The War Next Door

Thirty seven people were killed in the border city of Tijuana this past weekend in the latest spate of drug related violence. Overall, the death toll in Mexico's drug wars have now surpassed 4,000 for the year, up about 50% over 2007.

It's increasingly clear that Mexico's drug violence is reaching epic proportions and President Calderon's efforts seem insufficient to date in dealing with the drug violence that is growing both in scope and in tenor. Mexico now looks like Colombia did back in 1983, aware that there is a problem and yet beyond noting the mounting death toll seemingly unable to stem it. Colombia has made strides in fighting the drug trade but 25 years on, Colombians are still fighting it and not terribly pleased about it. And now Mexico is looming as a foreign policy challenge for the incoming Obama Administration and Latin America seems largely off Obama's radar. Then again, the Bush Administration was hardly engaged in the region either.

To combat the rising tide of drugs, the Bush Administration has proposed the Merida Initiative:

The Initiative's Scope The Merida Initiative is a multi-year program to provide equipment, training, and technical assistance to support law enforcement operations and for long-term reform and oversight of security agencies. This year, Congress approved an initial $400 million for Mexico and $65 million for Central America, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which was passed in the FY08 Supplemental. The President's FY09 budget proposal for the Merida Initiative includes $450 million for Mexico and $100 million for Central America.
Drugs, Violence, and Gangs in the United States The effects of Mexican drug trafficking organizations and Central American criminal gangs are felt in nearly all parts of the United States. Many state and local governments are diverting scarce resources from key areas, including education and housing, to focus countering the effects of Mexican and Central American gangs and trafficking organizations. An estimated 30,000 transnational gang members operating in the United States engage in serious crimes such as murder, drug trafficking, extortion, human smuggling, and prostitution. Mexican drug trafficking organizations operate on both sides of the border, resulting in violent gun battles which have killed or wounded dozens.

$400 million is a start but I suspect it will require hundreds of millions more in assistance. Or we could think outside the box and perhaps starting looking at drug addiction as a medical problem and not just a criminal one. At some point, the United States has to start taking responsibility for the demand side of the equation. It isn't always a supply issue. When it comes to the drug equation, demand seems to be off the table.

Then there is the problem that Mexican gangs are sourcing an estimated 70% of their weapons in the United States. We provide the ammo, Mexico provides the bodies. Not exactly a fair trade especially as the toll of innocents adds up. There is also an unbelievable sheer viciousness to this latest wave of drug violence. In Michoacan, the home state of President Felipe Calderon, 17 heads have turned up this year, many with bloodstained notes like the one found in the highlands town of Tepalcatepec in August: "See. Hear. Shut Up. If you want to stay alive." All told some 200 Mexicans this year have been found beheaded.

I suspect that in 2009 Mexico's drug violence will be a more common topic of conversation. It is one of the most under-reported stories of 2008 though both the Houston Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times have covered the issue well.

More from the Council of Foreign Relations:

Mexico's economy is slowing--remittances from abroad are down, as is U.S. demand for Mexican exports. But one sector is doing a brisk business--the funeral industry near the U.S. border (Reuters). Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon began his offensive against drug cartels and organized criminals in December 2006, drug-related killings have escalated, as has the need for undertakers. Though the drug war receives minimal attention north of the border, some authorities say it increasingly threatens the stability of the Mexican state and poses a security threat to the United States. Calderon has moved aggressively against Mexico's drug cartels. He has deployed over thirty thousand soldiers across the country, purged several police forces of corrupt members, and pushed a judicial reform package through Congress. But the violence has only mounted. More than four thousand people have died in drug-related violence this year, up from more than 2,500 deaths in 2007. The escalation is so great that drug gangs are widely suspected of causing the plane crash in early November that killed the interior minister, though the government says pilot error was the cause (NYT).

Illicit billion dollars industries have a tendency to play all the cards at their disposal. It's only a matter of time before Mexico's drug wars spill across the border. After all, the United States is the market.

