Mexico has long been associated with the drug trade, primarily because of its weak borders and low levels of law enforcement. Even so, it’s shocking to hear when rehabilitation centers are being attacked by gunmen working for the cartels. Gunmen have attacked a number of rehab centers in Mexico, and some people fear it could even extend to southern Texas, but why? What could they have to gain?
Drug running and manufacture is about one thing: money. Like any other business, it requires money to pay people and money to carry on operating. Due to the illegal nature of the goods, however, it’s impossible to enforce debts and so on within the law. Therefore cartels rely on the routine use of violence to intimidate those who owe them money to get them to cough up.
Rehab centers are filled with people who owe the cartels money. This leads to the cartels raiding the rehab centers to threaten and possibly wipe out people as an example. To the drug cartels, it’s just business sense to do this.
The problem with the majority of Mexican rehab centers is that they’re unlicensed, which means that they have absolutely no controls or accreditation whatsoever. In Mexico city, it is estimated that around 100,000 of the 8.4 million residents are addicted to some form of illicit drug. The rehab trade is booming as a result.
Predictably, these unlicensed centers are being run out of homes, sometimes by former addicts. This means security is nonexistent, which makes them easy to raid. In some cases, they are infiltrated by the cartels who then sell drugs to the patients, undermining the whole process in the name of making easy money.
Additionally, it seems that some cartels are running their own rehab centers. The reason is simple: They make great recruiting grounds. The sort of people who attend these centers are often vulnerable and have issues with addiction, which is what, of course, these centers are supposed to treat.
The cartels harass and intimidate the people in the center into becoming mules or runners themselves. They threaten to beat, maim, or kill loved ones to ensure the addicts who attend the center do the cartel’s bidding.
These people are then used as disposable henchmen or runners.
Obviously each cartel discourages other cartels doing business in its territory. Naturally this is through gunfights and massacres. When a rival addiction treatment clinic opens nearby, each nearby cartel investigates it by sending in people to “attend” it. They determine who owns it and what the overriding interest is. Then, they deal with it as appropriate, which could be anything from a bloody massacre to simply leaving it alone.
The biggest problem facing genuine addiction agencies in Mexico is that a large number of those who are meant to protect them are corrupt or hampered by corrupt colleagues. This is true from high-level agencies to the ground-pounders on the street.
This makes informing on the drug cartels an incredibly risky business, and the Mexican justice system is poor at protecting those who wish to make their country a safer place. A number of them inform and then seek addiction help, which means they have to attend a recovery treatment center. This can lead to the cartels hunting them down to make an example of them.
One of the most notorious incidents happened in Ciudad Juarez in 2009. Armed men burst into the El Aliviane rehab center, lined up the patients, and executed seventeen of them. Another man died the next day, bringing the total number of murders to eighteen. Reportedly, this incident was triggered because the cartel believed that some of the people at the addiction clinic had informed on various dealers, putting them out of action.
Mexico has long been a violent place, and the current war on drugs has effectively turned it into several heavily armed camps, with each faction trying to gain business or keep control. The nature of the business is brutal and bloody, and those who attend addiction clinics sometimes bear the brunt of the destruction that accompanies the drug trade.
Despite the extra resources that have been poured into the Mexican police and military, they’ve failed to regain control of the country from the drug cartels. Rampant corruption has hampered the effectiveness of drug prevention and elimination programs, and Mexican rehab centers are not the safe havens they once were.