Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

A. Introduction

Mexico remains a major transit and source country for illicit drugs destined for the United States and a center for money laundering. Narcotics trafficking and related violence in Mexico continue to pose significant problems to citizen security and economic development. The most recent available Government of Mexico statistics indicate that from 2012 to 2013, reported homicides decreased by approximately 14 percent. Nevertheless, reported kidnappings and extortions rose sharply by 25.7 percent and 29.1 percent, respectively. A survey published in September by Mexico’s statistics agency (INEGI) found that 94 percent of total crimes and 99 percent of kidnappings went either unreported or uninvestigated in 2013.

Mexico actively combats drug trafficking organizations, and U.S.-Mexico cooperation in this area is substantial. The Merida Initiative is a major component of these efforts; since 2008, approximately $1.3 billion in training, equipment, and technical assistance has been delivered to help strengthen Mexico’s judicial and security institutions. U.S. and Mexican law enforcement counterparts cooperate on investigations and other criminal justice issues related to transnational criminal organizations. Such cooperation has boosted efforts to capture leaders of these groups. Notable law enforcement operational successes include the February 2014 arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa cartel, and in October the arrests of Hector Beltran Leyva, head of the Beltran Leyva cartel, and Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, leader of the Juarez cartel. These successes, however, have resulted in smaller, fractured groups that are violently attempting to consolidate their power.

Mexican consumption of illicit drugs is lower than U.S. levels, although insufficient data exists to determine longer-term consumption trends.

B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends

1. Institutional Development

Mexico continues to strengthen its institutional capacity to confront organized crime. Since 2006, the Government of Mexico restructured and tripled the size of its Federal Police, including adding a 5,000 officer gendarmerie, launched in August. Many states are also rebuilding their police forces to reduce corruption, including establishing internal affairs units.

The Mexican customs service expanded its traditional focus on revenue collection to include enforcement of contraband and intellectual property laws. The Office of the Attorney General (PGR) restructured key investigative divisions, dismissed employees who failed internal vetting, and continued efforts to increase prosecution rates.

Mexico’s 2015 budget for all security-related functions is approximately $11 billion, an increase of 6.9 percent from 2014. Funding is used to combat organized crime, expand crime prevention programs, improve interagency coordination, consolidate police forces, support justice reforms, and encourage citizen participation in crime control.

Although Mexico passed a national code of criminal procedure in February, Mexico’s transition to an accusatorial criminal justice system remains uneven. Twenty-six of Mexico’s 31 states and the Federal District have adopted new criminal procedure codes, in compliance with a 2008 federal constitutional reform requiring such legislation by 2016; however, only Chihuahua, Mexico State, Morelos, and Yucatán have fully implemented required reforms. Other states have adopted patchwork accusatorial systems, utilizing the new system in certain municipalities or for certain types of crimes. Some states are using hybrid systems, trying cases grandfathered in under the old inquisitorial system and new cases under the accusatorial system.

Multilaterally, Mexico participates in the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, and subscribes to the 1996 Anti-Drug Strategy in the Hemisphere and the 1990 Declaration and Program of Action of Ixtapa. Likewise, Mexico plays a leading role as a regional observer in the Central American Integration System and as a collaborator with Central American countries to improve regional security.

In June, Mexico attended the 31st Annual International Drug Enforcement Conference, a forum for senior law enforcement officials from more than 100 countries. Mexico continues to participate with Canada and the United States in the North American Maritime Security Initiative, in which naval authorities meet regularly to share information, improve response to transnational threats, and develop protocols for maritime interdictions.

The current U.S.-Mexico extradition treaty has been in force since 1980. A 2001 protocol to the treaty allows for the temporary surrender of a fugitive wanted for prosecution by both parties, provided that the fugitive has been convicted and sentenced in all criminal cases in the country where the fugitive is located, and the extradition request of the other party has been granted. Moreover, a bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty in force since 1991 has fostered a broad range of cooperation in criminal matters.

2. Supply Reduction

Mexico cooperates with the United States on supply reduction. Maritime and land corridors through Central America and Mexico continue to be the most significant transit routes for cocaine from South America bound for the United States. While the United States remains the primary destination for illicit drugs trafficked via Mexico, trafficking routes through Mexico are diversifying to accommodate growing markets in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

Mexico is a major producer of heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine destined for the United States. The Government of Mexico eradicated 21,425 ha of poppy in 2014, a significant increase from the 14,419 ha eradicated in 2013. The Government of Mexico eradicated 5,679 ha of cannabis in 2014, a slight increase over the 5,096 ha eradicated in 2013. Overall cultivation estimates for opium poppy and cannabis in 2014 were not available at the time of this report.

PGR reported Mexico seized 929.4 metric tons (MT) of marijuana in 2014, a decrease of 3.0 percent from 2013. PGR reported seizing 3.6 MT of cocaine and 1.4 MT of opium gum in 2014. PGR also reported combined 2013 and 2014 data for seizures of liquid forms of cocaine and opium gum, totaling 2,377 liters (L) of liquid cocaine and 1,580 L of opium gum. U.S. law enforcement seizures of heroin along the U.S.-Mexico border have increased significantly over the past several years.

With respect to synthetic drugs, Mexican seizures of methamphetamine, which totaled 19.8 MT in 2014, increased 35.9 percent when compared to the year before. Seizures of clandestine drug labs rose slightly. The Mexican government seized 143 labs in 2014, an 11.7 percent increase compared to 2013.

