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Can Mexico Beat the Cartels?

By Alex Ruiz – Global concerns can be very complex and confusing. Sometimes actions taken by one country to resolve a problem make progress, but sometimes actions actually make the issue worse. One such example is the drug war in Mexico. This has become an immensely complicated issue that has no simple solution. This short description of the main issue, will discuss the actions taken by Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico, to resolve the issue and its symptoms. It will also describe the apparent results of those government actions. The analysis provided in this paper will point to the fact that the war on drugs has put Mexico in a worse position short term than before Calderon took office. It is yet to be determined if there will be long term success since the only results that have been realized this far are increased violence and more illicit US/Mexico border activities. It appears that as one gang falls, the next one gains strength from these new found unattended opportunities. First, producing and selling illegal drugs has many negative effects. The most glaring issue is the violence this creates. During the four years Calderon has been in office, 34,612 Mexican citizens have been killed in drug-related deaths. (BBC News). This number includes suspected drug members, law-enforcement and innocent bystanders. Another example is the growing and selling of illegal drugs in Mexico and how it affects other countries. The US imports 90% of its cocaine supply though the US/Mexico border. Other countries suffer from the effects of this illicit importation. Yet another impact example is the cost to fight drugs and deal with the shortage of funds for other programs. Tax dollars to pay for anti-drug activity (Just Say No programs, detox 1


facilities, welfare, etc) is very expensive. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, the US spent $180.9 billion in 2006 (National Drug Intelligence Center) on activities such as these. These dollars could have been spent on improving schools, infrastructure projects like street repair or water line upgrades, green energy improvements or any other example of positive programs. All of this cost, in life and money, began with Felipe Calderon declaring war on the cartels in December of 2006. He proposed that the country redirect their law enforcement to directly target these gangs, their leaders, and those that support them. He decided that utilizing the police forces as well as the military would be necessary to stop the drug trade flowing through their country. They are doing this in a joint effort with the United States using over one billion dollars through the Meridia Initiative. (Gootenberg) The Meridia Initiative was set up by the United States government to aid in drug imports suppression. The money declared for this was used for fighting drug trafficking in Central America and several Caribbean nations. This offensive was met with a resistance nobody expected. The rate of deaths due to this war has increased every year. To put this amount of death into perspective, of the 34,612 deaths mentioned 89% (BBC News) of the people killed were executed. This includes law enforcement and community opposition members. Mayors of towns, councilmen, and even normal citizens are being wiped out in order for the Cartels to maintain control. The fear of the gang members not only keeps citizens from reporting suspicious activity, but it also aids in the recruitment of more members. The recruitment of kids in close proximity is successful due to the limited choices available in the community they are in.

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It also happens due to intimidation. Either join and be protected or face the consequences. In retaliation, Calderon’s administration began capturing high profile drug traffickers as another tactic to weaken the cartels. This was seen as a way to weaken the criminal organizations and hopefully lead to the disintegration of the gang. Several arrests were completed without incident while some of the attempts resulted in the deaths of several leaders. Both of these end results were considered victories by the government. In one case, two brothers were leading a central Mexican gang. Two weeks after Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed in a shootout with military troops, his brother Carlos was captured in Sinaloa (QNA). The capture and death of the brothers would seem to weaken their gang, but the group they had separated from was now retaking control of lucrative drug routes and was strengthened by these developments. They were able to control this due to a lack of resistance on a now leaderless gang. In many cases there are members inside each organization ready to take the helm. But in situations where a hierarchy was not established, the confusion and lack of organization leaves the gang open to attack or assimilation. The country of Colombia once employed the tactics being used by Mexico. The drug trade was out of control in the 1980’s and through joint efforts with United States, it was found use of extreme force is a initial step towards stopping the drug trade, but not the only solution. Other solutions included finding strategies to offer job opportunities, education and boosting infrastructure to the country. This was coupled with a reintegration program for former gang members and guerillas. Colombia is

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proving that there are more ways to accomplish the goals than what is being utilized right now. The war on drugs in Mexico appears to be failing. However, this could be true for the short term only. If the country’s leaders are to follow some of the examples of Colombia with progressive social welfare programs, the long term results could be quite positive. Force is being used now, but it does not need to be the only answer. The idea that urban planning can change the path of a country gone astray is being proven in Medellin, Colombia which was once considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Mexico hopes these four years of Calderon are the beginning of a plan that has taken over 20 years for Colombia to begin to see the positive results of the war on drugs efforts. For the sake of a country that has seen centuries of suffering I personally hope that Mexico can thrive and become a success story for other countries in despair to “spur economic development� (Llana).

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Works Cited

Author Unidentified. “Q&A: Mexico’s drug-related violence”. BBC News. January 21, 2011. Accessed 1/30/2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10681249 Author Unidentified. “The Impact Of Drugs on Society”. National Drug Intelligence Center. January 2006. Accessed 2/9/11. www.justice.gov/indic/pubs11/18862/impact.htm Gootenberg, Paul. “Blowback: The Mexican Drug Crisis”. NACLA Report on the Americas. November/December 2010. Accessed on 1/30/2011. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_go1653/is_201011/ai_n56828586/ Llana, Sara Miller. “Colombia offers clues for solution to Mexico drug war”. Christian Science Monitor. 8/4/2010. Accessed 1/30/2011. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2010/0804/Colombia-offers-clues-for-solution-toMexico-drug-war QNA. “Mexican Drug Lord Captured”. Arabia 2000. 1/3/2010. Accessed on 1/30/2011.

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Can Mexico Beat The Cartels?