And now Lopez-Obrador goes after the cartels
Since President Calderón put the Mexican Army in the streets in 2007, Mexico has been in an undeclared war with the cartels.
President Calderón and President Bush agreed to The Merida Plan, an effort to provide Mexico with military equipment and technology to track down cartel leaders. The good news is that many cartel leaders were eliminated. The bad news is that Mexico's army was not prepared for sustained combat or guerrilla-type tactics.
According to a journalist friend in Mexico, funerals of Mexican soldiers killed in this war are now common in towns across the nation. He believes that the government keeps the funerals quiet to avoid discussion of the human toll of the conflict. He also told me that the casualties are similar to Afghanistan, but I've never been able to confirm that.
President Peña-Nieto changed in 2013 from a focus on the army and decided to create a better police force. It worked to a point, but the cartels are still around. It takes many years to develop a good police force, especially in a country that never cared a lot about the professionalism of its police officers.
President López-Obrador has changed the strategy again and is going after the cartels' finances, according to news reports:
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is taking aim at the finances of the powerful Jalisco cartel in what a top anti-money laundering official said was an opening salvo in the fight to stop criminal gangs from flourishing with impunity[.]
It's a good idea, but will it really discourage the formation of other cartels?
The U.S. and Mexico need to work together on reducing the consumption of illegal drugs up here. It's in both countries' interest. You can't send billions of dollars south without encouraging more cartels. You kill or destroy this or that group, and then another pops up. Too much money is driving the business south of the border.
Mexico needs to come to terms with the porous nature of the U.S.-Mexico border. Most of us focus on the northbound drug traffic, or the illegal aliens. The real threat to Mexico is the southbound traffic in cash and weapons. These "dólares" and high-powered machine guns are making it difficult for the Mexican army to win this conflict.
We wish the new president well, but sitting down with President Trump about the porous nature of the border should be a priority.
For years, the Mexican political class had the attitude that the cartels are simply feeding our appetite for drugs. That's true, but they are also messing up Mexico's political and legal system, driving up violence to unsustainable rates: homicides up 18% over 2017 by mid-2018.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.