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

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why is the fight against drug trafficking failing?

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.


  1. Why do you give the opinion of pointless professor has never served in law enforcement or the military? Who knows nothing about law enforcement? I'm not saying he does not have good points but has he ever served in law enforcement? No. Has he even served in the military or have a clue what the F**k he is talking about? No. These professors talk a lot!! All he does is read from a desk but has even been to the front lines and seen the action? No. Shit I can tell you more about the drug cartels then this guy..just by reading BB. Wow how hard!

  2. I believe that was the best analysis of the situation I've read or heard about the situation.

    What is the answer????


  3. Haha, who are we kiddin', we are a corrupt people on both sides of the border, I'm ashamed to admit. We need a good spanking from somebody. Why didn't God kill us with the H1N1 flue virus when he had the chance? Just think of it, if the U.S. got into it, us american hispanics would find a way to inform our 'brothers' across the border about their operations. It's just not in our blood to respect life and the law, never have, never will. There's a reason why the cartels have made so much money and acquired so much power and control...because we let them, plain and simple. 'Chingue su madre' we say. Spare me the statistics, spare me the finger pointing, take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror and say, It's my fault, my parents' fault, my grandparents' fault, and great-grand parents' fault...we did not make it our heritage and custom to raise decent, moral, children in a well-structured, law-abiding society, and now it's come to bite us in the ass on both sides of the border.

  4. I was hoping the ellipses at the end meant there was more at the original, but no, which means the author wrote a useless piece. Is he just throwing up his hands in despair?

    He seems to regard the root cause of the problem to be corruption, when the corruption itself has root in money, money created out of thin air by prohibition. What's with the ellipses?

  5. You know anonymous at March 10 @ 1:37 am, how fucking sad you think like this: "It's just not in our blood to respect life and the law, never have, never will." That's one reason Mexico is like it is, people like you with this dumb ass way of thinking or feeling! Just another good excuse and if there was some way to blame the US for that, I'm sure you would! NOT all Hispanics think like this thank GOD! I am married to a lovely young lady who disagrees with you 100% and I can bet my ass there are thousands if not millions of ALL nationalities who disagree with you too! What a way to degrade yourself and the honest Mexicans!

  6. I don't think it's failing, a lot has been taken down and that's why there is so much aggession from the cartels. They don't drive around the city/town in Hummers etc anymore. They are not visible like before. I think it's right in middle of the drug war right now. If there wasn't so many mexican officials, military etc on cartels payroll this would be over.

  7. Mexico President should just declare marshal law and fire the government then arm the Citizen

    Mexican Citizens should take after asia and when they see somenthing going down the whole village stomp and stone them like these guys

    ~~~El Swankador~~~

  8. Corruption graft payoffs are a daily occurance at all levels of government in Mexico, and it has been that way for the 40 years that I have been doing business in Mexico. Its not just drugs its everything,try moving equipment into Mexico,building something,getting a permit,an inspection,on and on.Local police stop you because your Texas inspection sticker is expired,$100.00,you have 2 spare tires in the back of your truck at the bridge,$100.00, you need a permit to import a old worn out farm disc$100.00,anything anywhere that can give an excuse to jack you up,$100.00. This is Mexico,and has always been, not just gringos but everybody,unless its somebodys cousin,uncle etc.

  9. ¿Lo que bueno es tener un perro sin pulgas, si ésos él duerme con son pulga-cabalgados?
    (What good is it to have a dog free of fleas that sleeps with a pack that are flea ridden?)

    Perpetuating a failed approach will perpetuate failure. Calderon did indeed have a plan, but refuses to concede to failure and the necessity to abandon his initial plan of capturing capos to disrupt the structure of MDCs-MOCs. Does not, will not, succeed....ever. On the face of the Calderon plan it seems it should be very effective, and at one time it may have been, years ago, not now. To reveal the reasons one needs to venture into the socio, economic and political foundation of Mexico. By removing the leaders of the MDC-MOCs one is still facing 100s of thousands of members of these organization and 60% of its society that remain without education, employment and a corruption deeply ingrained in the Mexican Federal Republic. Left without possibilities these recruits, primarily the ni nis (no education-no employment) of Mexican society, have become violent, blood thirsty, relentless, ostensibly without boundaries. They will gather forces, find a new leader, or branch into new smaller groups. Until drastic changes in socio economic structure there will be no change, no win. Adding to the mess is the fact that cartels have permeated weak, easily destabilized countries such as Central Am and are now doing business in 50+ countries globally. Even if God himself stopped the violence in Mx..cartels are able to continue its "trade".
    I have referred to these organizations in a way that is most suited for what they truly are; MOC-MDCs. They have evolved less into drug trafficking and more into other more profitable and less troublesome ways to make money. Fuel theft, extortion, kidnapping, human trafficking, and the big grand daddy piracy. They are fast taking over not only the world drug trade, but also the piracy trade. Microsoft announced that if not stopped MOC will take over the software trade by 2016 at which time it becomes a 1.77 TRILLION dollar business for the cartels. Far less attention is devoted to these issues opposed to the drug business, one that will have grave, regrettable consequences.
    MOC-MDCs has cultivated corruption in Mexico to a conceivably irreformable level. This has resulted in colossal, injurious effect on its Federal Representative Republic; National, state, municipal, including police agencies and military forces and judicial/prison system.

