Some aspects of narcotics control in Mexico


Legislation - narcotics offences
National control of narcotics


Author: Lic. JUAN BARONA
Pages: 1 to 5
Creation Date: 1964/01/01

Some aspects of narcotics control in Mexico


Legislation - narcotics offences

Mexico participates in most of the international treaties, conventions and protocols for the control of narcotic drugs.

For the national control, the Government - through the appropriate channels --has enacted the laws that are in force. The most important provisions are specified in the Health 1 and Criminal 2 Codes. The first one controls legitimate commerce and activities relative to narcotics - viz., importation, manufacturing, distribution, bookkeeping of the pharmacy stocks, registration and control of doctors' and veterinarians' prescriptions.

The Federal Criminal Code has a chapter entitled "Delitos contra la Salud" (Crimes against health). To deal with narcotics - buy, transfer, purchase, sell, acquire, make transactions, convert, be in possession of, furnish without charge, give and take them - without a permit or authorization from the Health and Welfare Department is a federal crime which is punishable, as stipulated in the Criminal Code; also, to be in possession of seeds or plants of Papaver somniferum, cannabis, coca bush or leaf is absolutely forbidden and, consequently, punishable; to induce a minor, a relative, or any other person to use narcotic drugs is the most serious violation and is punished with a fine from I00 to 10,000 pesos and from two to twelve years' imprisonment. Cultivation of the opium poppy, the cannabis plant and the coca bush is absolutely prohibited. The last-mentioned does not grow in Mexico due to climatic conditions.

National Federal Judicial Police

The National Federal Judicial Police, under the direction of the Attorney-General's Office, is the enforcement agency in charge of enforcing the Federal Criminal Code. In other words, the Federal Judicial Police, which has jurisdiction over all the national territory, has the power and duty to investigate and prosecute all federal crimes, among which is included the investigation of narcotic violations. There are about 100 federal agents assigned to the various Federal District-Attorneys' Offices, ranging from at least two up to five in each office. In the headquarters office in Mexico City, specially trained agents are designated to specific divisions of law-enforcement work, among which is the narcotics division. Some of these agents are stationed in the northern border area.

Código Sanitario de Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.

Código Penal para el Distrito y Territorios Federales, aplicable en materia federal.

The Problems

There are four different types of problems regarding narcotics in Mexico:

(a) The cultivation of Papaver somniferum and the cannabis plants. - The illicit poppy plantations are loca- ted in the north-western states of the republic, mainly in Sinaloa, Durango and the southern part of Chihuahua; however, due to the vigorous campaigns, the cultivators have begun to migrate to other states, such as Michoacán, Chiapas and Jalisco. There are two mountain chains in Mexico, the western and eastern Sierra Madre. The cultivation of the poppy is located in the most inaccessible mountain regions (see figure 1). The cultivators often prefer to plant small poppy fields in mountain cliffs, which makes it easier to conceal them.

FIGURE 1. - Poppy field detected in the State of Sinaloa; two federal agents are waiting for the rest of the squad to destroy the plantation.

Full size image: 62 kB, FIGURE 1. - Poppy field detected in the State of Sinaloa; two federal agents are waiting for the rest of the squad to destroy the plantation.

FIGURE 2. -- A clandestine plantation of marihuana detected near Tetela del Volcan (Morelos), during the 1961 campaign.

Full size image: 110 kB, FIGURE 2. -- A clandestine plantation of marihuana detected near Tetela del Volcan (Morelos), during the 1961 campaign.

Marihuana plants grow wild in the Mexican territory, but there are illicit plantations, camouflaged in forests and corn fields.

(b) Marihuana traffickers and consumers.- There are a few marihuana drug addicts. They belong to different parasocial classes- "rateros" (thieves), ex-convicts, vagrants, and soldiers. These drug addicts encourage to a certain extent the internal or local traffic. Furthermore, there are marihuana cultivators, generally illiterate persons, who are lured by traffickers to raise and process the marihuana, which is purchased by them at a very low price. The trafficker then packs it in small bundles, of one pound or one kilogramme, and smuggles it into the United States. Often these traffickers deal with heroin and opium as well as with marihuana.

(c) Traffic along the northern border from Tijuana to Matamoros (Pacific Coast to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico). - Traffickers in this area are wholesalers and pedlars of marihuana and heroin. Illicit transactions are made along the border towns with American drug addicts as well as pedlars.

(d) International traffic. - There are foreigners, members of international crime organizations, who have been abusing Mexico's hospitality by making it a place for the transhipment of drugs and negotiation of illicit transactions. Arrangements are then made for the smuggling of the narcotics into the United States. These traffickers are the most dangerous. They have money, associates, connexions, automobiles, machine-guns, and are fearless and shrewd in their efforts to outsmart the federal police.


