Pubdate: Mon, 18 Jul 2011
Source: America (US)
Copyright: 2011 America Press, Inc


Urban gun battles drive schoolchildren to the floors of their
classrooms and entire villages into flight; noncombatants die in the
crossfire; others, unfortunate enough to cross paths with pitiless
irregulars, are hacked to death or beheaded. The national economy
falters because of the rising chaos and uncertainty. Tensions rise
along the border of a neighboring nation as some seek to escape the
violence any way they can.

This is not a description of a social meltdown occurring in faraway
North Africa. This is the meltdown occurring in North America, at your
doorstep. Mexico, a major economic and political partner of the United
States, is entering the fifth year of a deadly struggle between the
U.S.-subsidized forces of law and order and the ruthless armies of
drug cartels and crime syndicates. The violence has claimed the lives
of almost 40,000 people, and each week it seems to cross a new
threshold of depravity. Not too long ago the discovery of a mass
slaying in the Mexican State of Tamaulipas, south of the border near
El Paso, Tex., caused shock on both sides of the border. Such reports
have become all too regular.

This year has witnessed the advent of a new kind of carnage as
gangs--apparently in cahoots with regional immigration and security
figures--set up roadblocks to intercept and hold for ransom migrants
from southern Mexico and Central America heading north to the United
States. The migrants are hoping to find work and a better life.
Instead they face kidnapping and death on the highway or forced
recruitment as cannon fodder for the drug cartels.

At the heart of the war itself, of course, is the apparently
insatiable appetite in the United States for the illicit drugs
produced in or trafficked through Mexico. Ninety percent of the
cocaine consumed in the United States now passes through Mexico. Human
trafficking into the United States has been another lucrative business
for Mexican criminals. But the clandestine trade flows in both
directions. Sustaining the violence has been a dependable flow of
small arms and military-grade weapons from the United States into Mexico.

Despite occasional high profile successes like the recent arrest of
Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar, a leader of the brutal Los Zetas cartel,
Mexico's drug war is not going well. Although that may appear obvious
to average Mexicans, it is less clear to Mexico's President Felipe
Calderon, who began the war in 2006 and appears determined to see it
through to some kind of conclusion. He is guardedly supported in this
grim effort by Mexico's bishops, who affirm the aims of the drug
war--to the point of describing the violence engendered by the war as
"inevitable"--even as they criticize its tactics and priorities.

President Calderon's options are neither many nor appealing. Declaring
"victory" and unilaterally beginning a ceasefire carries its own
risks. It could mean giving the already well-armed and brazen drug
gangs time to rebuild and modernize their stockpiles. They might
expand their recruiting campaigns and further extend their corrupting
reach into regional governments and even the military itself.

But a cease-fire could produce a lull in the violence, presuming that
the drug gangs would return to a prior observance of noncombatant
immunity, and allow Mexico a national respite to recover from its
losses, consolidate its forces and concentrate its efforts on
reconstituting the security and government institutions that have
failed so demonstrably. There is no point in taking an army to war
when that army cannot be trusted to do the job or even to maintain the
integrity of its forces in the face of the taunting and temptations of
its enemy. The war itself has become a force of degradation not only
for the Mexican military and security forces, but for the rule of law
in Mexico. A recent report from the U.S. State Department said the war
had not produced "relevant results," but had taken "a significant toll
on human rights." The report concludes that "impunity and corruption
at all levels of government are still pervasive."

Ultimately it may not matter what President Calderon decides to do;
there are some matters he cannot control. For Mexico to prosecute this
drug war successfully, policy across the border has to change. The
United States must confront its own drug problem more creatively,
transferring funds from enforcement and interdiction to so-called
demand-reduction, "soft" strategies that include treatment and relapse
prevention for drug abusers as well as drug awareness and prevention
programs. It must restore commonsense gun control policies, and,
finally, it must produce a comprehensive immigration reform that
includes temporary work provisions for unskilled labor from Mexico and
Central America. If progress can be made north of the border in these
key areas, Mexicans, exhausted by this war, can have reason to hope
they may someday be able to declare a real victory against the drug
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.