SHSU professor gets first-hand look at Mexican drug wars
HUNTSVILLE, TX (4-26-16) — Nathan Jones, an assistant professor at Sam Houston State University, spent a year in Mexico examining drug cartels and government interventions in the drug trade for his first book.
Mexico's Illicit Drug Networks and the State Reaction is a scholarly study that examines why Mexico targets some drug networks over others, looks at risk and democracy, reassesses the impact on the War on Drugs, and proposes new solutions for weak states to battle drug networks. The book is based on extensive fieldwork and interviews with U.S. and Mexican law enforcement, government officials, crime victims, and criminals.
"It was part of my dissertation so we can know more about the Mexican drug networks," said Jones. "I went to Tijuana just after the cartel conflagration. I wanted to find out what made the Arellano Felix cartel so resilient, despite being attacked by other drug networks."
In 2008, there was a split in the drug cartels in Tijuana between El Teo and El Ingeniero. El Teo was a "territorial" drug network, similar to a local Mafia involved in a wide variety of crimes, including drugs and kidnapping. El Ingeniero was a "transactional" network, which concentrated on moving drugs across the border. The territorial networks led to more violence, community reaction, and intelligence at the local level, which resulted in more government intervention. Transactional networks focused on trafficking and were more likely to collude with state officials through corruption, leading to fewer interventions, Jones found.
"I was building on the work of others to flesh out the transactional vs. territorial drug networks," said Jones. "My study provided more details, the risks, the state reactions, and the resilience of some drug cartels."
Jones also discusses policy issues related to the drug war, including drug prohibition reforms, the medicalization of heroin, needle exchange programs, and special fugitive apprehension teams. In Operation United Eagles, the United States trained a special Mexican fugitive apprehension team to target Tijuana cartel leaders in Mexico. This team was specially vetted for the task and their communications with their families were cut off to prevent their use as leverage over team members.
Marijuana has been legalized for medical or recreational use in 23 states and the District of Columbia, which has reduced the illegal drug trade of marijuana across the border. In Switzerland, heroin addicts are provided free heroin and clean needles through doctors, which has helped reduce crime rates and overdose deaths.
"These recommendations focus on dealing with the underlying market," said Jones.
Mexico's Illicit Drug Networks and the State Reaction is published by Georgetown University Press.