On Wednesday, January 25th, President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for the immediate building of his famed border wall. So far, the new President seems to be keeping his word on all of his campaign promises. Trump has said in a CNN interview that initially US tax money would be paying for the wall, but the Mexican Government would reimburse the US in the long run. As this wall is built, the illegal traffic along the US border will drop significantly. In conjunction with this, the cross border drug trade into the US will take a major hit. President Trump also announced the increase in border patrol and ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) agents, as well as reinstating ICE's Secure Communities Program, which allows ICE to target illegal immigrants, directs the State Department to withhold visas as well as take measures to ensure that countries take back their citizens who have illegally immigrated to the US. It also strips federal grant money from sanctuary cities that harbor illegal immigrants.
Concurrent with his executive order on building his famed border wall, a major turn of events has taken place in regards to the drug war. The ever evasive Mexican Drug lord, Joaquin Guzman, better known as “El Chapo” (or “Shorty” in Spanish due to his short stature), has been extradited to the United States and has been placed in a maximum security prison in New York. After being arrested twice before in Mexico and “escaping” both times, due to the endemic corruption within the Mexican justice system, his days of paying people off to break him out of prison have ended. The question regarding this exciting turn of events is: Why did Mexico turn over El Chapo the day before Trump's inauguration? This could possibly be Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto extending a peace offering to the Trump Administration.
Pena's government is undoubtedly concerned about Trump's rhetoric regarding the border, immigration and most importantly, NAFTA. Mexico benefits greatly from the free trade deal signed by former President Bill Clinton. Having it repealed would be detrimental to all cross border businesses, including the Mexican Government's state sponsored corporations. Trump is most likely using his threats of repealing NAFTA as leverage in pressuring the Mexican government to cooperate in improving border security and combating the drug cartels. The handover of El Chapo by the Government of Mexico is likely the first of many capitulatory acts to comply with the Trump Administration.
Having “El Chapo” out of the picture will no doubt have negative effects on the capabilities and power structure of the Sinaloa Cartel. Granted, the Sinaloa cartel will still survive and continue to be one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico, but the fact that its de facto leader, who managed to garner immense power in Mexico, is gone will be a hard hit to the cartel's influence.
In addition to this, the Trump Administration's hardline stance on border security will make it more difficult for not only the Sinaloa Cartel, but their rival cartels as well. These criminal enterprises take advantage of porous areas along the border in order to bring in illicit substances to the US. The fact is, Trump has unshackled the hands of ICE and the US Border Patrol and is reinstating the authority that President Obama had previously stripped away. This, in addition to construction of the wall will end the cartels' easy access to US markets for illicit goods.
In the long term, attention to border security will have a negative effect on the the cartels' ability to bring in revenue, as their largest export market, the US, could become virtually impossible to access. In turn, this will starve the cartels of their wealth. What will be the consequence of tens of billions of dollars annually of dirty money evaporating? The elaborate lifestyles of Cartel leaders, politicians, the military and police that are supported by the drug trade into the US will come to an abrupt and painful end as a result. The potential carnage following this will tear the powerful cartels apart.
We have already seen this type of violence erupt since El Chapo's second capture in 2014. The relative lull in violence under his reign spiked immensely after he was removed from power. Rival cartels that for a short period had an armistice, took up arms against each other again and many took to extreme measures to solidify power in their respective areas of control. This includes the capture and execution of 43 students in the state of Gurrero by elements of the state government who were on the payroll of the Gurreros Unidos Cartel.
The flurry of violence after El Chapo's second capture was because of all the money coming in as a result of his drug empire. This new torrent of violence, however, will be in response to the lack of revenue due to the US terminating the cartels' largest market. This violence has spun out of control in recent years and will most likely require a more hardline stance on the part of the US Government so that it doesn't continue to spill over the border. El Chapo is only part of the greater picture, but his handover by the Mexican government is a huge turning point in the drug war that has been plaguing Mexico for the past decade. A new border policy will significantly reduce the cartels' ability to access the US and may lead to a temporary spike in violence. As the cartels fight each other over the destruction of their illicit trade, it may ultimately lead to them losing their ability to assert control over Mexican Government officials and allow for a new era of prosperity for our southern neighbor. Time will tell, and I will continue to cover this topic in depth as more developments arise.