    Do I think Calderon is mal intended and corrupt? I don't think so, but even if he is free of fleas one only needs to look at those all around him.

  10. When the government can not protect the citizens then the government should legalize gun possession.Let the citizens have a fighting chance.Those spineless cartel members would not be so brazen ,when the population could fight back.The authorities always seem to show up AFTER the fighting is over.They are useless.

  11. Mexico has no working goverment. From the president on down. Its all non functional. Give it a few more years and it will turn into another Somalia. It will just be ruled by various warlords holding territory.

  12. @6:29 AM, I'm not degrading myself nor my heritage. Don't you get it? This is the truth! I know there are millions of mexicans and hispanics that are not corrupt, I am one of them, but as a people we have failed by allowing this to happen within our families and communities. Who else but us could have stopped this problem dead on its tracks a long time ago? Nobody but us.

    This is why our U.S. government does not care about our problems on both sides of the border, because they see us hispanics and mexicans and notice that WE DON'T CARE either. And no, this is not me throwing my hands up and giving up, this is me trying to make sense of what's happening and coming to the most painful realization that it's PARTLY our fault.

    I don't doubt this makes people angry, it SHOULD make you angry for I feel we have to start with ourselves first, if we don't nothing will ever change. There has to be a spiritual, intellectual, and moral paradigm shift to change our outlook on life as a people. Believe me I don't have all the answers but I know that pointing the finger at somebody else no matter who, is the biggest cop-out I've ever seen.

    We have to do more than just respect the law or raise our kids decently. It bothers me that the people of mexico have suffered so much, they have marched, they have begged their government to do more and yet we on this side sit here doing nothing. We hear what's happening, we see it on the news, we log on and read it here and there...what good is that doing? Tell me.

    I'm not talking about U.S. intervention, I'm talking about publicly expressing our outrage about what's happening not just across but right in our own neighborhoods too. Look at the American-Tibetan people. Everytime the Chinese are invited to our country, these people go out and march in protest against them. They picket the whitehouse, march on nyc, you name it, they're there reminding the whole world about the tyrannical government of China. What do we do? Nothing.

    How could we as a hispanic/mexican-american, and mexican people ever hope of creating such a mass movement and rise up in protest, how could we ever hope to change our society, our values, and virtues, our inherent ways of thinking, if we refuse to admit we have a problem within? Am I asking for too much?

  13. Going after the Cartel leaders is the ONLY way to turn the drug war around. The government is wasting its time chasing the lower level members. These lower level criminals have no influence on the group and are unknowingly sacrificed by their bosses. Until Mexico decides to go after the leaders of these cartels you will have this younger generation of wannabes terrorizing Mexico. The government can longer allow these fat-ass Octopuses (Cartels) to penetrate government, church, and educational institutions. The elections are financed by these scumbags. Churches have been donated by high ranking members not by sicarios, as a TAUNTING to the government and population. Schools are abandoned and these young minds choose to WORSHIP these cartels instead of educating themselves. Its not rocket science the government has to inject fear all they way down to the core of the problem. If not they will continue to fight a never-ending war…Who and what is this President serving, The Narcos or The People?

    "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

    Para Un Mexico Unido sin Carteles

  14. Professor Jorge is way off the mark when he thinks that Mexico would be the only country in the world with so much penetration of organized criminal elements. His theorizing that this is so makes his whole opinion piece appear to be totally absurd.

    '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.'

    No, Professor Jorge, it is you that has only the vague proposal to stay on Calderon's and the US government's course with failed strategies for war, that did not work in Peru, Colombia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.... these all being countries every bit as much penetrated by organized crime as the Mexican government is, or even more so.

  15. I think his assumption is incorrect that if mexico was not corrupt, the war on drugs would be working. We in the U.S. are not nearly as corrupt as Mexico (I want to believe), but the war on drugs has been an abysmal failure here too. From users to high level drug dealers, there will always be people out there using and selling drugs. It has always been that way and it always will.

    Aaron H

    By Goldenbrain
    Who does not live in the world of drugs is conditioned to coexist, while this world does not end. I believe that it would be easier to solve the drug problem in our country if our rulers really had an interest in finding a solution and society understand that addiction is a "disease". In fact, there are several methods to obtain the "cure" for this epidemic, but lack sensitivity to choose the method that is more efficient and cheaper. Then, why our rulers do not invest in scientific research in the field of Biochemistry? Because, of course, with less than half the money that is spent on public safety policy in the fight against drug trafficking would be possible in a short time, the production of an antidote capable of eliminating the effects of chemical dependency quickly and efficiently. So, this is the wacky world that has nothing of "beauty" and that might end up, believe me!


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