Wednesday, February 21, 2018
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In a July 28, 2009 article for the Washington Post, journalists William Booth and Steve Fainaru assert that support for Mexican President Felipe Calderon's military-led, U.S.-backed drug war is waning not only among ordinary citizens but within the Mexican government as well ("New Strategy Urged in Mexico"). As their article states, "There are now sustained calls in Mexico for a change in tactics, even from allies within Calderon's political party, who say the deployment of 45,000 soldiers to fight the cartels is a flawed plan that relies too heavily on the blunt force of the military to stem soaring violence and lawlessness." Ramon Galindo - a senator, supporter of the President, and former mayor of border city Cuidad Juarez - told Booth and Fainaru that "The people of Mexico are losing hope, and it is urgent that Congress, the political parties and the president reconsider this strategy."
Although U.S. DEA chief of intelligence Anthony Placido, when "[a]sked whether he would make any changes to [Calderon's] strategy," answered with a resounding "None," Mexico's northern neighbors do anticipate a lengthier, more violent, and more costly battle than either side had initially estimated. Indeed, Mexico faces unique challenges due at least in part to its geography and economic situation. The Post states that "Mexico [...] faces a more daunting challenge" than comparison countries like Colombia "in part because it sits adjacent to the United States, the largest illegal drug market in the world. In addition, at least seven major cartels are able to recruit from Mexico's swelling ranks of impoverished youth and thousands of disenfranchised soldiers and police officers." Still, in spite of the challenges, "U.S. and Mexican government officials say the military strategy, while difficult, is working," citing arrest and extradition statistics as evidence for their claims. But many inside Mexico disagree. Analysts like Carlos Flores, "who has studied the drug war extensively for Mexico City's Center for Investigations and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology," told the reporters that "I'd like to be more optimistic, but what I see is more of the same polarizing and failed strategy." Earlier in July, "[l]awmakers in Chihuahua state [...] debated [...] whether Calderon's surge was a 'total failure,'" particularly in light of the fact that "drug gangs have [apparently] infiltrated the military's intelligence networks and figured out how to circumvent the guantlet of security forces in Juarez."
Because "neither high-profile arrests nor mass troop deployments have stopped the cartels from unleashing spectacular acts of violence," many Mexican officials say they don't know where to turn for answers. "There are no alternatives," Monte Alejandro Rubido, who works as "Calderon's senior advisor on drug policy on Mexico's National Security Council, told the paper. However, some officials, like Galindo, say they have "urged Calderon to change course. Instead of relying on the army to destroy cartels, he said, the federal government should work to strengthen local communities that are most vulnerable to the traffickers." Carlos Heredia, "a former Michoacan official who now works as an analyst at a Mexico City think tank, said the government's iron-fisted approach is a recipe for failure in regions where mistrust of the government is high," particularly when cartels are, as the Heredia claims, "play[ing] Robin Hood" to win "the hearts and minds of the local population."
Despite dissension and against the advice of several of his allies and partners in the government, "Calderon has no intention of changing course," and the United States has his back - even as the Mexican leader is growing "increasingly isolated" in his own country. But with violence unquellable even through military force, that the Mexican population and their governing officials are questioning the President's policies comes as little surprise; it may, however, act as a small beacon of hope to those looking for change in an otherwise bleak landscape.