Mica - I am not in agreement with everything I read, but this is well thought out.
How To Beat The Cartels Without Firing a Shot Source
On October 17th, 2019, with pressure from the US government, the newly formed Mexican National Guard surrounded Ovidio Guzmán López’s house in Culiacán. Lopez, the son of infamous drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, had been wanted by the US government since February. Several gun battles throughout the city ensued, but Lopez and his henchmen were able to outnumber and overpower the National Guard. The government forces withdrew and were not able to arrest the younger Guzmán, nor extradite him to the U.S.— to the dismay of Washington. If the U.S. is serious about reducing cartel violence in Mexico and drug trafficking into the U.S., then it needs to revise its policy away from securitized efforts, like the Mérida initiative, and support efforts for socio-economic development.
In 2007, US Congress approved the Mérida Initiative, a $3.1 billion plan that has provided military grade planes and helicopters, ammunition, and torture training. The initiative’s main objective was to reduce illicit drug flow into the United States. However, it’s important to note that this securitized approach was not preferred by Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Instead of fighting the cartels, Obrador had implemented a policy of “Abrazos, no balazos“: hugs, not bullets. He argued that access to jobs and better wages, especially for the youth and those living in rural areas, were a better strategy to reduce cartel violence than taking on the cartels directly with military force. However, this softer approach was ignored by the U.S. government.
To reduce $29 billion of illicit drugs coming into the country, the U.S. should acknowledge that the Mérida Initiative is a failure. Since the drug war officially started in 2006, violent crime in Mexico has steadily increased, with 2019 the bloodiest year on record. While Cocaine, the primary export of the cartels to the United States, continues to see a rise in its usage. A better plan would be for Congress to approve funds that focus on providing development assistance to create job opportunities, improve education inequality, and develop infrastructure. Addressing Mexico’s income inequality—among the highest for developed countries—cannot be an afterthought.
Mexico is a good example of how unemployment figures are misleading. Although it ended 2019 with 3.4% unemployment, 46% of the population remained below the poverty line. Underemployment is particularly an issue for those with higher education, as most sources of employment in Mexico do not require specialized knowledge or work experience. As a result, young Mexicans are drawn to the drug game, which is undeniably lucrative: “El Chapo” was able to generate over $ 12 billion in drug revenue before his arrest. If more jobs become available in professional fields, young Mexicans would not be forced to join a cartel or take a poverty-level wage.
Those without tertiary education in Mexico are at a greater risk for joining a cartel. The youth is more likely to be recruited when they are not in school. This is problematic, as 50% of Mexicans do not even receive upper secondary education— more than three times the OECD average of 15%. The more young people that are not in school, the higher number of potential recruits the cartels can prey on. Government spending per student is the lowest in the OECD- compounding the problem. Rural areas, southern states, and indigenous populations are disproportionately affected as well. For example, literacy rates in the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca—home to the largest percentages of indigenous peoples in Mexico—are more than 10 times lower than in Mexico City or the northern state of Nuevo León.
Further plaguing the marginalized rural, southern, and indigenous populations are infrastructure deficits, which exacerbate the poverty cycle and increase the appeal of joining a cartel. These communities often face a combination of unpaved roads, lack of electricity and potable water, as well as few social development programs. Since many of these settlements are established without government permission, the residents do not pay property tax. The absence of taxes disincentives the government to invest in these communities.
Given the high level of inequality in Mexico, the U.S. would be better off working with the Mexican government to address these inequities, rather than pouring more funds into the Merida Initiative. Unfortunately, the Trump administration appears committed to fighting the cartels directly: in addition to heightened border security and the infamous border wall. Trump has even considered designating the cartels as terrorists. Furthermore, when nine Americans were killed in a highway ambush in November 2019- Trump said he was ready to “wage war”. However, history shows this strategy will only result in failure.
Development policies deprive the cartels of soldiers more efficiently than military policies. Unfortunately, corruption in Mexico and the political appeal of military policies makes the implementation of an economic development strategy challenging. The short term will provide obstacles as the coronavirus has brought an increased military presence back to the streets. However, President Obrador has committed to promoting economic development during his presidency, while USAID has also started to change its tone. In 2018, USAID directed ten times more funds toward international narcotics and law enforcement than any other project. Fortunately, this year USAID concentrated the most funding towards workers’ rights, while narcotics and law enforcement was not even considered a top ten priority.
Lastly, Congress can also play a role by defunding the Merida Initiative and supporting the Mexican government’s efforts to create better job opportunities, improve education, and develop infrastructure. While this strategy will take time to succeed, the evidence shows that this is the best and only long-term solution to reducing cartel violence.
I´m highly doubtful the introduction of death penalty would be useful at all. It has been tried in Guatemala and El Salvador before, and it doesn´t work.
Besides, the problem with laws in Mexico doesn´t affect the prison regime only but the judicial power. Mexico´s law system is very different from the common law system applied in the US. You cannot think about law reform in Mexico through an strictly American scope
Do the prisons in Mexico work? Is anyone with a few dollars reformed or punished? The death penalty might not be agreed upon, but the cartel strategy will change in 2.5 years. I would imagine AMLO has opened the door for some conservative hardliners
I agree with Redlogarythm that Mexico implementation of formal capital punishment would have little/no impact. For a couple of reasons:
1. The traffickers/sicarios/bosses accept imminent death as the cost of a seat at the table. These deaths are usually much more brutal than a formal state execution.
