Mexico's Drug War and America

Although thousands of drug-related killings have occurred in the border town of Ciudad Juárez each of the past few years, the recent murders of an American consulate worker and her husband seemed to amplify the gravity of Mexico's ongoing drug-fueled warfare. While some may reflect upon the recent spate of violence gripping Mexico as emblematic of her gross inability to contain the increasingly violent drug cartels operating within her borders, doing so would constitute a grave miscalculation. In this period of conflict, the United States should reaffirm its commitment to the underlying tenets of the Merida Initiative and increase its support for the efforts of Mexican President Felipe Calderón in taking the fight to Mexico's drug cartels and simultaneously attacking corruption within the ranks of his government.

Signed into law nearly two years ago by President George W. Bush, the Merida Initiative was a significant piece of collaborative legislation, both symbolically and practically. Committing nearly $1.5 billion in aid to Mexico and a select number of Central American nations over three years, the Merida Initiative primarily sought to assist President Calderón in modernizing Mexico's efforts to combat the numerous drug cartels that have been presiding over an underground economy worth tens of billions of dollars. The modernization efforts included the sale of improved communications technology, technical advice, and equipment training, and modernized helicopter and surveillance aircraft intended to aid in Mexico's interdiction efforts.

President Calderón additionally has attempted to address the attendant corruption that has risen within Mexico's government and military structure. Taking on such an endeavor has not been without its own set of difficulties, as evidenced by the recent upsurge in violence. But it is precisely for this reason that Mexico's allies must stand firm with her during trouble. Although the predominance of violence has remained within Mexico's borders, it would be a mistake to assume that the struggle is hers and hers alone.

Since the collapse of the Colombian drug cartels in the early nineties, Mexico has been both an entry-point and origin-point for tremendous amounts of illegal drugs migrating to the United States and bound for U.S. markets. The trade in illegal drugs has proven lucrative for the seven or so major drug cartels that operate within Mexico. Among them, estimates of between $15-$50 billion in annual sales of illegal drugs are exchanged on the black market within the United States. The drugs that make their way to the United States cause untold social and economic strife within the varied communities they infiltrate.

Drugs are related to numerous crimes and various forms of social deprivation. In the United States, nearly one-third of all state prison inmates and over twenty percent of all federal prison inmates report having been under the influence of drugs at the time of their offense. Crimes having a nexus to illegal drugs include offenses as wide-ranging as mere possession to domestic assault and sexual battery. It requires little imagination to understand the depth of significance that illegal drugs have on the totality of crime in the United States. 

The realization that illegal drugs play such a significant role in the damaging of American society underscores the shared nature of the crisis that is currently engulfing Mexico. It is also within this realization that the U.S. government should commit to a more robust and pervasive role in assisting the Mexican government in its fight against the drug cartels.

Although violence has increased during the time in which the Merida Initiative has been in place, such violence is not indicative of the initiative's failure. As pressure mounts upon the individual cartels, they have found the need to strike back in violent measure, often at both the government and at each other. Disputes over real estate from which to engage in the cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution of illicit drugs have caused many drug-trafficking organizations to begin clashing among one another. In this light, the escalation of drug-related violence in Mexico can be viewed as a byproduct of the pressure placed on the cartels rather than emblematic of a nation's disintegration into chaos.

Further, Mexico is not alone in its fight to contain corruption and violence stemming from the drug trade. Recently, Guatemalan authorities arrested the national police chief, Baltazar Gomez, along with their nation's anti-drug czar on charges of actively participating in drug-trafficking. Mr. Gomez's arrest accounted for the second time in less than a year that the head of the national police has been charged with similar crimes. Given its shared border with the United States, Mexico's violent struggle has garnered ample attention in the American media, but it is by no means an issue isolated to the Mexican landscape.

It is time for the Obama administration to up the stakes and fully commit the United States to offering its sincere assistance to the Mexican government in such a crisis. American lives are in peril and will increasingly be so until the Mexican government can finally break the back of those running the heretofore lucrative drug trade in Mexico. Revisiting the Merida Initiative and increasing funding for the efforts of a willing and engaged Mexican government can send a signal to drug-trafficking organizations the world over that the United States will stand by her allies in what amounts to a shared burden.

The United States should not run in the face of adversity but rather stand tall in this unified struggle. A Mexico secured by the rule of law and not suppressed under the thumb of narco-terrorism will benefit both the Mexican people and their allies to the north. While efforts to reduce demand within the American market must also accompany any long-term solution to the drug crisis, an opportunity now exists to strike at the heart of its supply.

