Mexican drug cartels are the greatest criminal drug threat to the U.S. with a footprint spanning coast to coast. Here’s how they became so powerful.


MEXICO CITY – While successfully campaigning across the country last year, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador coined catchy slogans for solving the country’s security situations. “Hugs, not bullets,” he repeated often. “You can’t fight fire with fire!” he would say. “Scholarship students, not sicarios!”

The slogans spoke to López Obrador’s call for moral renewal and combating what he considers the root cause of crime and violence: corruption and poverty. Eleven months into his administration, however, Mexico’s homicide rate continues racing to record levels. The ambush of three carloads of women and children in northern Sonora state marked the most recent spasm of violence.

In the wake of the Sonora slayings – which claimed the lives of three women and six children – López Obrador has doubled down on his discourse of changing security strategies, while pinning Mexico’s problems with violence on his unpopular predecessors.

“These are issues that come from a long way back,” he said at a news conference Wednesday, “which were worsened by a strategy of wanting to resolve things only with the use of force.”

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