Mexican police have found at least 14 dead bodies in the wake of a bloody cartel shootout in Las Varas. The tiny town is located in Chihuahua State, Mexico, and is around 150 miles from the US border. This battle comes on the heels of another drug battle that killed 17 last week in Mazatlan, with rising violence creating an extremely unstable situation in Mexico.

The shooting started around 5 am on Wednesday the 5th of July, and is thought to have taken place between a cartel known as “La Linea”, and another cartel from Sinaloa State. The amount of violence that Mexico is seeing has never been higher in their post-revolution nationhood, and up to this point in 2017 more than 11,000 people have been killed.

Sticky black profits

Mexico is dealing with the rise of heroin as the major cash crop for their massive criminal culture, and as the US shifts towards decriminalized Marijuana, the situation in Mexico is expected to grow worse. The rising tide of opiate use in the US is creating a brand new market for the Mexican cartels, and the production of heroin is well suited to their business model.

Mexico has been a grower and trafficker of Marijuana for most of the 20th century, but unlike heroin, the profits from Marijuana were far lower. In addition to being far more bulky to smuggle across the northern border, there was more competition in the market from illicit US growers.

The high-profit drug of choice for the Mexican cartels was always cocaine, but Mexico isn't well endowed when it comes to producing coca plants.

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Heroin is a perfect mix for the cartels, as it is easy to smuggle in large quantities, and poppies can be grown easily in many climates.

Blowback

While business is good for the cartels, the effects of the Heroin trade on the social fabric of Mexico have been disastrous. All along the now notorious Highway 51 the results of this growing social dynamic can be seen, in the battered and broken pueblos that are suffering at the hands of sometimes organized crime.

Local law enforcement has fled the entire area, and the citizens who aren't able to leave are left to protect themselves with quickly assembled militias. While there is some support in the form of help from the Mexican Army, most of the residents feel like they are badly outgunned.

The federal policy of going after cartel strongmen and splintering their gangs seems to have backfired, as there are now huge numbers of poorly organized heroin trafficking gangs who are fighting violent battles for control of previously peaceful villages.

Heroin use in the USA has skyrocketed over the last decade, and given its current rate of use, there won't be any peace in Mexico anytime soon. The use of the naturally occuring opioid has risen as much as 500% over the last decade according to a recent study, so the market for Mexican heroin is not going anywhere.