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Guns, drugs, and La Barbie: Why America is responsible for Mexican drug cartels

Drug lords like La Barbie threaten Mexico's security with American-bought firearms, and finance their violent empires with American drug money.

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After the arrest this week of one of Mexico’s most ruthless drug lords, “La Barbie,” media coverage has highlighted his American-born, football star origins. But the kingpin is the product of America in a more profound way: We are morally responsible for his career. Indeed, we are culpable for the rise of all the Mexican drug cartels, whose $39 billion criminal enterprise has led to more than 23,000 deaths since 2006, and brought a fledgling democracy to its knees.

To attribute moral responsibility to one nation for another’s domestic problems is usually a fraught process, since there are so many causal forces in play. But in this case, the connection is crystal clear. Mexican drug lords exist to feed the US drug market. And they get their guns through the US weapons market. We give the bad guys their money by buying their drugs; we sell them the guns that enable their continued existence; and they threaten a nation of more than 100 million people at our border.

Like a game of Whac-a-Mole where the moles are on cocaine, speak Spanish, and wield rocket-propelled grenades, the Mexican cartels, in existence for decades, emerged as kingpins when they filled the supply-side gap that opened up when Colombia’s Cali and Medellín cartels dissolved in the 1990s, along with the cocaine trafficking route through Florida.

Mexican cartels supply American drug demands

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