2. I would argue that Mexico has a de facto no appeal death penalty when the state so chooses. Typically the Marinas or similar groups implement it. Elite Commando units typically have extensive training on how to extract targets alive (not 100% effective) if that is the objective.
Regarding Mexico law changes, I think MX recently posted a great summary on another thread. There have been significant changes in law over the last few years, however this has created birthing pains. Search MX posts from the last several weeks and you can find it.
My uneducated opinion is that the extremely fractured system of local, municipal, state and federal police does not help. The hope for Mexico is to make the current laws enforceable before adding new ones.
How do you guarantee aid is given without corruption though?
Unlikely to happen, but I am beginning to think that they should abandon the system of governors, or at least limit their power or establish a system where their financials are followed through microscope. To me it seems a lot of their power is intrinsic with the establishment of certain cartels.
I agree with abandoning the system of governors and/or limiting their power.
In post-revolutionary Mexico, governors have a lot of autonomy since the intention was to reduce the power of one political figure (the President) and share it with an entire political group (which became the dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI). Regional politics was created as a miniature version of the national scene.
In practice, political officeholders at a state level enjoyed way more autonomy than expected; governors were free to spend their funds as long as they did not openly confront central policy outlines. As the PRI's influence began to decline in the 1980s, state-level party members began to abuse these measures. If you ask me, that is when the pax mafiosa shifted from the federal government to the states (i.e. in my opinion, after the Federal Security Directorate was dissolved in 1985).
@MX: Pax Mafioso for sure. Well put and a very significant thought on the end of DFS, and the growth of governor power. To me it seems like that empowerment was used very differently around the Mexican states in terms of the rise of the cartels, and I am wondering why? Some places the governors had the initiative towards and even creating the local cartel, and other places the cartels had the initiative buying off the local state. Tamaulipas and Sinaloa looks very different in that perspective. Was it just coincidence or were there some factors I don't know about?
Is there any kind of debate about the division of power in Mexico at the political or intellectual level? There must be more people recognizing these autonomous governors as a problem.
It is kind of hard to find those opinions in Mexico for me so if you come across anything, I would very much like to read them.
It is more of a developing thought and it might be wrong, but if you look at Tamaulipas through our discussions and your research, it seems people like Yarrington and others both before him and after laid down the foundation for the CDG/Zetas we know of in the last 20 years VS in Sinaloa/Jalisco I don't even know of any of the governors through that era and to me it seems like the power was with the cartel already and there, perhaps because they were in collusion with the central government even before DFS was cut. The same seems to be the case with Tijuana and Juarez.
So if we assume that the closure of DFS, which was the enforcement arm of the central government, opened up opportunities for the governors around, why was there opportunity in Tamaulipas and not other places. It might have just been the M.O. of CDG as wherever they spread, they were in collusion with the governor, Coahuila and Veracruz among others, and the actual power balance between the governor and the TCO is blurry, but to me it seems like the governors had more power in the criminal enterprise than say, Jalisco, Sinaloa, Baja California etc.
I guess I am unclear, but my theory is that the decentralization lead to redistribution of power where governors were either active or passive participants in the crime schemes.
Thanks for your insight. I really don't know the answer to your question.
I think it may have to do with the fact that Tamaulipas was not a drug-producing state. This essentially ruled them out of having a chance to control important parts of the drug trafficking's supply chain and be under the central government's control early on.
Based on my findings, Tamaulipas was mostly a contraband corridor throughout the 1940s and up until the early 1970s for foreign goods coming into Mexico. Mexico had an import substitution industrialization (ISI) model and advocated domestically-produced goods over foreign ones. Juan N. Guerra led this contraband system and was not necessarily involved in drugs. I've found mentions of heroin and marijuana seizures in the 1950s along the Tamaulipas border, but it seems like Tamaulipas criminals simply crossed it and had no control over anything else.
Governors came in later, but I think it may have to do with the fact of consolidating power/drugs in Tamaulipas when the national PRI was looking less promising.
@MX: Again you light up my brain. Being a non-producing state is a really interesting thought. So do you think that Juan N. Guerra was never asked to participate in Felix Gallardo's federation as has been fictionalized in series and stories? I always felt that there was something unreal about that whole story.
I guess there was a power vacuum up for grabs in Tamaulipas that wasn't really there on the west coast, but who was the first governor to seize the opportunity? Yarrington was probably in his own league refining the takings, but perhaps not the first? Emilio Martínez Manautou? Américo Villarreal Guerra? Manuel Cavazos Lerma?
How does the Mérida Initiative replace GM ,FORD and Chrysler's duties for setting up hundreds of maquilladoras aka (sweatshops ) as I remember that was the deal too make better roads and schools and give back .then again are those not the people who put senators and politicians on the right seat for things can dissapear ? Is that difficult to figure out who s Trump's biggest contributers too put him on that oval office ?mencho was sporting brand spanking new trucks for his elite squad I wonder if those where donated also ?