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10 Conclusions

1. Farmers’ participation in producing and trafficking drugs has represented a survival strategy in a context of exploitative economic relations. Illicit economies constitute one route for escaping from a subaltern position in a context of chronic economic and social crises in the Mexican countryside.

2. In the productive chain of heroin, much of the money generated is captured by legal and illegal intermediaries. This means that the fantastic profitability of the final product has an almost null structural impact on inequalities, discrimination, criminalization, or the lack of State investment.

3. Illicit crops cannot develop without relations with the State. Far from observing the absence of the State, our work reveals an absolute distrust on the part of inhabitants towards public authorities, despite constant interaction with them. What matters here, then, is understanding qualitatively how public authorities are present and behave.

4. The studies that describe drug markets as mechanical, predictable, easy-to-read worlds could not possibly be further from reality. We find complex networks of intermediation, ephemeral realities, and constants impositions, fluctuations, and threats.

5. Drug markets depend on a succession of actors –both public and private– that link producers to consumers. Through this form of labor organization, peasants have been converted into specialized “poppy workers” as growers, labourers, slitters (rayadores), transporters (corredores), gatherers (acopiadores), heroin cooks, traffickers, or hitmen.

6. Poppy production has been related to the peasantry. The high prices that were maintained between the 1990s and 2017 contributed to limiting migration (except in the Montaña region of Guerrero). Yet, the crisis of 2017 caused a new exodus of workers towards the cities and poles of agroindustry in northern areas of Mexico.

7. Illicit markets do not flourish in an economic or political vacuum. The comparative advantage of certain territories for drug-trafficking –like Sinaloa– resides in the power of legal commercial infrastructures. Its dynamism and competitiveness, anchored in the licit economy, provide the best support for illicit economies as well. Analyzing these, then, is essential for understanding drug-trafficking and its contemporary evolutions.

8. Gum prices have recovered since mid-2020. Yet, the 2017 crisis still has dramatic social consequences that are felt even more acutely in indigenous regions (the Montaña of Guerrero and the Sierra of Nayarit). Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated such precariousness without weakening the drug trade in any substantial way.

9. War on drugs and State interventions have converted subsistence farmers into efficient drug producers. At the same time, they contributed to strengthening identities –principally indigenous– and resistance against State or criminal groups’ domination.

10. Numerous studies have argued that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected drug trade. Despite the months of fieldwork, we are still unable to support this hypothesis. This serves as a reminder that we know very little about the mechanisms that nourish illicit markets and trigger their fluctuations. Hence, we need to produce more independent data that shall provide a better understanding. On opium production, the only data available are the ones provided by SEDENA regarding its eradication activities. It is urgent that we find a way out of this situation.

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