The drug and gang war goes binational as Washington turns in its observer status in favor of a full combatant’s role. By Robert Valencia
On March 23, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael G. Mullen visited Mexico City in a massive and unprecedented display of support to President Felipe Calderón as well as his beleaguered Mexican military and civil colleagues, who are shouldering the bulk of the fight in the anti-drug war against traffickers along their common border. In the course of the visit, Secretary Clinton referred to the previously authorized $ 1.4 billion budget for the “Mérida Initiative,” as a collaborative security program between the United States, Mexico, and the Central American nations. Its purpose is to provide an intelligence capacity as well as a training regime for regional law enforcement officials as well as sophisticated military aid and detection technology to their drug enforcement officers. Dispatching the high level U.S. initiative to Mexico City is meant to signal a firm U.S. commitment to end the bloodbath now occurring across the Río Grande.
One might think that $1.4 billion would be a generous budget to fight the growing conflict that is destroying the inner fabric of Mexican and Central American society. But the fight against drugs involves more than a token dosage of funds and a military buildup—it requires a serious political and security commitment involving deeds as well as words and close collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico. In order to be successful, this effort will have to entail neutralizing criminal organizations, the creation of corruption-free institutions, the pursuit of a non-porous border, and the formation of empowered local communities willing and able to help contain the violent agenda of the drug cartels. A report prepared by Mexican authorities points out that President Calderón has launched a new program called “We Are All Juárez” aimed at fostering employment, creating anti-addiction programs, jobs, parks, opening galleries, and building schools in the most violent neighborhoods of the city. According to Mexico’s Citizen Council for Public Security and Justice, Ciudad Juárez has become one of the world’s most violent urban centers, with 191 murders for every 100,000 residents per year. Although these planned projects pinpointed by the Mexican side seem to shed some hope on the drug-stricken city, experts such as Leticia Castillo, coordinator of the sociology department at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, questions whether gains that have been achieved up to now can be maintained if corruption or impunity continues to prevail.
To read more, visit the Council on Hemispheric Affairs at: http://www.coha.org/the-war-on-drugs-a-pan-regional-fight/