Why do Mexicans have so much money

Illegal surveillance in MexicoMexican Drug cartels monitor the public room

Drug cartels in Mexico use surveillance cameras, drones, and spy software to monitor opposing cartels, drug couriers, and government security forces. 62 illegal cameras have already been found and uninstalled in the Mexican city of Reynosa.

The state of Tamaulipas in northeast Mexico is one of the most important centers for organized crime in the country, says our correspondent Anne Demmer. Cities like Reynosa, which is on the Texas border, are of great importance to the cartels that want to smuggle their goods into the United States. Two of the big drug cartels fighting for supremacy in Reynosa by all means are the Cartel del Golfo and Los Zetas.

Drug cartels employ their own IT teams

They are technically very well equipped to spy on their opponents, their drug couriers and US and Mexican security forces, reports Anne. In addition to drones and spy software, they mainly use surveillance cameras.

The surveillance cameras are illegally installed in traffic lights, power boxes and lanterns. The Mexican authorities discovered 62 such cameras and dismantled them again. In addition to the technical spying facilities, there is also a large network of informants who spy on the area for the drug cartels and are more likely to be equipped with simpler equipment such as walkie-talkies and smartphones.

"They are also dependent on a network of informants, the so-called Halcones [Note: Falken in German]. Sometimes that is even more effective. But in the end it is a combination of both - informants and technology. This is what makes the cartels so powerful and efficient in their work. "
Guillermo Valdes, former head of the Mexican Federal Criminal Police Office

Mexico is not only a drug-making country, but also a transit country for drugs from South America to the United States. A lot of money is at stake for the cartels.

In the past, the cartels have kidnapped communications experts from telecommunications companies, for example, and forced them to use espionage hardware and software, says our correspondent. In the meantime, the drug bosses often employ their own IT teams for which they recruit employees or relatives. They also invest in the training of these employees, for example by funding them to study at an elite university, reports Anne.

El Chapo was a phone call to undoing

The notorious drug lord El Chapo has also invested millions in drone defense systems, informants and bribery of the military, police and politicians. But his feelings for the Mexican actress Kate del Castillo made him very careless and ultimately led to his arrest, says our correspondent.

"He broke all security rules: he spoke to Kate del Castillo on the phone. He was probably in love with her. He even gave the actress a cell phone that his own people couldn't access so that only he could talk to her in private could."
Guillermo Valdes, former head of the Mexican Federal Criminal Police Office

After the election of the new president, the murder rate reached a record high

Since the new, left-liberal President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took up his post in December 2018, the Mexican people have been hoping that more effective measures will be used against the drug cartels.

So far, however, the situation has rather deteriorated than improved, says Anne Demmer: The murder rate has risen to a record 14,600 deaths and the number of victims in Mexico City has risen by 46 percent. In addition, around 40,000 people are missing and criminal offenses are barely punished.

"As long as there is drug demand in the US, the problem will never be solved. Where is the drug money laundered? Which banks is it? That means there is great interest at a high level - certainly also with US banks."
Anne Demmer, correspondent in Mexico City

Given the large number of deaths, according to Anne Demmer, it is entirely justified to speak of a drug war. It is also very difficult to take action against the current situation, because working in a drug cartel is a lucrative job. Above all, the lack of prospects in poorer areas, says Anne, makes it easy for organized crime to recruit offspring. Anyone who works for a drug ring once has little chance of getting away from it.

Improvement of the situation unlikely

In addition, Mexican cartels supply almost all of the drug market. And as long as the demand for drugs from the USA continues, the problem can hardly be solved, says Anne Demmer. Various influential groups are making money from the situation in Mexico - for example arms smugglers from the USA who supply the cartels with weapons.

The Mexican government has called on the US to take action against arms smuggling. However, corruption is also a problem here, says our correspondent, because US security forces are bribed to let illegal arms deliveries across the border. Anne Demmer suspects that the US banks that end up with drug money also have an interest in drug smuggling to continue in Mexico.