When All Else Fails

Aguilar and Castañeda: Mexico’s drug war is costly, unwinnable, and founded on risky myths

by Aurelia Fierros, LA Border and Immigration Examiner

Tijuana, Mexico. It was December 11, 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderón -just 10 days after taking office, declared war on organized crime and drug trafficking. Three years and 15,000 deaths later the debate has escalated its tone as many Mexicans from all sectors of the society find asking themselves if such ‘war’ is in fact working.

For Rubén Aguilar, former Mexican presidential speaker, political analyst and published author, and for Jorge G Castañeda former Mexican foreign minister, published author and professor of politics and Latin American and Caribbean studies at NYU; the Mexican drug war is costly, unwinnable, and founded on risky myths.

The authors, whom recently published El Narco: La Guerra Fallida [Drug Trafficking: The Failed War], affirm that Mexico is not a failed State but recognize that it is engaged in a failed war. In their book, they reject the notion that Mexico is experiencing a dramatic increase in drug addiction, transcending from being a transit-territory to a consumer market. Based on statistics and other reliable data, they also fight the governmental version that the country’s violence levels have significantly increased, that Mexico is a failed State, that the U.S. is the only weapons supplier for the organized crime, and that if the United States curbs their demand for illicit drugs, Mexico’s situation would change for good. All of the above are exposed as myths.

The authors however, coincide in the notion that it is in fact absurd, that Mexican soldiers, police officers, civilians, and even drug dealers are dying over the drug war in Tijuana when, a few miles to the north in Los Angeles, there are more legal and public dispensaries of marijuana than public schools.

Precisely, both analysts chose the city of Tijuana -scenario of unspeakable crimes, a few feet from the border line and some miles away from L.A., for their book presentation which drew attention from local scholars, intellectuals and the press.

Both, Aguilar and Castañeda are convinced that Mexico has a lot to learn from Colombia in regards of cracking down on the drug business’ collateral damage-violence, corruption, kidnappings and extortion; instead of persisting in the naive conception that eradicating the drug trade it’s a feasible loner adventure. They also suggest in their book that Mexico should join Americans in pushing to decriminalize marijuana and heroin, and that the federal government should pursue a strategy of sealing off access to Mexico from the south of the country at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a 137-mile narrow peninsula where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are at their closer point, an area much easier to patrol than the border with Guatemala and Belize.
Whereas the reports of abuse on behalf of the Mexican army don’t stop to pour in, the authors also state that if Calderon continues in the current path, it will require an increase on U.S. cooperation, in regards of equipment, intelligence and training of Mexican law enforcement while the country’s population continues to grow in confusion, distrust and despair.