Solving The Crisis In Mexico

Although cocaine still flows from Colombia, the days of drug lord Pablo Escobar and the Medellín cartel are over. Mexican drug cartels have now become the dominant cocaine traffickers in the world, says Donald C. Chipman, a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and a national security affairs fellow for 2009-2010 at the Hoover Institution.

Closure of the cocaine trafficking route from Colombia into Florida via the Caribbean has pushed traffic through Mexico, increasing the role of Mexican cartels in trafficking:

  • According to the Mexican press, there were 7,600 deaths in the 2009 drug war.

  • The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency maintains that Mexican cartels are starting to show all the hallmarks of organised crime and that they have organised into distinct cells with subordinate cells that operate throughout the United States.

    The problem Mexico faces is eerily similar to, if not worse than, the problem Colombia faced in the 1990s. Mexican drug cartels openly conduct horrific acts of violence in major cities in broad daylight with little fear of retribution. They blatantly remain on the streets of border cities, blending into the population and relying on corrupt officials to turn a blind eye. But there is reason to be optimistic, says Chipman:

  • Like Colombia in the late 1990s, Mexico has a functioning state and a decent economy, despite suffering from a weak state presence and a deteriorating rule of law.

  • As with Colombia, restoration of government institutions and state-strengthening measures are needed to combat narcoterrorism; this can be achieved in Mexico, but it will take the assistance of the United States.

    The lesson learned from Colombia is that Mexico must implement oversight mechanisms that detect and deter corruption, and also engage in counternarcotics efforts to address the systemic problems that enable drug cartels to gain power and influence.

    Restoring public order in Mexico must begin with the goal of bringing about judicial reform, re-establishing the sanctity of government institutions and fostering efforts to improve law enforcement and military capacity.

    The most meaningful assistance the US can provide would resemble that of Plan Colombia: a combination of intelligence-gathering and -sharing efforts for counterterrorism and anti-crime purposes, as well as military and technical assistance for counternarcotics operations such as border interdiction, says Chipman.

    Source: Don Chipman, Solving the Crisis In Mexico, Hoover Institution, July 2, 2010.

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    First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, United States

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 10 August 2010

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