Report: Mexico's drug war is not working
Is the U.S.-backed drug war in Mexico working? By almost any account or any measure, the answer is no. Though high-ranking authorities on both sides of the border continue to support Mexico's military-led enforcement strategy against the country's powerful drug trafficking cartels, the facts remain stark, L.A. Times correspondents Tracy Wilkinson and Ken Ellingwood say in a special report published Sunday.
The cartels are stronger, more violent, and transnational. Here are the worrisome highlights from the story:
* More than 28,000 people have been killed since December 2006.* Mexico's effort has failed to dismantle the networks or significantly slow the flow of drugs. More narcotics are flowing into the United States.
* The availability of methamphetamine in the U.S. has hit a five-year high, while cocaine exports have dropped, possibly due to increased flow to other markets.
* Traffickers may now pose a long-term danger to Mexico's stability. Swaths of the country are now in effect without authority.
* The groups have transformed themselves into broad criminal empires deeply involved in migrant smuggling, extortion, kidnapping and trafficking in contraband.
* Drug gangs are armed with military-class weapons smuggled from the U.S., or weapons left over from U.S.-backed wars in Central America.
* Mexican traffickers have muscled aside competitors to gain control over shipments of most types of illegal drugs in the hemisphere.
* Criminal groups have usurped the government's role as tax collector.
* Traffickers have succeeded in shutting down major operations of Pemex, the state oil company and top source of national income. Traffickers have been stealing oil for years.
* Mexican drug gangs now operate in more than 2,500 cities in the U.S.
In addition to all this, attacks on journalists and human rights workers have skyrocketed, and so have claims of human rights abuses committed by Mexico's military. Still, the administration of U.S. President Obama plans to supply Mexico with more than $1 billion in aid under the Merida Initiative. A recent congressional report warns of lack of oversight on how that aid is spent. Only 9% of Merida Initiative funds have been delivered so far.
Now, the question of whether Mexico should legalize drugs, as former President Vicente Fox now advocates, is in many ways a moot proposal. A legalization of drugs in Mexico would have no effect on the illicit drug trade and market without a concurrent plan in the United States, many experts say.But don't count on that to happen anytime soon. As the idea floats over both countries this week, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told the Associated Press: "We don't believe legalization is the answer."
Then ... what is?
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City
Photos: Authorities salute the caskets of seven police officers slain in Tijuana in April 2009. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times