Before 1980, drug trafficking across the Mexican border had been reduced to just marijuana and small amounts of heroin that were distributed by a large number of scattered organizations. This zone was barely used at all to bring in cocaine. Those illegal shipments arrived through the Bahamas or in small planes that flew from Colombia into Florida.
Everything changed in the ‘80s when Washington increased its control over the Caribbean. In response to the interdiction policy, the Colombian cartels consolidated their relationships with the main Mexican drug traffickers. It was only a few years before close to 85 percent of cocaine entered through the Mexican-American border. The increase in trafficking led to the growth of cartels like the Juarez, Sinaloa and Tijuana Cartels. Everything worsened in the ‘90s when the Colombian drug traffickers began to replace payments in dollars with payments in cocaine. This allowed their partners in Mexico to create their own distribution networks, with their own customers and rules.