After a two-year crackdown on the Mexican drug trade, authorities believe the drug dealers who remain are scrambling to get their share of the illegal drug trade.
"This is not reflecting the power of these groups," said Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora. "This is reflecting how they are melting down in terms of capabilities, how they are losing the ability to produce income."
Officials from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) report that the crackdown has driven up the street price of cocaine and methamphetamine, decreased the availability of the drugs and affected the purity of the drugs that do make it to the street.
Record Drug Seizures Reported
The smuggling of marijuana, however, has increased in the past two years, according to the DEA, to meet an increased demand in the U.S. This is evidenced by the record seizures of the drug reported by the U.S. Border patrol in southern Arizona.
The Tucson Sector Border Patrol has seized more than 500,000 pounds of marijuana since Oct. 1, a 22% increase over the same period last year. Meanwhile, they have seized only 53.13 ounces of heroin, 65.25 pounds of cocaine and 6.39 pounds of meth.
The increase in seizures has also been attributed to the addition of 3,300 more border guards, the improvement of roads used to patrol the border, and new technology that helps find hidden compartments and drugs hidden among or inside legal products.
Juveniles Used to Smuggle Drugs
The crackdown has led the cartels to find more alternative ways to smuggle drugs into the states, including the use of juveniles to carry the drugs across the border. The El Paso has seen a significant increase in the number of juveniles - males and females from Mexico and the U.S. - caught trying to bring drugs into the country.
"Since Monday we have had five cases of children age 17 and younger attempting to smuggle drugs into the U.S. from Mexico," said William Molaski, CBP El Paso port director. "On the other end of the spectrum, we had two people age 60 and over caught smuggling marijuana yesterday. This confirms that traffickers will employ any and all types of people in their drug smuggling attempts."
As the crackdown from both sides of the border continues to reduce the income the cartels get from drug sales, murders, kidnappings and assaults have increased on both sides of the border. Nine bodies were found buried in a common grave near Ciudad Juarez, Mexico this week believed to be drug-related deaths.
Violence Will Get Worse
"The reason you see the escalation in violence is because U.S. and Mexican law enforcement are winning," said Garrison Courtney, of the DEA. "You are going to see the drug traffickers push back because we are breaking their back. It's reasonable to assume they are going to try to fight to stay relevant."
Although authorities believe they are making progress against the Mexican drug cartels, they admit that the violence, and particularly kidnappings, will probably get worse before it begins to subside as the drug gangs scramble to replace their lost income.