Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Is Mexico's Drug War Doomed?

By: Robert Haddick


What happens if Mexico settles with the cartels?

The U.S. Department of Defense defines irregular warfare as "a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations." By this definition, Mexico is fighting an irregular war. The Mexican government's campaign against the drug cartels is far more than a law enforcement problem; the two sides are engaged in a violent struggle for influence over the Mexican population.

Four years after Mexican President Felipe Calderón threw 80,000 soldiers at the cartels, their businesses remain as strong as ever. According to the Los Angeles Times, the overall drug trade continues to flourish, bringing in by one estimate $39 billion a year to the Mexican economy, equal to 4.5 percent of Mexico's economic output in 2009.

The cartels, formerly just smuggling businesses operating largely out of sight, have evolved into political insurgents, and Calderón has openly wondered whether the Mexican state will survive. Neither side has the capacity to crush the other. This implies an eventual compromise settlement and with it a de facto or actual legalization of the drug trade in Mexico. When Calderón and the cartels make such a deal, the United States will have to deal with the consequences.
Calderón's war has managed to inflict pain on the cartels; government forces killed two top cartel leaders and have set the syndicate into a violent struggle with each other for smuggling routes. According to the Los Angeles Times story, the Mexican government estimates 28,000 people have been killed in the war, the vast majority of whom were cartel employees and associates who died in battles between the various gangs.

Responding to the pressure, the cartels have transformed themselves into political insurgencies in an attempt to persuade the government to back off and to attract the support of local populations. Their actions are right out of an insurgency's standard playbook: attacks on the police (recently with car bombs), employees of state oil company Pemex -- the cornerstone of the government's revenue -- and the media.
In a speech to the nation last week, Calderón declared that the cartels' actions are "an attempt to replace the state." He pleaded with his countrymen to support the government and to report on local officials whom the drug gangs have co-opted.

Calderón's plea comes as Mexico's main sources of foreign exchange are under pressure: The drug wars are chasing away tourism, competition from Asia threatens the manufacturing export sector in the north, the Pemex oil monopoly is in decline, and the struggling U.S. economy has hit expatriate receipts back to Mexico.
With Mexico's legitimate sources of foreign exchange wilting and with the government facing a bloody and open-ended war against the cartels, the prospect of a settlement must be increasingly attractive to Calderón. Legalization would legitimize the drug trade as another important export sector of the Mexican economy, along with oil, tourism, light manufacturing, and expatriate labor receipts.

According to the New York Times, Calderon has opened up a dialogue with opposition political leaders in a search for possible alternatives, and has called for a national discussion on the possibility of drug legalization. Calderón's two predecessors, Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo, now support some form of drug legalization.
Should Mexico call a truce and legalize its drug business, where would this leave the United States, the prime market for Mexico's drug exports? Many Americans would view Mexican legalization harshly and call for suspending Merida initiative aid and perhaps closing the border.

But even if this were physically possible, vast legitimate commercial trade and the presence of so many family relationships on both sides of the border, the consequence of past migrations, would make a closure politically impossible. Should Calderón or his successors eventually choose this means of escape, the United States will simply have to cope with the consequences.


  1. Great article and a very poignant observation. Indeed, in order to save Mexico's democracy drug legalization south of the border is a must; I personally feel they should do it and FORCE the U.S. to deal with the drug problem in a serious manner that doesn't simply try to keep the Cartel violence bottled within Mexico.

  2. I've heard the opposite of what the Los Angeles Times claim. According to the intelligence website Stratfor, each of the cartels have had their operations disrupted in meaningful ways. They've been fractured, with the Juarez Cartel and BLO splitting from the Federation, the Los Zetas and Gulf Cartel breaking apart, and the BLO dividing into two factions. They've also been forced to diversify their criminal activity to make up for lost revenue, and there's been a shortage of cocaine ever since Calderon took office. Intercepted communications have indicated that it's harder to smuggle drugs into the US than it used to be be.

    I'm not saying the war is being won. But there has been progress, even if that progress has come at a heavy cost.

