Across the Arizona border

Arizona’s merchandise exports to Mexico totaled $1.87 billion for the first quarter of 2017, a decline from the $2.04 billion reported for first quarter 2016. Among the states, Arizona ranked fifth in first quarter 2017 exports to Mexico, behind Texas ($58.2 billion), California ($6.2 billion), Michigan ($3.2 billion) and Illinois ($2.3 billion). Despite the political ambiguity created by the Trump administration, estimates of Mexico’s 2017 economic growth rate have continued to inch up. Mexico’s economy is projected to grow by 1.9% in 2017. By way of comparison, the economy of the United States is expected to grow 2.2% during the year.

Illegal drug users in the United States and the drug cartels in Mexico have an established relationship. The illegal drug trade in the United States is a substantial enterprise, grossing in the vicinity of $400 to $500 billion per year. Unfortunately for Mexico, the country is a production and staging base for the drug cartels supplying America’s illegal drug market. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that approximately 435,000 Americans use heroin. The Mexican drug cartels supply more than 90% of heroin consumed in the United States. It is estimated that about 69,400 acres of Mexican farm land are growing heroin poppies, an increase of about 800% over 10 years.

Mexico’s drug lords have also expanded into Methamphetamine production. They operate manufacturing facilities which are geared to large scale production. The sophisticated production methods used have brought down the price, which makes trying Meth more attractive to drug users. According to the DEA, the price has dropped from $293 per pure gram in 2007 to $66 in 2016. During the same time period, the purity of the Meth produced increased from 40% to above 90%, allowing users to obtain a more potent high.

The drugs gangs that operate in rural Mexico have diversified into kidnapping and extortion. The result has been a decline in legitimate business activity, the rise of anti-drug gang vigilante movements and the growing intervention of Mexican army and federal police units. Regrettably, Mexico’s drug-fueled violence shows no signs of abating. In 2011, Mexico suffered a record setting 22,852 murders. If the present pace of the murder rate continues for the remainder of the year, the number of murders in Mexico in 2017 will surpass the record set in 2011. The drug kingpins do not like unfavorable publicity, making working for the press or media in Mexico a deadly occupation. At least four Mexican journalists have been killed so far this year, bringing the total number of journalists murdered since 2007 to 66.

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