Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Crossers

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Crossers

by Philip Caputo

Crossers by Philip Caputo
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2009, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2010, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Illegal Drug Use in the USA
The primary protagonist in Crossers is the head of a powerful Mexican drug cartel specializing in the sale and distribution of both marijuana and cocaine.

Illicit narcotics have been smuggled across the Mexican border into the United States for decades, and the illegal drug market in the United States is one of the most profitable in the world. According to The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) approximately 70% of all foreign narcotics enter the US via Mexico, most of it concealed in some of the 116 million vehicles that cross the border annually. Smaller amounts are carried over in backpacks, frequently by people paying back others for helping them enter the United States illegally. The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) estimates that illegal drug sales in the country amount to between $13.6 and $48.4 billion annually.

Originally, the major importers were Columbians who frequently contracted with Mexican criminal organizations to handle transportation of the drugs into the US. These subcontractors would return the contraband to the Columbians for sale and distribution after safely getting the product into the United States. This business model has changed somewhat in recent years. Rather than paying in cash, the Columbians started reimbursing their carriers with part of the drug shipment, allowing the Mexicans contingent to distribute and sell – and also assume more of the risk. Mexican market share has increased recently, due in part to enforcement efforts in Columbia that resulted in the deaths of several prominent drug lords and otherwise disrupted operations. Competition has also increased significantly between the Mexican cartels, leading to ever more horrific acts of violence between rival gangs.

Marijuana is the most widely abused and most readily available illicit drug in the United States, with an estimated 11.5 million current users. The DEA estimates that at least one third of the US population has used marijuana at some point in their lives. It continues to be relatively inexpensive, averaging $60 to $80 per ounce and is the second most commonly used drug by schoolchildren, behind alcohol. According to a 2005 study, 16.5% of eighth graders, 34.1% of tenth graders, and 44.8% of twelfth graders reported having used marijuana. The drug's consumption appears to be growing, partially due to shifting attitudes about the drug's dangers and a relaxing of the laws prohibiting its use.

Cocaine, the other staple of the Mexican drug cartels, is a highly addictive narcotic that affects the brain. In 2005, the DEA estimated that over 34 million Americans had used cocaine at least once in their lifetime, with 2 million partaking of it regularly and 8% of 12th Graders claiming to have tried it at least once.

Both the United States and Mexican governments have recently renewed initiatives to combat the drug trade. There is an increasing realization, however, that trafficking will continue as long as demand is high, and that the United States needs to do more to curb drug use among its citizens.

Article by Kim Kovacs

This article was originally published in November 2009, and has been updated for the October 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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