An editorial by Jorge Chabat
A phrase that is frequently repeated in the Mexican media and by many analysts is that the fight against drug trafficking by the Calderon administration has failed. The critics say that the government has no clear strategy on how to tackle this problem and has placed too much emphasis on the use of brute force by law enforcement and the military. The solution, they say, is a change in strategy.
However, the strength of the critics of the war on drug trafficking begins to fade when only vague proposals and alternative strategies are presented that do not take into account the degree of penetration of the State by organized crime. And that is precisely the problem: the drug cartels in Mexico have characteristics that are not seen in other countries that have been more successful in controlling the violent effects of this criminal activity.
In other words, the degree of penetration of the Mexican government by the drug cartels means that many of the strategies that work to prevent the destabilization of the State in other countries do not work in Mexico.
Not understanding this is to think that drug trafficking is an unchanging phenomenon which does not evolve and which can always be fought the same way, which is simply false.
The origin of this state of affairs in Mexico is complex. On the one hand, security and justice institutions in Mexico have never worked in a legal sense. Corruption and compromise have always been their main feature.
On the other hand, partly because of this weak legal foundation, a complacent Mexican State allowed the drug cartels to grow to the extent that the State was penetrated to its very core. Once the drug cartels infiltrate state institutions, the ability to combat criminals is diminished substantially.
And therein lies the main problem in the war against drug trafficking. All strategies against organized crime are based on the assumption that government institutions are bound to fulfill that mission. And in Mexico that is simply untrue.
The state apparatus is not working in Mexico’s drug war because a good part of it is on the side of the criminals. It is not a problem of strategy, it is a problem of corruption.
From this point of view, corruption is not a problem: it is THE problem. It is useless to put emphasis on military operations or intelligence work, or on measures of prevention: the underlying problem is that none of these measures inhibit the criminals from committing crimes, simply because the state is broken and offenders know it.
It is stressed that we must attack drug finances to end the power of the drug cartels. Well, that logic is impeccable. And with who or with what are we going to attack these finances, with the police forces that we have now? With the intelligence we have? How soon before they are corrupted, assuming that they are not already?
Who do we concentrate on, the “sicarios” or the “capos”? Which police force will we use that will catch one or the other? And which judges will try them and not set them free? What prisons can they go to where they won’t escape? Why do criminals walk the streets as if they own them in half the country? Why don’t the municipal or state police, who see them every day, arrest them? Is it because they work for them?
The problem is of such magnitude that the U.S. government, according to a recently released WikiLeaks cable, has thought about creating a special police force to combat corruption in Mexico.
Again, that sounds good, but how will these police monitor the corrupt? And how will we keep them from becoming corrupt themselves? How would we prevent this police force from becoming an instrument of criminals?
Clearly, we face a vicious cycle that prevents us from fighting the greatest threat to governance affecting the country. If this crisis of corruption is not resolved it is pointless to keep arguing over the best strategy to tackle organized crime. With the State we have, there is simply no workable strategy. They can try however they want……...
Por que na ha funcionado el combate al trafico de drogas?
Jorge Chabat is a professor/researcher of international affairs at CIDE, a social science research and teaching center in Mexico City.