Jul 17, 2012
We are not North America. We may have more than twice the number of citizens and over six times the gross domestic product [GDP] as our two neighbors combined, but we still share this continent with two highly sophisticated and globally important nations. We are also not the largest land-holder or the oldest modern society in the region. It is time we acknowledge this positive reality and take more of an interest in our geographically closest allies, especially Mexico.
Given the nearly daily mention of immigration and our southern border in the current presidential campaign, we may believe that we are thinking a lot about Mexico. However, while Mexico has its own southern border concerns and serious issues with undocumented immigrants, it’s the drug war and the violence it has brought that gnaws the most at the nation’s collective psyche. The seemingly interminable war undermines confidence in local and national government. It makes everyone, rich and poor, uneasy.
Mexico’s internal war on drugs started in earnest nearly six years ago. Newly elected President Calderon, hoping to quell the fighting among drug cartels, first sent the military to Michoacán to confront the cartels in December of 2006. The war has escalated in scope, brutality and deaths every year since. It is estimated that over 55,000 people, including cartel members, traffickers, police, military, prosecutors and innocent bystanders, have been killed in the war. If things do not change soon, the number of people killed will surpass U.S. casualties during the Vietnam War.
Among the deceased are dozens of Mexican journalists – men and women who were fearlessly dedicated to exposing the brutality of the cartels, political corruption and the ineffectiveness of the state’s response. The offices of media outlets have been bombed, prompting some to end coverage of the drug war. These attempts at curtailing the freedom of the press through the murder of journalists and blatant attacks on property, while representing only a small part of the overall human tragedy, bear stark witness to the constant devolutionary pressure created by the cartels. They also demonstrate that the cartels will spare no one and no expense in their campaign to undermine the government’s attempt to rein in the cartels’ corrosive influence.
While more direct responsibility for this violence may lie with those who produce and traffic the drugs, we, as a nation, are also complicit in this matter. Our seemingly unquenchable thirst for drugs sends tens of billions of dollars a year into Mexico. (Estimates of the annual value of the drug trade between the U.S. and Mexico range from $10 to $50 billion.) The public service messages about how the purchase of illicit drugs in the U.S. funds the assassination of judges in vulnerable countries like Mexico may have stopped – but the fact remains. We cannot deny that the drug market is U.S. driven and that it provides the fuel that keeps Mexico burning.