by Peter A. Lupsha & Kip Schlegel


In this paper we examine the effects of this drug trafficking contrabandista activity, the rise and decline of Mexico’s leadership as an exporter of illicit drugs, and some of the effects of organized trafficking on the political economy of both Mexico and the United States. Smuggling and contraband are endemic to borderlands. As one knowledgeable observer estimated, “anywhere from 20 percent to 30 percent of all economic activity along our Southwestern border is illegal contraband. Of this contraband trade only a small percentage involves the smuggling of illegal drugs. Most of it involves the illegal rebalancing of border-created supply-and demand inefficiencies. Coffee, instant cocoa, parrots, vehicles, appliances, human labor , mercury, guns, or drugs make up the traffic, and whatever is expensive in one nation and cheap in another provide the incentive to the contrabandista. Like many kinds of crime and criminal activity, smuggling is functional and helps satisfy larger systemic needs.