Opinion

Bernd Debusmann

Mexico’s three wars

Bernd Debusmann
Jul 3, 2012 19:02 UTC

Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s president-elect, inherited three wars from his predecessor. Staunching the bloodshed of one would be a huge achievement. Getting the upper hand in all three might require divine intervention.

Three wars? There is the war of choice President Felipe Calderon launched shortly after winning the presidency in 2006, by a razor-thin margin, when he deployed the army against the illicit drug business. That war pits the Mexican military and various security forces against the country’s drug trafficking groups.

Then there is the war the drug traffickers wage against each other for access to the rich markets of the United States, whose citizens have an “insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,” as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it in 2009.

The third war, perhaps the most difficult to end, is waged by criminals — some with links to drug organizations, some not — against ordinary citizens. That war, unlike the other two, rarely makes international headlines. But it has contributed to a deep sense of insecurity in parts of the country and it flourishes in an environment of impunity. According to a recent academic study, 80 percent of all murders in Mexico in 2010 went unpunished.

A standard phrase in Pena Nieto’s stump speech addressed his fellow citizens’ fears: “No more murders, no more kidnappings, no more extortions.” Often carried out by criminals unconnected to the drug trafficking organizations, kidnappings and extortions have been a growing problem. Ending them is easier said than done and some of the remedies the president-elect is proposing have been tried before, without much success.

American riddle: more guns, less violence?

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 6, 2012 15:29 UTC

Gun ownership in the United States is up. Violent crime is down. Is this a matter of cause and effect?

The question merits pondering on the January 8 anniversary of the Arizona mass shooting which killed six people, severely injured a member of congress, Gabrielle Giffords, and rekindled the seemingly endless on-and-off debate over gun regulations in the United States, the country with the greatest number of firearms in private hands.

Judging from the background checks gun dealers filed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), that number jumped by around 1.5 million in December, thanks partly to a spurt of buying around Christmas. For Arizona gun enthusiasts who left firearms out of their Christmas giving, gun shows in Tucson and Phoenix provide another shopping opportunity on the Giffords shooting anniversary.

A Mexican massacre and a war without end

Bernd Debusmann
Sep 6, 2011 14:01 UTC

There’s good news and bad news on the war on drugs in Mexico and the United States. The good news: cooperation between U.S. and Mexican security forces has rarely been closer. “Unprecedented,” President Barack Obama termed it in a message of sympathy for 52 people killed in an arson attack on a casino in northern Mexico.

The unprecedented cooperation he referred to ranges from the United States providing intelligence drawn from wiretaps and aerial surveillance by U.S. drones to taking part in planning operations to capture drug lords.

American agents, according to accounts from both sides of the border, had a role in hunting down 21 of the 37 men on Mexico’s list of most-wanted organized crime chiefs.

The war on drugs and a milestone critique

Bernd Debusmann
Jun 3, 2011 14:08 UTC

The war on drugs is a waste of time, money and lives. It cannot be won. The world’s drug warriors are out of ideas.

Fresh thinking is of the essence. Governments should consider legalizing drugs to take profits out of the criminal trade.

Filling prisons with drug users does nothing to curb the billion-dollar illicit business, one of the world’s richest. Drug use is a public health problem, not a crime. Arresting small-time dealers does little but create a market opportunity for other small fry. Destroy drug crops in one region and cultivation moves to another. Cut a supply route in one place and another one opens up.

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