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Mexican drug cartels got a boost from plummeting corn prices


The war on drugs has traditionally focused on arresting cartel members and destroying product, but a new research paper from political scientists at New York University suggests an unexpected force that may be driving some farmers to drug cultivation: the price of food. Plotting the dynamics of Mexican drug cartels against the price of corn between 1990 and 2010, From Maize to Haze posits a new dynamic in the drug trade, in which a plummeting corn price leads farmers to shift to growing poppies or marijuana, which then spurs violence as cartels fight over control over the newly created drug production. The studys authors zero in on the plummeting price of corn, Mexicos largest agricultural product, which dropped 59 percent in the 15 years after 1990, thanks in part to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. At the same time, the authors track a rise in local drug production and an increase in drug-related murders in corn-producing areas.

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