People, Government Initiatives, Concepts/Theories, and Irresponsible Jargon.


  • Drug Cartel: drug cartels are difficult to pin down–their geographic location and members are constantly changing and adapting to new circumstances.  What I do know, is that the cartels listed here are the most current cartels trafficking in Mexico. Cartels appear and vanish frequently, a couple months ago a widely-known cartel–Juarez cartel–disbanded.  To attribute certain characteristics to each cartel will take weeks (weeks!) of research on my part, so please, be patient with me.
  • Enrique Pena Nieto: begins his presidency on December 1, 2012.  The president elect is “expected to change Mexico’s focus from combating drug trafficking to curbing violent crime, kidnapping, extortion and robbery, issues which matter more to Mexicans than the flow of cocaine, cannabis and other drugs north through a 2,000 mile border” (The Guardian). The latter issues are, presumably, more of a concern for the U.S. than Mexico.
  • Felipe Calderon: Elected to presidency in 2006, Calderon wasted no time in declaring Mexico’s war on drugs.  Although the war boasts its captures and killings of some high-ranking cartel leaders, it hasn’t appeared to slow down the drug trafficking industry.  The death toll for Mexico’s war on drugs has reached almost 50,000.  The Calderon Administration’s final day in office is November 30, 2012 (Mexican presidential terms last 6 years).
  • Mexican Navy (and marines) vs. Mexican Army and Mexican law enforcement: after the Calderon administration declared Mexico’s war on drugs, President Calderon was tasked with finding a government agency that wasn’t riddled with corruption or with ties to drug cartels.  Ultimately the Mexican Navy was considered the least corrupt and thus were charged with carrying out Mexico’s more intelligence-based operations in taking down cartels.  Most recently, it was the Navy that was responsible for the killing of Heriberto Lazcano, they later lost his body at an unguarded funeral home when masked, armed men (believed to be cartel members) came to take the body.

Government Initiatives

  • FAST (foreign-deployed advisory support team): a commando-style undercover unit associated with the D.E.A , it “was created during the George W. Bush administration to investigate Taliban-linked drug traffickers in Afghanistan. Beginning in 2008 and continuing under President Obama, it has expanded far beyond the war zone.”(New York Times).  While these squads have been present in other Latin American countries, Mexico has not wanted these squads deployed in their own country, although they accept other forms of aid from the U.S.
  • Fast and furious: a U.S. gov’t initiative to track the movement of guns.  Guns were sold by undercover agents to smugglers in hopes that the guns could later be traced to high-ranking cartel members.  Allegedly, the operative was a ploy by the U.S. government to supply firearms to the Sinaloa cartel.


  • Cultivation theory: the concept that media users receive knowledge from their entertainment medias and this knowledge informs their reality of the subject.  This theory is interesting when considering that most Americans are mostly exposed to Mexico’s drug war through entertainment media.
  • Honor killing: the style of killing attributed to cartels.  Characterized by the disfigurement and display of bodies in public areas.
  • Kingpin strategy: (related to splintering effect) the strategy employed to curb drug trafficking through the take down of cartel leaders.  (See my Oct. 31, 2012 blog post for more.)
  • Splintering effect (or fracturing effect):  The idea that focusing on taking down cartel leaders instead of reducing cartels’ criminal activity, will be effective in curbing drug trafficking. (See my Oct. 31, 2012 blog post for more.)

Irresponsible jargon: I use the following words in my blog posts for the sole purpose of clarity and consistency.  Mainstream media, especially in the U.S., uses terms like ‘cartels’ and ‘war on drugs’ to describe the issues surrounding drug trafficking.  Thus, to avoid confusion, I stick to this kind of jargon because it is what people know and understand.  I plan on revising my jargon policy for this blog when I learn more about what other journalists’ are doing to use more or less correct terms.  Until then, take a gander at these problematic words:

  • Cartels vs. gangs: this term ‘drug cartels’ is akin to ‘war on drugs’ in that it is also misleading.  According to the dictionary built into my computer, a cartel is “an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition”.  So yes, drug cartels do fit the description of a cartel in that they supply (illegal) drugs and they definitely like “restricting competition” (incidentally, they do this by killing people) but because we are dealing with criminals here (and who isn’t a criminal these days? 2012, am I right?), we probably shouldn’t be using watered-down language to describe, what is essentially, a gang that uses violence and bribery to operate.
  • Mexico’s ‘WAR’ on drugs: because is it a ‘war’, I mean, really?  Some contend that it’s not a war because drug cartels are not engaging in a war against the Mexican government per se: at least cartel members aren’t identifying themselves as separate from, or a threat to, the state of Mexico.  Cartels are simply trying to continue what they’ve been doing for decades (which is selling drugs—in case you for some reason never realized that they were responsible for things other than mass killings).