Friday, June 24, 2011

The hot drug war south of the river and Mexico's 2012 elections

Check out the best recent analysis I've seen of the potential impact of the 2012 Mexican presidential election on that country's hot and bloody drug war, from Scott Stewart at Stratfor who argues that diversification of cartels into extortion and other organized-crime venues gives criminal gangs a business model, albeit with reduced revenues, even if drugs were legalized. Stewart thinks "the conditions on the ground leave the Mexican president with very little choice. This means that in the same way President Obama was forced by ground realities to follow many of the Bush administration policies he criticized as a candidate, the next Mexican president will have little choice but to follow the policies of the Calderon administration in continuing the fight against the cartels." As an aside, Stewart adds an observation voiced on Grits in the past, that diversification into non-drug related organized crime:
is also a factor that must be considered in discussing the legalization of narcotics and the impact that would have on the Mexican cartels. Narcotics smuggling is the most substantial revenue stream for the cartels, but is not their only line of business. If the cartels were to lose the stream of revenue from narcotics sales, they would still be heavily armed groups of killers who would be forced to rely more on their other lines of business. Many of these other crimes, like extortion and kidnapping, by their very nature focus more direct violence against innocent victims than drug trafficking does.
IMO that's both spot on and extraordinarily depressing, since the status quo in northern Mexico is unsustainable and the Mexican military response not only ramped up the killing, but contributed to further political destabilization throughout northern Mexico. Some questions arising from the piece include, how will public dissatisfaction translate in the Mexican electoral arena next year? Will any candidate offer the public a realistic alternative to military deployment? For that matter, is there a realistic alternative and if so, what is it (beyond legalizing narcotics)? Can the next Mexican president, from whatever party he hails, stop the bloodshed surrounding cartel feuds, however noble or well-meaning their intentions? Can any strategy, however brilliant, survive implementation by corrupt law enforcement, and how can corruption be rooted out? Taking the suggestion at face value, how would the US react to Mexico striking accommodations with cartels in exchange for peace instead of crushing them militarily, if it came to that? Assuming Mexico won't allow US boots on the ground in their country (a safe bet) what influence can the US really have on that sort of street-level law enforcement?

North of the river, I doubt what's happening in Mexico will become an issue seriously discussed in the US 2012 presidential election, at least nothing besides vague discussion of preventing "spillover" onto American soil, ignoring that almost all of the so-called spillover happens in the other direction. Obama's Mexico policy has been substantively no different than his predecessor's. How many Mexicans must die in Juarez and other border towns, often at the hands of American-based gangs working as assassins for Mexican cartels before the the US decides Mexico is a more pressing problem than Moammar Qadafi? Or will they wait until the killings ramp up in El Paso, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, etc.? ¿Quien sabe?


Anonymous said...

Don't know if this is actually true so it may be more of an inquiry than statement.

Supposedly under our Federal Law, if Mexico were to declare itself in a state of civil war the US cannot deny entry to anyone fleeing the oppression of war?
If this is true, that would mean an unprecedented number of Mexican people would flood the US overnight. The hurrican that hit Louisiana and displaced so many people would pale in comparison to the mass influx of people fleeing Mexico.

No doubt, our infrastructure would not be prepared or able to handle such an occurrence. Much less our financial/economic infrastructure.

Anonymous said...

Grits, ever since you came back from Mexico you've been supporting Rick Perry and now you're criticizing the Obama administration. What gives? Is it really you? :)

PirateFriedman said...

8:13, the percentage of the population that is immigrant is still way less than it was in 1900. So I'd say we can absorb another amount equal to 5% of our population, or another 15 million.

Actually though, I do think Obama cares about Mexico in his own perverse way. I expect to see more American aid and more Mexican prisons in the next 20 years. The violence of the cartels will be replaced by the hidden dehumanization of the prison system.

David said...

Start dropping suggestions of opening negotiations with the cartel over recognizing them as the true government there -we all know Calderon doesn't control northern Mexico- and there would be decisive Mexican action using socials methods that exclude guns and soldiers.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

8:13, I've never heard of that, and anyway Mexico is unlikely any time soon to publicly declare this a "civil war."

11:24, we've apparently stepped through the looking glass. :)

David, what would that look like? Who should negotiate with whom, over what?

Bandido said...

I have an idea.....

Let's send Mexico our prisoners convicted of serious drug offenses since the majority of the drugs that enter the U.S. come from Mexico anyway.

This way we would not be overcrowding our prisons and Mexico would have more free laborers to chose from.
they have to be just about out since most of them are over here anyway.....

Bandido said...

Another problem solved by good ole American ingenuity!!!!!

Mexfiles said...

Stratford is generally wrong in their assessments (and their business is promoting gloom and doom) but — while they are correct in that U.S. drug legalization probably won't end criminality here (though the U.S. getting a grip on its money laundering and gun running problem might help quite a bit), there isn't much change that the "drug war" will survive the change in administration here.

PAN will lose the presidency, that's a given. While the presumptive PRI candidate (Enrique Peña Nieto) has said he'd continue it, that seemed to be more for U.S. consumption than anything domestically. Who the PRD candidate or if there will be a united leftist ront candidate is still unclear, but all parties are distancing themselves from Calderón (with a few PANista exceptions) and this "war". It is deeply unpopular and growing more so every day. Economic and social issues are likely to be much more important to Mexican voters than what is seen as "Mexicans dying for U.S. drug addicts".

Pirate Rothbard is, alas, probably correct, that more Mexicans are going to prison. Justice reform is a major issue here, but there's a sense that just getting more criminals off the streets is reform enough. Our prisons are woefully overcrowded (here in Mazatlan, a large number were transported to new colonies on Islas Marias recently) and, like in the U.S., prisons are seen as steady employers. However, the very idea of private prisons is considered bizarre by everyone, left, right and center (not to mention the Catholic Church)and no way Mexico would house U.S. prisoners. That's been suggested before, and rejected out of hand.

Anonymous said...

A key component missing here is the ability of those in Mexico to defend themselves. Many of us take for granted the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, especially the 2nd amendment. What we see in Mexico right now is the end result of gun grabbing and gun confiscation: a totally defenseless populace who is at the mercy of murderous criminals on one hand, and totally corrupt government officials on the other.

Mexico should stop treating its citizens as slaves. Preventing a people from self-defense only leads to over-centralization and a police state...where all "solutions" come from the top-down, and are often just as bad the problems they attempt to solve.

PirateFriedman said...

03:46:00, I oppose gun confiscation. But the character of the violence in Mexico is a result of drug confiscation, not gun confiscation. I see that as the real problem.

(PirateRothbard is now PirateFriedman)