CULIACAN, Mexico - Like a lot of businesses, the Sinaloa Cartel was
knocked back on its heels as the coronavirus swept the globe and
travel ground to a near halt.
Government measures to contain the virus had fouled up its operations,
interrupting the supply of chemicals for manufacturing synthetic drugs
like fentanyl and methamphetamine and cutting off trafficking routes
across international borders.
But the cartel is not just any business. It established itself as one
of the world's most powerful drug trafficking groups with a trademark
mix of business acumen, ingenuity and lawlessness.
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MEXICO CITY - Tiger cubs and semiautomatic weapons. Piles of cash and
armored cars. Fields of poppies watered to the sound of ballads
glorifying Mexican drug cartel culture.
This is the world of Cartel TikTok, a genre of videos depicting drug
trafficking groups and their activities that is racking up hundreds of
thousands of views on the popular social media platform.
But behind the narco bling and dancing gang members lies an ominous
reality: With Mexico set to again shatter murder records this year,
experts on organized crime say Cartel TikTok is just the latest
propaganda campaign designed to mask the blood bath and use the
promise of infinite wealth to attract expendable young recruits.
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MEXICO CITY - On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon stood in front
of the White House press corps and made his historic declaration of a
new type of war. "Public Enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug
abuse," he said. "In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it's
necessary to wage a new all-out offensive."
It would be a government-wide effort, and rally the United States's
power abroad to stem the supply of drugs. Among the countries targeted
was Mexico, which was home to abundant marijuana production and had
been resistant to aerial crop spraying.
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SAN MIGUEL AMOLTEPEC VIEJO, Mexico - For years, two young brothers,
like many other farmers in their poor, mountainous region of southwest
Mexico, found salvation in the opium poppy. They bled the milky latex
from its pods and the profits made their hard lives a little easier.
The fact that this substance was the raw material for most of the
heroin consumed in the United States was of little concern to the
family, if they even knew it at all. But then changes in that distant
market for illegal drugs made the price of the dried opium latex plummet.
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