Last year, around 2,500 Mexicans died in the twin wars drug cartels are waging against each other and against the Mexican state, using weapons smuggled in from the United States. In the first 11 months of this year, the death toll was 5,367, according to the Mexican attorney general. Next year?
There is no end in sight. At least two of the lethal ingredients in the toxic brew that fuels Mexico’s ever-widening violence are unlikely to change: lax American gun laws and a Mexican border that barely controls north-south traffic. On many of the crossing points along the 2,000-mile frontier, travelers coming in from the United States, by car or on foot, are routinely waved through without even having to show identity papers.
Weak Mexican border controls rarely feature in official or academic reports on a problem that has prompted some experts and U.S. publications to wonder whether Mexico is a “failing state”. That’s the headline over a cover story on Mexico in the latest edition of the business magazine Forbes. Mexican officials reject the label.
But privately, they concede that Mexican authorities are doing a less-than-thorough job in searching and monitoring north-south traffic. They tend to point in the other direction, to the easy availability of guns in the United States, the armory of Mexico’s criminal mafias.