Mexicans drug trafficking presence is growing in Spain, according to a story in El Universal (link in title of post). In 1998, two Mexicans were in jail in Spain; this year, it was 302. 98 percent were in on drug-related charges.
Spain's interior minister apparently believes the reason for Mexican cartel expansion into Spain is due to the US market being saturated and increased vigilance on the US-Mexico border. This strikes me as nice diplomatic talk, praising US-Mexican counter-drug efforts rather than actually looking at the reality.
The reality: drugs continue to flow unabated into the US, regardless of the Calderon administration's successes and failures in Mexico.
Spanish consumption of drugs is on the rise, as is consumption in much of western Europe. It's a nice place to ship drugs to these days.
Spain is a very attractive destination for drug flow. Lots of coastline, lots of little towns with very little policing through which to move the merchandise, lots of unemployment; and a network of gangs is already established to distribute (this now falls to the West Africans, as the North Africans have moved up the economic food chain in recent years, according to counter-drug officials) and European organized crime syndicates can move larger amounts of drugs throughout Europe quite easily.
In any case, the El Universal report is not really surprising, and is likely true throughout Europe. In researching the Last Narco, I talked to several experts who had studied arrests and seizures in Europe, and they all had evidence that the Sinaloa cartel had bought property and made criminal connections in Eastern Europe in order to expand. How many Mexican traffickers there are running around Europe right now remains to be seen, but if reports that they are taking over distribution operations more and more from the Colombians, well, it's kind of a given that they'll be operating more and more in Europe.
What will be interesting to watch in the coming years is how the Calderon drug war affects expansion to Europe. We've already seen Los Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel spilling into Guatemala and other Central American nations – as a result of the crackdown in Mexico, as the authorities see it – but if the Mexican cartels continue to expand in Europe, it'll be a pretty clear sign that the drug war is quite futile.