  3. I don't know why the US would have to accept anything. With the upcoming elections coming in Novmenter the far right are going to take control of both houses and will use the Border security issue as a high point. 600 Million for Border security signed by the president yesterday. If the far right wing wins in November elections and win the presidency back we will see no immigratino reform and a complete border shutdown.

  4. ¡Patria! ¡Patria! Tus hijos te juran
    Exhalar en tus aras su aliento,
    Si el clarín con su bélico acento
    los convoca a lidiar con valor.
    ¡Para ti las guirnaldas de oliva!
    ¡Un recuerdo para ellos de gloria!
    ¡Un laurel para ti de victoria!
    ¡Un sepulcro para ellos de honor!

    -Francisco González Bocanegra



  5. The author is wrong from the first premise of his article, where he states: "the two sides are engaged in a violent struggle for influence over the Mexican population".

    The criminal organizations are social parasites that live off the law abiding, working citizens; theirs is not a struggle to influence the population but just a struggle to keep sucking the life energy of others.

    The grave consequences that we're witnessing with organized crime is probably because in the past nobody had the wisdom or will to nip it in the bud.

    It is money that has created and sustains this crime monster.

  6. No country can prosper or flurish without structure organization. Mexicos past revolutions did nothing to establish true stability. Mexico remained in a state of retarded social and economic growth. If Mexico fails to overthrow its tradition of multilevel CORRUPTION the country will continue to spiral in a bottomless decline. MEXICO HAS NO CHOICE the cop out Calderon speaks of WILL SOLVE NOTHING just give the PAN some political cover for the next election. Blame it on the US, leaglize drugs,guns,beg the criminals to stop, or Create law order,integrity,ETHICS make Mexico a country of pride,this job must be completed, QUIT WHINNING you lazy bastards.

  7. Although I feel decriminalization is the way to approach the end to prohibition, it is obvious that Mexico has to do something to stop the war inside her self. The damage from legal drugs far out ways the profits of prohibition. Dealing with addicts is far better than dealing with cartel's and corrupt governments.

  8. All of Mexicos'current troubles is political the former ruling party PRI wants the presidency and wont rest till that happens.

  9. All of the "English only" political and leadership scientists on here are just so smart and hard working its making me sexually aroused. You're all real confident statesmen that know exactly what to do; no hesitations. HOT! WOW!

    You're so right! What with all your aggressive talk of ethics and solving our political and corruption problems....all I want to do is whine; but whine while my jaw drops just thinking about that big organ between those soft fuzzy ears. CUTE!

    I'd like to meet. So...when will you bring yourself over here and show us how you made the US what it is while sitting on your ass somewhere in cyberland? Say when we can meet at an especially violent plaza like Juarez or Monterrey, maybe? How about an exhilarating and romantic beach side adventure in either Tijuana or Matamoros? Or an intrepid top-down drive (no armored SUV for you BIG BOY!!) along the most charming of sleepy border towns like Piedras Negras or the Nuevo Laredo; some of the local boys could really use your help... ...I'll be the first boy in line, tho...

    ;-* (its a kiss)

    Are you "up" to it?

    C'on, don't disappoint me. Pleeeaaase!

  10. The author of this commentary, Robert Haddick, simply has his head up his rear end.

    'Should Calderón or his successors eventually choose this means of escape, the United States will simply have to cope with the consequences.'

    Hardly! The US government dictates in this relationship between the 2 countries, and not the other way around. Haddick is simply ignorant about basic political realities because Mexico lost its real independence from the US decades ago. His conclusion is utterly idiotic.


  11. first, legalization is the only answer to the out-of-control drug situation in Mexico. That will drive the illegal operators into the USm, and we can decide whether we have the common sense to legalize or face a Mexican drug war situation here.

    Since the human-controller devices now kill lots of innocent people, what can we expect from "autonomous" killing machines? These are the actions of a defeated empire. To quote a poet

    There died a myriad,
    And of the best, among them,
    For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
    For a botched civilization.

