I’m currently working on a project that compares the drug trade in Mexico and Brazil. My goal is to try to understand the factors that have made the Mexican trade so bloody in comparison with Brazil’s trade. I believe that part of the reason is the nature of border. Most of the cocaine trafficked into Brazil passes through highly porous borders in Amazonia, which would be impossible to close to the same degree as the U.S.-Mexican border. The Brazilian drug trade is also geographically fractured, despite the existence of major drug organizations such as the First Capital Command (PCC), Red Command, Pure Third Command, and “Amigos dos Amigos.” The Mexican drug trade also overlays a major movement of migrants from southern Mexico and Central America to the United States; this both creates a population vulnerable to crime, but also develops networks that move people from south to north outside the control of the state. There is no parallel migration in Brazil. One issue I face with this project is the large number of variables that make the drug trade different in these nations.
Fortunately, I have a couple of outstanding undergraduate students helping me with this project, one of whom is Matt Andreas. One of the challenges with studying the drug cartels in Mexico is the fluidity of their territory. There are a number of well-designed maps out there (the BBC in particular has done a great job), but they tend to become out of date quickly. For this reason, Matt researched the current geography of the Mexican cartels, and created this map. Please click on it to view it full size, and please don’t use it without giving credit to Matt Andreas.
Matt sent me a few comments on the map, which I think are worth repeating. I’ve edited them slightly for brevity and for a broader audience: “States are not solely owned by one cartel. Even Sinaloa -the home state of the most powerful criminal group in the world- is broken into pieces by its owners. The groups in Sinaloa are Sinaloa, Beltran Leyva, and the Juarez Cartel. This map does not list the Knights Templar, the Tijuana Cartel, and the Juarez Cartel; they are still functioning but they no longer have possession of a state. An example of a state split between multiple cartels is the state of Guerrero. On this map Guerrero is under the reign of the Beltran Leyva organization, but really its territory is broken into pieces.”My thanks to Matt for this great map.
If you are interested in Latin America, you might wish to read either my book on the region’s AIDS epidemic, or my study of military terror in Brazil.