s official history does not properly address the Drug Wars and its effect on the nation as well as the U.S. – Mexico border region, including criminal spillover between the two countries especially since 1911. Drawing from evidence gathered at Mexico’s National Archives – specifically declassified documents from Mexico’s secret police files – contemporary news accounts from Tijuana, Mexico City, and California, as well as court cases and long ignored political biographies, I trace the historical origins of the Drug Wars in Northern Mexico extending into Mexico City; a history of drugs, dissidence, and violence.

In my view, the problem of drugs in Mexico must be examined in Three Phases, two of which – Phase One and Two – I take up in the volume. The First Phase is from 1911-1945. The Second Phase is from 1945-1985. The Third Phase, since 1985, covers the rise of what I refer to as turf wars between competing drug trafficking organizations for the control of specific corridors vital for the production and distribution of drugs into the United States.

The First Phase goes back to the year 1911 when General and later Governor Esteban Cantú arrived to defend the Northern Territory of Baja California against incursions from Southern California by the Flores Magón brothers during the start of the Mexican Revolution. This was also a period where the role of vice tourism in Tijuana and Mexicali profited from the Prohibition Era in the United States (1920-1933) set the foundations for a drug trafficking model– developed for Baja Norte by Governor Cantú. This cross-border smuggling model was later refined in Baja under General and then Governor Abelardo L. Rodríguez (1921-1930), who then took the model to Mexico when he joined President Ortiz as a Secretary of Defense (1932) and Economy (1932) before he became Interim President of Mexico (1932-1934). The model has held to this day.

The Second Phase encompasses Mexico’s official start on the War on Drugs from 1945 to 1985 and coincides not surprisingly with the start of the Cold War in the late 1940s. In this Second Phase I analyze the consolidation and metamorphoses of Drug Trafficking Organizations in Mexico’s War on Drugs up to 1960. Thus, I explore the connection between East-Coast based Mafia and its incursion and eventual control of the drug trade and organized crime in the West Coast as well as eventually the transborder region. I also analyze the early eradication campaigns carried out by Mexican authorities first on their Baja regional level and subsequently at the national level. I also examine links between “Bugsy” Siegel and his alleged control of the drug trade in Southern California, which stretched easily to Tijuana.

This volume also investigates the War on Drugs and a “hidden dirty-war” against dissidence and peasants in rural Mexico, a span that ranged from 1965 to 1985. Under the pretext of eradicating drug production by narcocultivadores or narcogrowers, Mexican authorities also launched an offensive against dissident groups interested in readdressing the land issue in rural Mexico, effectively eradicating dissidence, but not drugs.

The search for the source of drugs soon involved the CIA-Contra-Drug Trafficking connection from the Mexican perspective. By the early 1980s, The Mexican journalist Manuel Buendía had begun to explore the link between the CIA-Contra-Drug Trafficking Conenction from the Mexican perspective, and he hypothesized that it needed the complicity of corrupt Mexican and law enforcement officials. In addition to his, Buendía also uncovered the participation of other state actors, such as the Mexico Secret Police (DFS) and the CIA. Buendía was murdered in 1984.

The drug issues came together in the 1985 abduction in Guadalajara and torture-murder of DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. To unwind this complicated issue, I analyze the official and unofficial versions about this major transnational crisis. The Third Phase in my analysis begins, then, with the grisly murder of “Kiki” by Drug Warriors, which threw down the gauntlet to the United States. The Mexican Government came under great pressure to take drastic action to help U.S. agents that had flocked to Mexico to find the killers.

In this volume I only offer a brief sketch of issues that need full research of this Third Phase since 1985. My on-going investigations call for a follow-up volume to cover the complex rise of full-scale “turf wars" between drug lords, and between the drug lords and the military/police. This research will lead us into President Calderón’s so-called “War on Drug Lords,” which in reality had already gotten underway.

In the Epilogue of this volume, I articulate questions that address both the recent and drug history of the region. The analysis I raise presents a deep historical analysis of Mexico up to 1985. It also provides a starting point for future scholarship to be placed in its proper historical context, thus utilizing my historical scholarship as developed in this work as a launching point in order to place Mexico’s long-standing major problem: Public Order and Safety, the disorder of which threatens the very being of what is called the “Mexican Nation System of Government.”

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