Since 1947 many "amapola" (poppy) fields have been destroyed and some clandestine laboratories, in which the raw opium was converted into heroin, have been detected and seized. In 1962, approximately 389 hectares of poppy fields were destroyed. In 1963, during the intensive phase of the campaign, about 200 hectares of "amapola" plantations were detected and burnt.

FIGURE 3. - Cultivators of marihuana arrested. Evidence is in the sacks and the truck.

Full size image: 47 kB, FIGURE 3. - Cultivators of marihuana arrested. Evidence is in the sacks and the truck.

To locate these fields, aeroplanes and helicopters are used. Photographs are taken which, when developed, are shown to the agents, in order to assist them in locating the plantations; also, maps are marked showing the places where the fields are located. Plans are discussed in detail and the following day agents and soldiers in jeeps drive as close as possible to the fields, for the purpose of arresting the cultivators, if they are found, and destroying the poppy fields. In the most inaccessible areas, the aeroplanes and helicopters guide the land squad in the location of the fields. It is a dangerous task, not only owing to the natural risks taken, but sometimes to the aggressive nature of the cultivators.

FIGURE 4. - Incinerating the marihuana plants in a "corral ", under the surveillance of the soldiers and agents, in a small town ( Guanajuato ).

Full size image: 54 kB, FIGURE 4. - Incinerating the marihuana plants in a

FIGURE 5. - On 5 September 1963, in Mazatlán (Sinaloa), agents of the Federal Judicial Police arrested Armando Peña Avilés and seized 500 grammes of pure heroin- shown in the plastic bags.

Full size image: 97 kB, FIGURE 5

Equipment used for the campaigns

1962 campaign



Hours flown

Hiller helicopter
Hiller helicopter
Aerocommander 500-B (crashed)
Monoplane - Cessna 182
Monoplane - Cessna 180
10 jeeps Every jeep travelled an average of 5,000 miles.
1963 campaign:
Hiller helicopter
Hiller helicopter(crashed October 1963)
Aerocommander 680-F
Monoplane - Cessna 182
Monoplane - Cessna 180

Summary of seizures from January to September 1963



Raw opium
Opium seeds
Marihuana seeds

In March, April and May of 1962, the campaign to detect and destroy the illicit plantations and to arrest the cultivators was carried out by agents of the Federal Judicial Police. Reconnaissance flights were made in the States of Chiapas, Michoacán, Jalisco, Durango and Sinaloa. As stated previously, 389 hectares of poppy fields were detected and destroyed. The production of raw opium from these plantations would have been sufficient to produce about 800 pounds of pure heroin. If such heroin had been smuggled into the United States and sold in the illicit market, the traffickers would have made a profit of several millions of U.S. dollars. The efforts and discipline of the federal police agents, with the co-operation of the army, co-ordination with the pilots, and the use of new equipment resulted in Mexico's greatest destruction of poppy fields.


In January 1963, two agents (mechanics) were sent to the Hiller Manufacturing Corporation, Palo Alto, California, for a second training course in the maintenance and upkeep of the aircraft.

FIGURE 6. - On 6 September 1963, at 7.00 p.m. in Mazatlán (Sinaloa) at the" Las Arenas "Hotel, agents of the Federal Judicial Police arrested (from left to right) : Fernando Zazueta Gomez, Manuel Tostado Gomez and Ernesto Fonseca Lafarga, and seized 500 grammes of pure heroin, shown in the picture.

Full size image: 42 kB, FIGURE 6

FIGURE 7. - One kilogramme of pure heroin, seized in Mazatlán ( Sinaloa ) .

Full size image: 40 kB, FIGURE 7. - One kilogramme of pure heroin, seized in Mazatlán ( Sinaloa ) .

An official of the Attorney-General's Office was awarded a fellowship by the United Nations, and he took a training course in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Training School in Washington, and later travelled through Europe to familiarize himself with the narcotics and those in charge of the suppression of illicit traffic.

Full size image: 544 kB

National control of narcotics

Co-operation with the U.S.A. Authorities

Several years ago, anyone wishing to purchase heroin at the border (Tijuana and Mexicali), or in the Mazatlán and Culiacán areas, had only to ask a taxicab driver, and he could obtain the drug. However, due to the vigourous enforcement campaign and the numerous arrests made, it is no longer easy to buy narcotics in those places. Now, a prospective narcotics buyer must be introduced to the seller through another purchaser, who must have the ability to prove that he is a reliable purchaser.

FIGURE 8. - Narcotic offences: indictments and sentences

Full size image: 32 kB, FIGURE 8. - Narcotic offences: indictments and sentences

The autor wishes to state that the federal authorities of the United States have been most co-operative with the Mexican Federal Judicial Police, furnishing information to reduce the flow of narcotics. This mutual assistance has resulted in the arrest of many traffickers and seizures of large quantities of narcotics.