NEWS

Mexico Will Not Fail, Embassy Official Says

By Matthew Harwood

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Despite American concerns to the contrary, Mexico will not become a failed state as the government battles drug trafficking organizations, said a Mexican embassy official today.

"Mexico is a strong country with strong institutions and we will not go away," said Manuel Suarez-Mier, legal attache at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., at a conference at George Washington University on transnational criminal organizations (TOCs).

Mier's comments are in response to a report from the U.S. Joint Forces Command that warned the Mexican state could collapse as narcotraffickers continued their assault on Mexican security forces and institutions. Approximately 7,853 Mexicans have been murdered by TOCs over the past two years with a dramatic jump of 117 percent last year over 2007.

"This is twice the amount of dead than in Iraq," Mier pointed out, referring to American soldiers killed in action in Iraq.

But this significant upswing in violence, according to Mier, is due to President Felipe Calderon's aggressive policies that have taken the fight to the drug traffickers.

In the 25 months of Calderon's tenure, the Mexican government has confiscated 70 tons of cocaine, 4,000 tons of marijuana, and 43 tons of methamphetamine precursors, or the ingredients necessary to manufacture the drug. It has also seized 31,000 weapons, half of which are high-caliber assault rifles; 4 million rounds of ammunition; 3,200 grenades; and detained 56,500 criminals.

These actions, Suarez-Mier said, have led to less potent cocaine, at a higher price (according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration analysis) and significant and bloody in-fighting between rival drug cartels.

While stressing the Mexican government's actions are aimed at raising the costs of doing business for narcotraffickers, he did admit that these actions don't take into account the demand side of the drug war—as long as there are profits to be made, someone will feed the demand despite the risk of prison or death.

But the Mexican government believes that if it can hassle the narcotraffickers enough, they will bypass Mexico as a strategic pathway to move drugs into the United States for easier routes, such as through the Caribbean or Canada. If Suarez-Mier had it his way, the United States would become "drug self-sufficient" and Mexico could be left out of a problem spurred by American demand for narcotics and made more violent by loose gun laws on the American border.

The United States, he said, must stop the flow of assault weapons from American gun markets on the border, mainly in Texas, that do not even require background checks.

The United States has provided the first step toward regional coordination and cooperation to fight TOCs through the Merida Initiative, according to Suarez-Mier. The controversial three-year aid package, passed last summer by Congress, advances security cooperation between the United States, Mexico, and other Central American nations to fight transnational drug traffickers. Congress initially pledged $400 million to help Mexico withstand the drug traffickers' violent reaction to President Calderon's aggressive policies in the hopes the violence stays contained to Mexico and does not bleed across the border.

Already, the Department of Homeland Security has drawn up plans to surge border officers, state and local law enforcement, and possibly even the military if the Mexican drug war hops onto American soil at hot spots like the Cuidad Juarez-El Paso border. Last year, 1,300 residents of Juarez's population of 1.3 million were murdered in the drug-fueled anarchy.

In Suarez-Mier's mind, strong bonds of cooperation and coordination serve both countries interests.

The U.S. does not want to see hundreds of thousands of people rushing to the border to flee the violence, he said. "This would be a big problem."

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