Seven More Years?
US and Mexican Officials Make Contradictory Claims on Successes and Failures of the “War on Drugs”
By Zach Lindsey
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
April 11, 2011
Even as U.S. DEA administrator Michele Leonhart said the United States and Mexico is winnings the battle against organized crime, policy makers in the United States have admitted that the strategy in Mexico is uncertain and Mexico’s Public Security Secretary said it will be seven years before violence in the country recedes.
Leonhart told reporters and others that the violence in Mexico is actually a “sign of success” at the 26th International Conference of Drug Enforcement in Cancún on April 5.
Yet policy makers in Washington say that the strategy in Mexico is not clearly defined.
“What is our strategy in Mexico? We don’t know,” said U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Tx., at a March 31 Homeland Security Committee hearing.
McCaul admitted this lack of strategy while asking to designate the major cartels in Mexico as foreign terrorists.
“I believe we need all the tools in the toolbox and designating them as foreign terrorists would do that,” he said.
The Zetas, La Familia Michoacana, the Gulf cartel, the Sinaloa cartel, the Arellano Félix cartel and the Beltrán Leyva cartel would all be designated as foreign terrorist organizations under McCaul’s bill.
But a more concrete strategy must be drafted to see tangible results, according to Ricardo Ainslie, a professor at the University of Texas, who told the Homeland Security Commission “the stakes in Mexico and …the United States are enormous.”
“I don’t think we’re doing enough to control the flow of weapons into Mexico,” Ainslie said. “Our laws are stricter for handgun purchases than automatic weapons.”
In Mexico, too, some senators have acknowledged that better organization and a consensus about methodology is necessary in the fight against organized crime.
“No one intends to surrender in the fight against transnational organized crime, but we have to be consistent in all areas of public action, and build the consensus needed to advance reforms that give cohesion and strength to the actions of government,” Senate leader Manlio Fabio Beltrones of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in its Spanish initials) said in an April 7 legislative meeting.
Yet, drawing comparisons to Plan Colombia, Leonhart said the cartels are behaving like “caged animals,” and that current policies are not only effective but also a means to victory.
Just one day after Leonhart’s comments, Public Security Secretary Genaro García Luna told Carlos Loret de Mola that the success Leonhart described will take at least three years to bear fruit, and could take more than seven before violence calms down substantially. In three years, García Luna said, police in north Mexico states such as Chihuahua will be well-trained and trustworthy enough to begin to move the Mexican army off the streets. But violence from the drug war will not begin to calm down for seven years at the least, he said.
García Luna stressed the importance of sticking to current efforts, which include boosting the amount of soldiers on the streets. Since the beginning of President Felipe Calderón’s administration, more than 21,000 additional soldiers have been deployed in a policing capacity. Changing that strategy – as unknown a strategy as it may be – would be akin to “giving in” to criminal organizations, García Luna said.
In the meantime, “victory” – even if the official policy were to bring it by doing more of the same – will carry a heavy price.
Drug war-related violence took as many as 15,000 lives in 2010. While “it may not seem that way,” this is a sign of success, claimed DEA chief Leonhart, as the heightened violence indicates a defensive reaction from organized crime.
In total, more than 30,000 people – including more than 1,000 children – have been killed related to the battle on organized crime since President Calderón launched an armed offensive against drug cartels in 2006, according to a January 2011 report by the Network for the Rights of Children in Mexico.
If it really does take seven years for violence to calm down in Mexico, and if current trends continue, Mexico’s war against organized crime could claim the lives of more than 75,000 people.
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