Tags: Drug Violence in Mexico, Merida Initiative, Mexico (all tags)



Re: The War Next Door

I like the demand side theory of treatment/preventative.  But the supply side could be modified by legalization to significantly eradicate the highly profitable black market.  People will get the drugs no matter what if they want them, mainly addicts fueling the demand, so legalization would be helpful, in both feeding the addicts without the added gang trade/violence, but also fund treatment centers through some taxation.  Also, cleaner drugs, also get users out of jail for consumption alone- the state savings could be redirected to treatment as well (or to our deficit, or both)

But would legalization lead to a rise in consumption by non addicts looking for  good time (which could lead into addiction, death? Probably/maybe, but don't those people already get their weekend fun anyway?  

I know many may find this reprehensible (or sensible), but in times of emergency sometimes radical theories need to be tested.  Of course the answer to this can vary like snowflakes, accounting for everyone's personal veiwpoints or subjective view on the issue.    Personally, I am more comfortable with legalising certain natural leafy drugs, but that wouldn't seem to have the same effect on the black market which appears to be centered around hard manufactured drugs.  But the real question is, would this cause more problems that it would solve?  anyone have a crystal ball?

by KLRinLA 2008-12-04 05:47PM | 0 recs
Read Al Giordano's site

For those who want to better understand what's going on in our hemisphere, read:

Take this recent article, for example: k/kristin-bricker/2008/11/us-police-trai n-mexican-police-torture

by barath 2008-12-04 05:54PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

When a government declares war on its own people, both are fated to lose.

by SuperCameron 2008-12-04 06:03PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

Hmm so what's the most popular drug these days, is it still meth? I know here in Iowa most of the local people went out of business after the Sudafed laws so now we only have the int'l guys.

by MNPundit 2008-12-04 06:05PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

Meth is a huge problem. In Oregon, some absurd proportion of all crimes are meth related.

While meth is generally cooked in the US, the ingredients to make are brought in from Mexico. Mexico is not a manufacturer of ephedrine, the key ingredient in crystal meth. But the country's pharmaceutical sector is a major importer, buying mostly from China and India. Ephedrine you would think would be easy to control. Only nine factories worldwide manufacture it because it requires a specialized chemical process. But Big Pharma is opposed to any worldwide regulation of the trade.

by Charles Lemos 2008-12-04 06:41PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

Yeah, to echo MNPundit, what drugs are we demanding from Mexico?  I know I get the few illicit substances I ever get from sources closer to home.  Shop local.  It's locally grown.  

Meth is not something I touch but a big problem in my home town and again something that is made in someones basement nearby.

Cocaine?  I thought that came from Columbia.  Heroin or other opiates?  I thought that came from Afganistan/Pakistan.

As I'm sure I've already exhibited in this comment, I'm not really on drugs much, so to speak.  Are the above mentioned drugs coming through Mexico?  What is Mexico producing and what are they acting as middle-men for?

Am I a crazy librul if I suggest that legalizing the trade of most of these drugs would make them easier to regulate?  Just askin'.

Now I'm gonna read that article linked by barath like I should have done before I wrote this comment.

by jlars 2008-12-04 06:18PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

in Juarez, Mexico around 20-30 people were slaughtered this past week. And not a peep from the US. Its the equivalent of terrorism yet we do nothing. I grew up 5 minutes from Juarez in El Paso, TX my entire life, my parents still live there, and during thanksgiving with them 8 people were shot in an upscale restuarant in MX. 16 bodies were found in a high school football field, 8 were decapitated. a 14 yr old girl was strangled. Just yesterday an American citizen was shot dead in the street.

November was the deadliest month this year. Have you heard anything beyond the Border states NO. How is that even possible.

throwing money at Mexico's CORRUPT gov. wont help. The cartels have infiltrated every level of gov. I object to more money being given to bought out officials. Something must be done but trying to heal this with cash isn't going to work. It hasn't been,and it wont if the corruption continues to swallow border cities. The army, the officials, the police, you cant trust alot of them because the cartel has gotten to them either through money or through threats. The cartels have more power than the gov. at this point.


by alyssa chaos 2008-12-04 06:40PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

Like I said, it's one of the most under-reported stories of the year and it requires attention.

by Charles Lemos 2008-12-04 06:54PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

yeah it is. for people in the Boderland though, it seems like everyday another person is found murdered in our sister city.

by alyssa chaos 2008-12-04 07:04PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

Well it is over ten a day across all of Mexico but the toll is highest in Baja Norte, Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Coahuila. This just reminds me of Colombia in 1983 when we began our descent into madness.

by Charles Lemos 2008-12-04 07:12PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

