For those who have taken even a slight notice to the media and affairs in Mexico, our neighbor to the south has been fighting a long-standing battle with ending drug cartels, and is facing a losing streak. As the case in any organization, criminal or otherwise, the use of violence is an option reaching a significant goal: obtaining power. Violence is an effective means of obtaining power and is frequently used to obtain strength through fear and coercion.

Closely related to U.S. pressure on Mexico to eradicate drug cartels, drug cartel violence increased dramatically, particularly against those outside of the drug cartel network. Despite U.S. anti-drug policy towards Mexico, the U.S. has directly exacerbated cartel activity and violence, such as in the ATF botching of Operation Fast and Furious. Failed efforts by U.S. organizations, which resulted in the release of assault weapons directly into the hands of Mexican crime organizations, have directly contributed to increased power and reach within the cartel network. Failed foreign intervention, in combination with a weak regulatory institutions both within Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexican border have left Mexico vulnerable to cartel influence via drug related violence and terrorism.

The “Cartel” series, within the Current Affairs section of AnthroPolitique seeks to provide readers with a snapshot of social, cultural, economic, and political situations surrounding global organized crime networks, both present and past. Rather than look at the role of states and governments in responding to cartel networks across the U.S.-Mexican border, this introductory post seeks to understand the situation in Mexico from the view of those effected: the victims.

Recognizing the role of the victim is essential  because as in the case of terrorism, the role of the victim plays a significant role in the ability of a group to obtain power through their “channel of violence”. The victims of Mexican drug cartel violence are therefore a key to understanding the extent of drug cartel power. The key to understanding the role of the victim as subjects of violence and terrorism can be understood through the following:

1. the means of murder

2. victim selection, and

3. victim identification following the act

For instance, the method of killing has switched from assault weapons to beheading. The use of beheading as a means of committing murder is not only horrific, but displays the deliberateness and calculated control of the killing itself. Furthermore, through beheading and mutilation of the bodies of their victims, the means of murder itself has prevented identification by both law enforcement officials and loved ones of the victims. Finally, victims subjected to cartel violence are increasingly innocent members of the society. The selection of innocent victims, as in more “traditional” terrorist attacks, represents absolute control at the hands of the cartel – with no one safe from it’s reach.

Keeping an eye on U.S.-Mexico relations and the fate of Mexico under uncontrolled cartel violence, we must not forget the victims who have lost their lives as a result.

Inspired by Marlon Bishop’s “Hello, I’m Calling from ‘La Mafia’” (NPR)