By Claire E. Olsen

For many years now the Mexican government has been fighting a gruesome and bloody war with drug cartels. These cartels have been around for decades, but since the demise of two very important Columbian cartels, Mexican cartels have grown in size and strength. Their location has allowed them to dominate the illicit drug market in the United States and this is estimated to bring in between 13.6 to 48.4 billion dollars annually. And not only are they at war with the government, but they are at war with themselves.

The cartels in Mexico change leadership and alliance often, but five of the largest and most powerful cartels are the Tijuana cartel, the Gulf Cartel, the Juarez cartel, the Sinaloa Federation, and the Zeta cartel. The Tijuana cartel is currently led by Luis Fernando Sánchez Arellano and was once the strongest of the cartels, but recently has somewhat weakened. Tijuana has infiltrated the Mexican government and is responsible for much of the trafficking to the U.S. This cartel is widely known for its extremely violent character. The Gulf Cartel is led by Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez and is currently considered one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico. This cartel has made an alliance with the Zeta Cartel and is also a big supplier of illicit drugs to the U.S. It traffics many drugs including cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin, and it imposes taxes on anyone passing drugs or aliens through Gulf Cartel territory. This cartel is also widely known for its violence and commonly uses methods such as kidnapping for ransom. The Juarez cartel controls one of the main transportation routes for the majority of illegal drug trafficking, but has lost a good amount of power since the death of Amado Carrillo Fuentes. The Sinaloa Cartel has taken a great deal of its territory and is growing in power.  These gangs are constantly at war, and will often times leak information about the whereabouts of an enemy cartel to the police as a means of revenge. The Zeta Cartel is one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico, and is currently in alliance with the Gulf Cartel.This cartel is famous for their ruthless and violent tactics, and just several weeks ago they were targeted by another gang in retaliation for their violent and careless massacres of innocent civilians which is frowned upon by most drug cartels.

Both the Mexican and U.S. government have taken measures to shut down these cartels, and seem to be approaching it with a new and intensified vigor. In Mexico, President Felipe Calderón was elected in 2006 and got down to business by sending 6,500 troops to Michoacan to terminate the drug violence existing in this state. Since then, the cartels and government have been at war and an estimated 40,000 people have been killed as violence rates continue to rise.

In 2009 the United States created the Merida Initiative which has supplied hundreds of millions of dollars to Mexico as well as Central America, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Though both governments have made a huge effort to eliminate these drug cartels, they continue to thrive. Despite the 40,000 death toll and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, this war is far from over.