I feel so sick about the whole thing, because really I see no realistic way I can help, the people seem powerless in the face of such violence. I heard today 13 kids were tied up an shot in Sinaloa today. makes me sick to hear the murder toll rise everyday.

by alyssa chaos 2008-12-04 07:51PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

In Colombia, we went through hell. But Mexico seems already worse in some respects. The beheadings are surreal. The mystery over the Interior Minister's plane crash.

by Charles Lemos 2008-12-04 07:58PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

yeah man I totally believe the plane crash was set up to do exactly what it did, stop him from meddling in the cartels business. When we heard the news of his death we all knew it wasn't an accident. it was just to coincidental.

it so crazy the violence against journalists too. Anyone in the cartel's path is destroyed, including the journalists just trying to report the carnage.A journalist was slain last week, shot in front of his daughter. There was a warning before his death, a head in the Plaza of Journalists.

Word on the street from Juarenses is that they think an army has had a hand in the killings. Dont know if its true, I wouldn't doubt it though.

its utter madness, chaos and terror.

You are right, the parallels between Colombia and Mexico are there.

The question though for the US and Mexico alike is how to address this surge of drug violence. With aid from the US to the MX gov? or something more comprehensive.

by alyssa chaos 2008-12-04 08:22PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door
Normally the editors here at are spot on in their ability to cut thru the fog of the Bush spin but in this case this is way off the mark. As in most things, Bush doesn't give a rats ear about Mexico or its citizens (his view on US citizens is the same of course).  The author of this piece fails to inform us of Bush's close family business ties to Mexico. His brother is a big business wheeler dealer down there assumedly in the oil/gas business. However, the Bush's are "always about the money". Why do you suppose that Bush is sending $400 million to Mexico--don't think for a minute that his brother and their business associates will skim off millions of dollars. For example, over 1/2 the money is for soft projects. I don't mind money for upgrading radios, police equipment, etc. which can be inventoried and accounted for but over $200 million is for "training, intelligence gathering, spending on citizen education (as if the Mexican government ever spent any of its rich citizens money on education of any kind). This is an area that we all know is easy to skim money and for the corrupt business interests in Mexico will get our millions of our tax dollars. Don't be fooled--Bush's business friends are salviating over the prospect of getting their hands on that money.
Just as in Iraq where billions of dollars have gone into dead-end projects, training, propaganda where there is no accountablity, this Mexican deal is a dream come true for Bush and his crime syndicate.
A realistic assessment of this thing will provide the same conclusion about everything Bush does. For example:
  1. Bush spends hundreds of billions of our dollars on 'homeland' security but leaves our 1200 mile long border completely open to Mexico since 9/11.
  2. Bush pushes Congress into passing FISA which allows him and his hencemen to listen in on our cellphones (aided by ATT and Verison of course) but at the same time millions of the prepaid untraceable cell phones are sold each year.
This is just another Bush crime family steal.
by hddun2008 2008-12-05 07:49AM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

So you are for the Border Fence/Wall?

I agree that Bush has done nothing but thrown money at a corrupt and incapable gov, but do you think a Border Fence will stop whats fueling the drug war [intense poverty and high demand]? Nope. The wall is a short sighted solution that never addresses the drug war itself or any of its factors, and that my friend is where Bush and the repubs have fooled you.

by alyssa chaos 2008-12-05 08:45AM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

I am not endorsing the Merida Intiative. That was simply a straight report of what it purports to want to do. What I am saying is that it is an under-reported story as the crisis grow worse by the day and requires a greater airing.

The LA Times is running an excellent series on Mexico's troubles.

by Charles Lemos 2008-12-05 01:59PM | 0 recs
Re: The War Next Door

Part of the problem is the "help" the U.S. provides is often not that helpful. From yesterday's AP story about the $197 million released by the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico at a formal signing ceremony in Mexico City (emphasis added by me):

The aid plan includes no cash but provides helicopters, surveillance aircraft, airport inspection gear and case-tracking software. It also supports efforts to weed out corrupt police and protect witnesses.

However, Mexico's National Human Rights Commission says, most will go to notoriously corrupt police forces and the same military whose soldiers have tortured, raped and killed innocent civilians while battling the cartels.

by LakersFan 2008-12-05 09:20AM | 0 recs


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