Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pointing dedos in Mexico

I am of two minds about Felipe Calderón blaming the United States for the vicious attack in Monterrey because of drug demand.

The first is to agree to a considerable extent.  There is a very basic supply and demand dynamic at work, while the balloon effect has pushed some of the most pernicious effects of the drug trade into Central America and Mexico.  Without a wealthy population in the United States with a seemingly bottomless appetite for drugs, there would be less violence.  To its credit, the Obama administration has publicly acknowledged the demand side, but this needs to sink deeper into the U.S. consciousness.  Instead, we see loads of headlines about "Mexico's drug war," which gives us a smug sense of satisfaction that those Mexicans are causing all our problems.

The second is to be skeptical, especially about this particular case.  The United States did not create the organized crime that hovers around Mexican gambling and has for decades.  There is a real danger that, as happened for years with immigration, the Mexican government uses the U.S. as a convenient scapegoat and thereby feels less pressure to address serious structural reforms that Mexico needs.

I tend to agree with Malcolm Beith's take in Foreign Policy:

Calderón is right to point the finger at the United States, but not at this particular moment in time. Drug consumption in the United States was not what allowed the attack in Monterrey to occur. The total impunity that reigns in Mexico -- due to the failure of police and security forces to maintain any semblance of trustworthy authority, the dragging speed of reform in the police forces, and the absence of any investigative capacity or will whatsoever -- is responsible for this atrocity. And Calderón's inability to admit fault or honestly describe the sorry state of his signature initiative is exactly what is making it so difficult for him to convince Mexicans of anything, including the notion that his party should remain in office next year.


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