Mexican Drug Cartels Make $64 Billion a Year from U.S.

During a speech this week at an international forum coordinated by the Organization of Christian Democrats of the Americas (a federation of center-right parties in the Americas), Genaro Garcia Luna, Mexico's public safety secretary, said that drug cartels are currently taking in $64.34 billion a year in sales from the United States.

In Mexico, substantial amounts of marijuana and crystal methamphetamine are produced. The majority of cocaine comes from South America before being smuggled through Mexico into the United States. Other drugs that the Mexican cartels smuggle into the United States include heroin and ecstasy.

Garcia Luna acknowledged the relatively new domestic drug problem that Mexico now faces, saying that Mexicans spend an average of $431 million a year on illegal drugs. The secretary pointed out that the organized crime groups in his country, primarily consisting of drug cartels, now pose a real risk for public and national security in the hemisphere. He emphasized that the cartels are taking advantage of globalization to increase their activities using more open financial markets and rapidly developing technology. Garcia Luna concluded that the cartels are trafficking not only in drugs but also in weapons and migrants, and have expanded their operations to include kidnappings-for-ransom and extortion.

But it was the astounding $64 billion figure that drew the most attention, especially given that the Mexican government, led by President Felipe Calderon, has only been able to pledge about $1.2 billion to federal law enforcement to combat the drug cartels.