Crackdown Crackup

The crackdown on drug gangs in Mexico is leading to a crackup.

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico -- In this carnage-racked border city of 1.3 million, more than 80 murders have been clocked in the past three weeks, and kidnappings, extortions, robberies and rapes further bedevil an already rattled population.

So far, the new year looks to be bringing as much if not more havoc than the last. The demons are loose.

"Walking in the streets of Juárez is an extreme sport," said political scientist Tony Payan, an expert on border violence, repeating a grim quip making the rounds.

Though little more than 1 percent of Mexico's 105 million population lives in Juárez, it accounted for a third of the country's nearly 5,400 gangland murders last year, according to the federal government. And with President Felipe Calderón's war on the country's powerful drug syndicates unlikely to abate, this city bordering El Paso looks to remain a prime battleground.

Some U.S. security experts warn that Mexico teeters on meltdown -- of being a "failed state." Irritated Mexican leaders shrug off the notion, but Juárez's criminal chaos wails like a siren before an approaching storm.

That is pretty bad and predicted to get worse. In the mean time Guatemala has a better idea.
Guatemala is so overrun by drug traffickers that in 2005 its top anti-drug minister was arrested in the U.S. for smuggling cocaine. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials describe the country as "the biggest conduit of Colombian cocaine to Mexico," where only 2% of murders are prosecuted.

"Guatemala is the closest thing we have to a failed state in Central America," says Kevin Casas-Zamora, former vice president of Costa Rica and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Yet somehow a complete surrender to the narcotics trade has left Guatemala better off than its neighbors. Wanton political and judicial corruption have, if anything, greased the wheels of business interests and kept violent crime rates below that for its regional neighbors.

So let me see if I have this straight. Let the drug gangs control the drug trade without interference and violence goes down. Interfere with their business and violence goes up. In other words de facto legalization works. I wonder what de jure legalization would look like? Maybe we could get the violence down without corruption. Then you have to ask yourself what would politicians do for a living? Simple. There is always infrastructure. Say isn't that new guy from Chicago big on infrastructure? Hmmmm. I think he has a plan.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 01.26.09 at 01:00 AM










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