Scott G. Erickson works in public safety and holds his Master of Science degree from the University of Cincinnati. Follow him on Twitter @SGErickson.
Although thousands of drug-related killings have occurred in the border town of Ciudad Juárez each of the past few years, the recent murders of an American consulate worker and her husband seemed to amplify the gravity of Mexico's ongoing drug-fueled warfare. While some may reflect upon the recent spate of violence gripping Mexico as emblematic of her gross inability to contain the increasingly violent drug cartels operating within her borders, doing so would constitute a grave miscalculation. In this period of conflict, the United States should reaffirm its commitment to the underlying tenets of the Merida Initiative and increase its support for the efforts of Mexican President Felipe Calderón in taking the fight to Mexico's drug cartels and simultaneously attacking corruption within the ranks of his government.

Signed into law nearly two years ago by President George W. Bush, the Merida Initiative was a significant piece of collaborative legislation, both symbolically and practically. Committing nearly $1.5 billion in aid to Mexico and a select number of Central American nations over three years, the Merida Initiative primarily sought to assist President Calderón in modernizing Mexico's efforts to combat the numerous drug cartels that have been presiding over an underground economy worth tens of billions of dollars. The modernization efforts included the sale of improved communications technology, technical advice, and equipment training, and modernized helicopter and surveillance aircraft intended to aid in Mexico's interdiction efforts.

President Calderón additionally has attempted to address the attendant corruption that has risen within Mexico's government and military structure. Taking on such an endeavor has not been without its own set of difficulties, as evidenced by the recent upsurge in violence. But it is precisely for this reason that Mexico's allies must stand firm with her during trouble. Although the predominance of violence has remained within Mexico's borders, it would be a mistake to assume that the struggle is hers and hers alone.

Since the collapse of the Colombian drug cartels in the early nineties, Mexico has been both an entry-point and origin-point for tremendous amounts of illegal drugs migrating to the United States and bound for U.S. markets. The trade in illegal drugs has proven lucrative for the seven or so major drug cartels that operate within Mexico. Among them, estimates of between $15-$50 billion in annual sales of illegal drugs are exchanged on the black market within the United States. The drugs that make their way to the United States cause untold social and economic strife within the varied communities they infiltrate.

Drugs are related to numerous crimes and various forms of social deprivation. In the United States, nearly one-third of all state prison inmates and over twenty percent of all federal prison inmates report having been under the influence of drugs at the time of their offense. Crimes having a nexus to illegal drugs include offenses as wide-ranging as mere possession to domestic assault and sexual battery. It requires little imagination to understand the depth of significance that illegal drugs have on the totality of crime in the United States. 

The realization that illegal drugs play such a significant role in the damaging of American society underscores the shared nature of the crisis that is currently engulfing Mexico. It is also within this realization that the U.S. government should commit to a more robust and pervasive role in assisting the Mexican government in its fight against the drug cartels.

Although violence has increased during the time in which the Merida Initiative has been in place, such violence is not indicative of the initiative's failure. As pressure mounts upon the individual cartels, they have found the need to strike back in violent measure, often at both the government and at each other. Disputes over real estate from which to engage in the cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution of illicit drugs have caused many drug-trafficking organizations to begin clashing among one another. In this light, the escalation of drug-related violence in Mexico can be viewed as a byproduct of the pressure placed on the cartels rather than emblematic of a nation's disintegration into chaos.

Further, Mexico is not alone in its fight to contain corruption and violence stemming from the drug trade. Recently, Guatemalan authorities arrested the national police chief, Baltazar Gomez, along with their nation's anti-drug czar on charges of actively participating in drug-trafficking. Mr. Gomez's arrest accounted for the second time in less than a year that the head of the national police has been charged with similar crimes. Given its shared border with the United States, Mexico's violent struggle has garnered ample attention in the American media, but it is by no means an issue isolated to the Mexican landscape.

It is time for the Obama administration to up the stakes and fully commit the United States to offering its sincere assistance to the Mexican government in such a crisis. American lives are in peril and will increasingly be so until the Mexican government can finally break the back of those running the heretofore lucrative drug trade in Mexico. Revisiting the Merida Initiative and increasing funding for the efforts of a willing and engaged Mexican government can send a signal to drug-trafficking organizations the world over that the United States will stand by her allies in what amounts to a shared burden.

The United States should not run in the face of adversity but rather stand tall in this unified struggle. A Mexico secured by the rule of law and not suppressed under the thumb of narco-terrorism will benefit both the Mexican people and their allies to the north. While efforts to reduce demand within the American market must also accompany any long-term solution to the drug crisis, an opportunity now exists to strike at the heart of its supply.

Scott G. Erickson works in public safety and holds his Master of Science degree from the University of Cincinnati. Follow him on Twitter @SGErickson.

RECENT VIDEOS