Feature

Shared blame for Mexico’s drug problem

During her visit last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that Americans bear some of the responsibility for Mexico's bloody drug war.

The U.S. has “finally admitted” its guilt, said Mexico City’s El Universal in an editorial. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during her visit to Mexico last week that Americans’ “insatiable” demand for illegal drugs and the U.S.’s inability to prevent illegal gunrunning to Mexico were two major causes of Mexico’s bloody drug war. It’s about time. More than 6,000 people were killed in the drug conflict last year, mostly in the area near the U.S. border. Yet U.S. newspapers barely cover the bloodshed, and until now, American officials deflected any suggestion of American culpability. But Clinton’s statement, while welcome, is just a first step. To win the U.S. war on drugs, the Obama administration will have to convince Congress “to invest money in this country,” both for helicopters and other technology we can use to combat smugglers and to create employment, so drug cartels find it harder to recruit. The American people need to be told that “to help Mexico is to help themselves.”

Hillary could be that messenger, said J. Jaime Hernandez, also in El Universal. She has always been a friend of Mexico. Ever since her time early in her career as a community organizer in Texas, Hillary has been a “strong advocate of Hispanic voting rights.” Some of her closest friends are Latino politicians and activists. She refers to the U.S.-Mexico relationship as “a family relationship,” and many Mexicans really do think of her as family. If anyone can navigate the “disagreements and misunderstandings” between the two countries, she can.

But Clinton wasn’t all “smiles and kind words,” said Raymundo Riva Palacio in Mazatlan’s El Debate. She delivered a clear warning that while the two governments can do plenty to combat the drug cartels by force, those gains will mean nothing if Mexico doesn’t root out corruption within the government and police. As long as the cartels can buy off cops and mayors, they will reign supreme. Yet fighting corruption is not easy. In many cases, officials know who is corrupt, but they can’t prove it in court. We will need to pass new laws to get around that problem—and to do so, “a high degree of political will” is required. Clinton tried to supply that urgency by telling President Felipe Calderón that he must “do something, and fast, or risk losing the support of the U.S. government.”

Clinton may be overstepping here, said Miguel Ángel Granados Chapa in Nuevo Laredo’s El Mañana. Who is she to dictate Mexican internal politics? I find it particularly ominous that she unilaterally announced the creation of a new American office in Mexico, where, in her words, “U.S. and Mexican authorities will work together side by side to fight the drug traffickers.” U.S. authorities exercising jurisdiction in our country? That would be an “unacceptable interference in Mexican affairs.” We would be glad for more helicopters and more military help to fight drug lords. But the U.S. should never forget that “Mexico is not a protectorate required to rely on U.S. power.”

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