I’m in Mexico. So, I should write about Mexico.
And of course what better to write about than the drug war. Today, the Washington Post published an article about how Calderon’s use of the military to counter-drug gangs has increased human rights abuses and may ultimately lead the US to limit assistance under the Merida Initiative.
Personally, I doubt the US will decrease Merida Initiative funding because of human rights abuses. Mainly, this is because most of the assistance given to Mexico is just equipment bought and built in the US which is then sent to Mexico. And what legislator would ever vote against spending money (especially if it goes to their district)???
Anyways, I have different concerns about Mexico’s militarization of the drug war besides the impact it may have on Merida Initiative funding.
Here they are:
- Mexico’s military has high approval-ratings amongst the public (I wish I had a percentage but my googling skills are off today). As citizens grow weary of military operations in their neighborhoods their confidence in the institution will go down. In comparison, the police at all levels in Mexico are widely seen as corrupt (once again, I wish I had numbers but if my memory serves me right only about 20% of the population has confidence in the police to do the right thing). The deployment of both the police and military in the drug war has diminished public confidence in both institutions.
- Now, the question of last-resort. Is the use of the military in this capacity a last resort by Mexico to stop the illegal drug economy? Essentially, if the military’s deployment as primary counter-drug agents fails and the rest of the judicial system is seen as ineffective, then what are Mexico’s remaining options?
- Recently the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) won the plurality in nation-wide congressional and some gubernatorial elections. For those who can remember, PRI dominated Mexican politics for over 70 years. During this time period, drug violence was down mostly because of the symbiotic relationship shared by drug dealers and PRI officials. The resurgence of PRI during these last mid-term elections is widely seen as a referrendum on the continuing drug violence and the desire for a less confrontational drug policy.
- Lastly somewhat related but not, Mexico has moved quietly to decriminalize minor drug use and possession in an effort to distinguish between small-time drug users and big time dealers. This move is widely supported because it is believed to limit the strain placed on law and order institutions and will allow for easier targeting of high-level drug operators. Will this be so, or will it lead to wider-acceptance of the drug trade, both large and small, within Mexico?