When the U.S. Marines banned their soldiers from taking leave in Tijuana, Mexico, it was one of those little symbols that suggested the tempest of modern Mexico, a nation engaged in a brutal civil war pitting often corrupt government officials against major drug cartels seeking free passage and safe haven in that border nation. The above headline, taken from a recent Pentagon report, is the worst-case, but very possible end-game for Mexico’s government if it is unable to stem the tide of this drug war. The recent headlines are filled with horrific stories; a recent story depicted one “cleaner” who apparently disposed of over 300 cartel murder victims in vats of acid.
The cartels have their fingers in almost every Mexican state, almost all police departments and at the highest levels of government everywhere. Estimates place the actual leadership of over 8% of the Mexican municipal governments directly in the hands of cartel leaders. Murder is as common as traffic accidents. CBS.com (Jan. 28): “[T]here's even more evidence the cartels are operating with near impunity as they wage bloody battle for control of lucrative smuggling routes into the U.S. It's only 28 days into the new year and already there have been 400 drug-related slayings across Mexico… Last year ended with a grisly flourish: 12 soldiers were found decapitated with this note: ‘For every one of us you kill, we'll kill 10.’”
Some states are dirtier than others, but none can compete with the vile corruption of Sinaloa, a state that rests on the Pacific. The December 28, 2009 Los Angeles Times presented this little vignette: “Yudit del Rincon, a 44-year-old lawmaker, went before the state legislature this year with a proposition: Let's require lawmakers to take drug tests to prove they are clean. Her colleagues greeted the idea with applause. Then she sprang a surprise on them: Two lab technicians waited in the audience to administer drug tests to every state lawmaker. We should set the example, she said. They nearly trampled one another in the stampede to the door, Del Rincon recalled.”
The escalation in this drug war, which has decimated tourism and made life or ordinary citizens living hell, was precipitated by a crack-down initiated by Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon; Mexico’s cartels retaliated with their own militias, getting tip-offs of raids and strategies from their huge cadre of well-paid and highly corrupt officials within the government. Violence exploded, making much of Mexico too dangerous to travel.
It’s easy to overlook this instability, a notion we usually save for countries like Pakistan – where its Western Tribal District is not even under any sort of meaningful government control… but this is Mexico, literally a two hour plus drive from my home in Los Angeles. Imagine a narco-terrorist country with a long border with the U.S.
Shortly before his inauguration, President Obama met with Calderon to explore America’s involvement in solving this very threatening situation. We already supply over $400 million for equipment, software and training for use in this drug war, but Mexico wants to step-up the intelligence-sharing, direct cooperation and financial aid from the U.S. Given the potential consequences, I can’t disagree, bad economy notwithstanding. It is vastly less expensive to stop this drug war on the other side of the border.
I’m Peter Dekom, and I approve this message.