Feature

Labeling Mexico a ‘failed state’

More than 6,000 people were murdered in drug-related violence in Mexico last year, and at least three major Mexican cities are now policed by the army.

Mexico “finally got America’s attention,” said Gabriel Guerra Castellanos in Mexico City’s El Universal. We are on the front pages of U.S. newspapers, and Mexico is the top story on U.S. television news programs. Unfortunately, it’s all bad news: “organized crime, drug trafficking, executions, complicity, corruption.” Mexico’s drug violence has U.S. security experts spooked. The statistics are certainly frightening; they read more like war casualty reports than crime figures. More than 6,000 people were murdered in drug-related violence in Mexico last year alone. At least three major Mexican cities are now policed by the army because local law enforcement is either too corrupt or too outgunned to cope. The Pentagon actually issued a report last month lumping Mexico with Pakistan as a potential “failed state.”

Look who’s talking, said Mexico City’s Excelsior in an editorial. It takes two to make a cross-border crisis. Almost all of the drug gang violence is concentrated in cities along the U.S. border. In the words of President Felipe Calderón: “A good housecleaning is also needed on the other side of the border. To bring in the drugs, the cartels require corrupt U.S., not Mexican, authorities.” Plus, let’s not forget that the weapons the cartels use to kill Mexicans are smuggled in from America—even U.S. officials admit that. If the drugs being fought over are destined for the U.S. market, and the fighters are armed by U.S. gun dealers, then Mexico’s drug violence must be considered an American problem, as well.

Nice try, said Rafael Cardona in Mexico City’s La Crónica de Hoy. But Mexico can’t blame American gun sales for its violence. After all, “Cain was responsible for killing Abel, not the anonymous manufacturer of that jawbone of an ass.” Nor can we deny that the state lacks control over many of its agencies and institutions. One definition of a state is an entity that has a monopoly on violence. By that standard, Mexico is certainly failing.

Instead of simply getting huffy at the U.S., the government needs to face facts, said Jorge Ramos Ávalos in Monterrey’s El Norte. “I’m tired of hearing government officials say that the frequent killings, kidnappings, and crimes are ‘isolated incidents.’” Over the past three years, 48 million Mexicans have been victims of crime. That’s a lot of isolated incidents. Of course it is “annoying” to be judged by our neighbor to the north. But if we don’t want insulting labels, maybe we should try harder to take control of our own security. “Failed state? No, not yet.” But it may be just a matter of time.

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