Story Publication logo July 20, 2011

The Cartel Next Door


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A hardened criminal from the streets of Memphis. One of the biggest drug cartels in Mexico. The...

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Boys walk by an armed official in Celaya in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, near the place where two grenades were hurled at a police outpost in November 2009. No one was hurt. Celaya is much more dangerous than Queretaro, which has a reputation for safety and is only 25 minutes away by car. Some say the difference is that drug cartels have agreed to keep Queretaro safe. Image by Alan Spearman, The Commercial Appeal.

The money that drug users spend in your community may be helping Mexican cartels pay their employees, bribe officials, buy weapons, and hire people to torture and kill rivals.

If you live in the United States, you can help shed light on the problem by exploring the impact of the trans-border drug trade where you live. If you don't live in the U.S., you may still be able to apply the concepts.

It makes sense to focus on Mexican trafficking organizations because their influence extends throughout the United States and beyond, and because they are causing tremendous bloodshed in Mexico. An estimated 35,000 people have died in Mexico's drug violence since President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown in 2006, according to Associated Press reports.

I spent about 15 months part time researching international drug trafficking for the (Memphis) Commercial Appeal while I continued to cover the county government beat. I focused on Craig Petties, a man from Memphis who was accused of working as a high-level broker for Mexico's Beltran Leyva cartel to ship hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and more than a ton of marijuana to Tennessee and other states. Prosecutors accused him of making cell phone calls from Mexico to arrange drug shipments and to order killings in Memphis.

Mexican authorities caught him in the city of Queretaro in January 2008 and deported him to the United States. The government revealed in February of this year that Petties had secretly pleaded guilty in December 2009 to various charges, including conspiracy, drug trafficking and participation in four murders.

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Drug Crises


Drug Crises

Drug Crises
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Peace Initiatives

Peace Initiatives

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