Established drug cartels in Latin America are most likely to adopt a new industry rather than allow their businesses to collapse and will turn this crisis into an opportunity.

Effect of COVID-19 to the Drug Cartels in Latin America

Some countries in Latin America are already affected by political uncertainty, corruption, and violence that led many of its countrymen to protest. These countries were already plagued before the global health pandemic COVID-19 hit them.  

Legal businesses are not just the industries affected by COVID-19; illegal activities have been hampered as well. However, instead of allowing their industries to collapse, cartels in Latin America are doing their best to adapt to new trends to survive in a world ravished by infectious disease.

The COVID-19 pandemic affects both the established international drug cartels and small organized groups. However, they have different ways and strategies on how to survive behind the measures implemented in different countries that hinder them from transporting their drugs.

Some Problems of Mexican Cartels and Their Ways to Survive

The United States' biggest drug hub is Mexico which floods the country with illegal drugs composed of fentanyl. Fortunately, Mexican Cartels are currently having difficulties getting this chemical from China due to shipping restrictions.

Mexican Cartels and Their Problems:

Jalisco New Generation Cartel is struggling to maintain its routes in the Pacific Ocean. While the Union Tepito Cartel is experiencing challenges in securing its routes in the Gulf of Mexico.

These are just two of the cartels in Mexico that have been affected by COVID-19. The reduction of air and naval travel makes it easier for the authorities to track illegal cargos, and the measures implemented in the United States hinder the cartels from moving around the US-Mexico border.

Even though the present situation will not necessarily hinder the big organized groups from operating as they have the financial capacity to survive the pandemic. This could also mean that they may actually reduce violence in the meantime.

However, this situation is also very alarming for small cartels that have limited resources, which mostly depend on their survival through extortion. This will force them to shift to other activities like cattle theft or looting. 

Moreover, the more prominent international cartels who have enough resources and laboratories will most likely exploit and take advantage of this pandemic. They might shift their focus to the medical market by producing, replicating, or even smuggling medicines needed to combat COVID-19.

However, smaller groups who cannot produce and smuggle drugs will attempt to survive by adopting more primitive and violent strategies.

Mexican Cartels have amassed a total revenue of $5 billion just from the methamphetamine market in the United States alone. In the last five years, they have kept up with the increasing demand for illegal drugs. 

Some Mexican cartels are now hiring chemists from well-known universities to personalize chemicals needed in the production of methamphetamine. 

Although it is not clear if the combination of health crisis and economic downturn will lead to the cartel's generalized violence, what is clear is that if this pandemic continues, the cartels will create brand-new criminal geographies and business models. 

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