HomeNewsAnalysisRethinking the 'Spillover' Effect of Mexican Violence
ANALYSIS

Rethinking the 'Spillover' Effect of Mexican Violence

HOMICIDES / 13 APR 2011 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

U.S. border-state politicians have been saying for years that Mexico’s drug violence is on the verge of spreading like wildfire through the American southwest. Although the facts fail to match up with this rhetoric, some recent developments add weight to the "spillover" theory.

It was a story that swept the nation. On 30 September 2010, David Hartley was jet skiing with his wife on a lake in southern Texas when he was shot dead by Mexican drug traffickers, apparently for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The seemingly arbitrary nature of Hartley’s death, combined with the fact that it occurred on U.S. soil, sparked a nationwide debate about the so-called "spillover" effect.

In the aftermath of the killing, Texas Governor Rick Perry criticized President Obama for not reacting strongly enough, urging him to send 1,000 extra National Guard troops to the border. In a letter sent to the president, the governor said that the federal government was ignoring a "dire threat amassing on our southern border."

Such language stands in stark contrast to statements made by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano. At a speaking panel in El Paso on April 1, Napolitano said claims about violence from Mexico spilling over into the U.S. are inaccurate, and dismissed them as cheap attempts to gain political points. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Napolitano urged borderland politicians to "call for an end to this type of misinformation."

Although Napolitano may be correct in dismissing the apocalyptic tone of statements such as Perry’s, the security situation along the U.S. border is in fact heating up. As a recent analysis of official murder statistics by Excelsior shows, nearly one third of Mexico's crime-related homicides last year occurred in just 37 municipalities along the country’s northern border.

U.S. citizens in Mexico are not immune from the violence. On April 8, an alert from the United States Consulates General in Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, and Monterrey warned U.S. citizens of a possible plan by Mexican drug gangs to "attack U.S. law enforcement officers or U.S. citizens in the near future in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and San Luis Potosi." Reuters reported in November that almost as many U.S. citizens were murdered in Ciudad Juarez in the first eleven months of 2010 as in the previous two years combined.

Now, an internal Department of Justice report leaked by the Mexico City-based El Universal details growing concern within U.S. law enforcement bodies over drug cartels’ level of activity on American soil.

According to the newspaper, the report says Mexican drug trafficking organizations have affiliates in at least 1,286 cities in the U.S., of which 143 are directly report to cartel leaders. At the top of the list is Sinaloa Cartel, which operates in 75 cities, followed by the Gulf Cartel (37), the Zetas (37), the Juarez Cartel (33), the Beltran Leyva Organization (30), the Familia (27), and the Tijuana Cartel (21).

In another piece of evidence backing the spillover effect, Roberta Jacobson, deputy assistant secretary for Canada, Mexico and NAFTA issues, confirmed that Mexican drug trafficking organizations have influence not only in the U.S. southwest, but in the country’s interior as well. Jacobson also painted a lacklustre picture of Mexican counternarcotics efforts, saying that progress made in the fight against cartels there, although important, has been "mixed."

Despite this grim news, there is no evidence to support claims that the U.S. is on the verge of experiencing anything close to the level of brutal violence that has hit Mexico. For one thing, if Mexican drug trafficking organizations were to conduct major acts of violence on U.S. soil, it would likely provoke thorough federal investigations. In addition to endangering the organization's use of its trafficking routes, it would provide local lawmakers with the domestic excuse they need for a crackdown on the Mexican groups. Because the U.S. court system has proven itself to be more effective at incarceration than its Mexican counterpart, such violence would almost certainly be bad for business.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

SINALOA CARTEL / 26 JUL 2011

A new series of reports in the Los Angeles Times offers a picture of the sophisticated transport and smuggling network…

HOMICIDES / 2 JAN 2019

It has been years since Laura stopped counting the dead. “We just let them pass through now,” she said. Each…

EL SALVADOR / 14 JAN 2016

InSight Crime examines how countries in Latin America and the Caribbean fared during the past year combating violence in our…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…