The United States is the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs. That insatiable appetite needs a supplier, and Mexico is more than happy to comply. This Latin American country has been the biggest supplier for over a century: alcohol during the prohibition, cheap workers for many generations, and now drugs of all types.
This documentary takes an exclusive look inside to explore how drug cartels have been able to rise to so much power and to find out how this billion-dollar industry works.
Many small restaurants act as a front for money laundering and drug production. In the kitchen of one such establishment, a group of men cook crack. Reporter Stuart Ramsay is allowed to look and film as the gang uses rudimentary cooking utensils to prepare their specialty, which is crack cocaine. They add baking soda and rat poison to make it stronger. Cooking crack has its own technique so any small mistake can mean that a pot worth $15,000 is lost. This specific batch is to be sold on the streets.
There are thousands of labs such as these around the city. This particular gangster invests about 30% of his earnings to bribe police officers or city officials, and buy guns to protect himself from other gangs. Still he makes millions of dollars. It’s a risky business and bloodshed comes with the territory, but the money is good.
Another small lab they visit has a more sophisticated look. The workers here are chemistry majors and one is even working towards a PhD. Their equipment is slightly more developed and their specialty is methamphetamine or crystal meth. These workers are heavily protected because of the toxicity of the fumes that are produced during the cooking. This Mexican meth is purer and hence superior to that produced in the United States. That’s why it’s sold at such a high price. It takes only two days to get from the lab in Mexico to the streets in the US. Clearly, the cartel knows how to ship its goods better than many delivery companies.
Finally, they get to an industrial size lab where the drug is cooked in huge drums then sent off to what looks like somebody’s living room. At this last location a group of young men sit silently for hours and fill capsules with the crystal meth. At the end of their two-day nonstop shift, the young men are unable to relax enough to sleep and they all have terrible headaches, but they are making money and that’s all that matters to them.
A drive through the city of Juarez with a cartel lieutenant reveals that about 80% of the businesses there have some type of involvement with drugs. It’s not about making drugs, though. It’s all about making money.