PGR did not report on seizures of pseudoephedrine, a precursor chemical, in 2014.

3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment

Official statistics indicate illegal drug use in Mexico is lower than U.S. levels, although inconsistent survey methodologies among national consumption surveys prevent tracking long-term trends. According to the most recent official study conducted in 2011, prevalence of illegal drug use showed a statistically insignificant increase from 1.4 percent in 2008 to 1.5 percent in 2011. Marijuana remains the most commonly used illegal drug, and while overall prevalence rates stayed relatively stable, use among men showed a slight increase from 1.7 percent to 2.2 percent. Cocaine use showed a statistically insignificant increase from 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent. The 2011 national survey does not include a category for new or designer drugs, known as new psychoactive substances (NPS). The average age of first use has remained essentially stable at 18 years. Regionally, northern Mexico is the area with highest prevalence of illegal drug use (2.3 percent versus 1.5 percent nationally). Nevertheless, this study surveyed only individuals living in “households” and excluded groups such as the homeless and prisoners, suggesting that prevalence rates may be higher than reported. A bilateral U.S.-Mexico study of illicit drug consumption was successfully completed in May,

The National Commission against Addictions (CONADIC) coordinates and implements national drug policy. The Secretariat of Government has included demand reduction as a component of its National Program on Crime and Violence Prevention. The National Institute of Psychiatry leads addiction research. These offices liaise with the United States, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The Mexican government intended to implement the National Program against Addictions in 2014, but due to the July resignation of CONADIC’s director, the program is on hold. The new CONADIC Director, Manuel Mondragón y Kalb, assumed office in October.

Funding for addiction-related initiatives largely comes from the federal budget. In 2014, the budget for addiction-related initiatives was $103.8 million, an 8.4 percent increase from 2013. The Government of Mexico’s political will to reduce drug use is evident from both this increased funding and its efforts to establish drug treatment courts (DTCs) throughout the country.

The first DTC in Mexico was established in Guadalupe, Nuevo León in 2009. Since then, six additional DTCs have been established as of November 7. The United States continues to fund training and technical assistance by the Inter-American Drug Control Policy Commission of the OAS to establish DTCs in Mexico.

Additionally, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) conducted U.S.-funded drug demand reduction training and technical assistance throughout Mexico in 2014. CADCA supports the formation and/or enhancement of effective drug-free community coalition programs, which assist civil society organizations in reducing drug use.

4. Corruption

As a matter of government policy, the Government of Mexico does not encourage or facilitate illicit drug production or distribution, nor is it involved in laundering the proceeds of the sale of illicit drugs. Although federal anticorruption standards are improving, corruption continues to impede Mexican counternarcotics efforts. The Mexican government has taken significant steps to reduce corruption in law enforcement and has designated the National System for Public Security as the agency responsible for overseeing stronger vetting for law enforcement personnel.

The Mexican government reorganized the Federal Police’s Internal Affairs Department so that its principal reports directly to the head of the National Security Commission, theoretically allowing the department to investigate anyone within the Federal Police. Ninety-seven federal police officers were arrested on corruption charges in 2014.

At the state and municipal level, law enforcement officials remain under-resourced, inadequately trained, and vulnerable to corruption. Each state and the Federal District have established centers responsible for vetting law enforcement officers. Progress has been uneven, but the centers have had some success identifying corrupt individuals, prompting the removal of officers and the rejection of some police recruits. The Mexican government and some state governors have conducted large-scale dismissals of police where corruption was endemic. Some Mexican law enforcement entities have also established, restructured, or augmented their internal affairs offices.

C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives

U.S. assistance aims to help Mexico develop more effective and transparent security and rule-of-law institutions and to foster cooperation with international partners to reduce threats from transnational and domestic crime, improve border security, and protect human rights.

Since 2008, the United States has delivered approximately $1.3 billion in assistance through the Merida Initiative. A government-wide effort involving numerous U.S. agencies, Merida has contributed to better law enforcement training, criminal justice reforms, crime prevention efforts, programs for at-risk youth, human rights initiatives, drug demand reduction projects, alternatives to incarceration, and border security programs. Merida trained joint intelligence task forces have led to more efficient and effective intelligence operations, canine unit and non-intrusive inspection programs have resulted in increased interdictions of illicit funds and narcotics, and prison accreditation assistance has resulted in decreased violent prison deaths and outbreaks of violence.

Mexico extradited 66 people to the United States in 2014, representing a 22 percent increase from the 54 extraditions in 2013.

D. Conclusion

Mexico continues its efforts to disrupt or dismantle transnational criminal organizations, reform its judiciary and prisons, improve its police, and address money laundering. These efforts have strengthened Mexico’s public institutions while helping to weaken organized crime. Available supply reduction data indicate that interdiction remains a major challenge for Mexico. Only a small portion of the cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin originating in or transiting Mexico is interdicted inside the country. With respect to drug demand, the limited official statistics indicate that illegal drug use among Mexicans remains stable.

Under the Peña Nieto administration’s security strategy, future bilateral efforts will emphasize strengthening Mexican institutions, continued expansion of programs to states and municipalities, and further progress toward achieving the security goals shared by both nations. The focus of U.S.-Mexico cooperation has shifted from providing large-scale equipment to engaging in training and capacity building, and from focusing on federal institutions to building state and municipal capabilities. The United States will also continue programs to curb its own domestic drug demand and inhibit the illegal flow of arms and cash into Mexico.