Violence: Mexico's curse

Twenty-sixteen was a very violent year in Mexico.

According to a new article at the N.Y. Times, the violence exploded when two things happened:

The forces driving violence in Mexico, which is now on track for its worst year in decades, were first set in motion 20 years ago by two events that were, at the time, celebrated as triumphs.

First, Colombia defeated its major drug cartels in the 1990s, driving the center of the drug trade from the country into Mexico.

Then, in 2000, Mexico transitioned to a multiparty democracy.

This meant that the drug trade moved to Mexico just as its politics and institutions were in flux, leaving them unable to address a problem they have often made worse.

Since then, a series of bad breaks, missteps and self-imposed crises have led to an explosion of violence. 

Last year there were more than 20,000 killings.

This year is on track to be worse, exceeding the 2011 record, which was thought to be the drug war's apex.

Yes, there is no question that some of the Colombia cartels moved their operations to Mexico.  Add to this the political turmoil, and you have a lot of problems.

However, I would add a couple of factors.  This is what I hear from my Mexican friends who are appalled at the violence in their country:

First, Mexico's police are not ready.  The police force needs to be rebuilt, retrained, and better paid.  To be fair, Mexico has tried over the last few years, but it needs to try harder.

We are living the legacy of decades of not respecting the police and expecting officers to feed their families by asking for bribes.

It is not possible to fight cartels exclusively through the military.  The armed forces have killed a lot of cartel leaders and arrested people like El Chapo.  Unfortunately, they've left in office the corrupt local administrators and police, who are a huge part of the problem.

As a Mexican businessman told me on the phone yesterday, it's nice we got Chapo, but what about the local corruption that protected him?

Second, the justice system in Mexico, as my friends tell me, is uneven in how it enforces laws.  There are still too many judges in the pockets of organized crime.

What does Mexico do now?  It's hard to find an easy answer because there aren't any.  So get ready for more articles about violence in Mexico.

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