    Best Regards
    sikiş gizli çekim

  12. ADM!....2:50 you gave me a huge laugh, thanks

    with respect to legalization/decriminalization
    read this from BIG THINK..pros-cons and some worthy comments that follow...
    I do not think I could ever support this action for a drug such as meth...however I say yes to pot and keeping an open mind to others

  13. see that thing in the sky, no?, look way up there, use your binoculars it is an unmanned predator drone can you tell if it is on the mexican or us side? no but it is watching you bad boy narco, and it will follow you home o to your girlfriends house maybe your ass will bite a hole in your seat , just before the missile blows you away, and too bad about the innocent people who were killed around you, maybe they shouldn't be so close, can this happen ? yes will it happen? maybe we will see santa muerte is waiting for you and becoming impatient what is this thing that i cant see with ice cold fingers taking hold of me

  14. the war began from many, many centuries ago and it will continue in the coming many years. adolf hitler solely controled a numbers of the countries in europe with the help of his associates. mexico has different bosses that control their own drug cartels, they have many associates and hitmen that are working in many operations under drug cartels. good luck to mexicans and u.s authorities. i know they're still battling against drug cartels, but the question is will the drug cartels end one day? they must have replacements on the ready in case anything happens.

  15. It would seem non-government, non-law-enforcement, non-narco people of Mexico will demand that the extreme and grisly violence to cease, or least abate significantly, at some point. One way to accomplish that is to export the bulk of the gang battles to the US and beyond, as has already been pointed out.

    Legalizing many currently illegal drugs and the trade in them would be the only clear way to accomplish that. Then it's the problem of the US and others in the international community to deal with. Maybe US right wing forces, in a fit of anger, will try completely shutting down the US-MX border? See how that works out.

  16. probably there are many tunnels hidden between the mexican and american borders that is yet to find. if mexico is an isolated island with no borders linked to U.S and other country, they wouldn't smuggle drugs as much/many by foot and vehicles as they have done in the past years unless richest drug cartels buy helicopters, planes and submarines.

  17. @ 8:55 pm

    I would imagine there are many tunnels. Here's a thought which may sound silly, but wouldn't it be easier to use geologists/seismologists (instead of law enforcement/military) to find and collapse tunnels along the border?

  18. yeah, why didn't they do something about it? they're professional geologoists - maybe they sense its too dangerous if they went further into investigating hidden tunnels. they might get killed. i'd love to go in one of those tunnels, just for a walk between two countries under the ground! pity, it ain't going to happen but you never know.

  19. I LOVE all these threats against the US. What;s most ironic- is the addiction rate of "dangerous" drugs in MX. is FAR higher than in the U.S. While unfortunate- it's understandable. But I do get a kick out of some of you folks who seem to think the U.S would be besieged by the narcos the way you have. It won't really matter if our Government turns a blind eye to them setting up shop here. Everyone I know is arming themselves to the teeth. We perfectly ready, willing and able to deal with the scum as they would deal with us- even if our "Government" are too big a bunch of wimps to do it. Tell them we're expecting them.

  20. @August 16, 2010 4:46 PM

    Are you sure you are ready to combat US trained special ops forces? Do you and all of you neighbors have enough fire power to last more than 5 minutes in a battle with them. This is not the bloods and the crips we're talking about.

    And by the way my friend....they are already there, you just don't know it yet

  21. To defeat the drug lords Mexico must end corruption within its government and institutions. Mandatory polygraph examinations would accomplish that goal, as they are accurate almost 97% of the time. Mentally ill people can fool the machine, otherwise it is very accurate.
    Using this tool, police, the judiciary and political figures who are corrupt could be rooted out. building one prison for drug related crimes

    Step two would be restoring the death penalty and having public executions.

    Step three would be

  22. LOL why doesnt the us use all those dam military satilates tohelp out the border patrol i know they have plenty of them us is top in that area find all thos secret paths that they use and if u send your gangs north get rdy motherfucker cause we will come south if u threaten usa

  23. Sorry everyone, but fighting the drug war is good for the economy and great business.

    This war is only pushing up the price of drugs not effecting demand whatsoever.

    If the war is 'won' in the Mexico, it will just move to another south american nation or inside the U.S and Canada.

    The U.S doesn't want the drug war to end, EVER. And it doesn't care how many people it kills. They view wars as good for the economy and right now the U.S economy sucks.


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