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.

The U.S. border and immigration reform

Bernd Debusmann
Oct 21, 2011 14:30 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Take your pick. Cities and towns on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico are among the safest in the country. Or: Mexican drug gangs have turned the longest stretch of the 2,000-mile border, the line between Texas and Mexico, into a war zone.

The first version is President Barack Obama’s. He has crime statistics on his side. The second comes from an alarmist 182-page report by two retired generals, including former drug czar Barry McCaffrey. Among their assertions: “Living and conducting business in a Texas border county is tantamount to living in a war zone in which civil authorities, law enforcement agencies as well as citizens are under attack around the clock.”

(True enough for large parts of Mexican territory south of the border, where more than 42,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon declared war on drug mafias five years ago.)

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.

Obama, immigration and “anchor babies”

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 31, 2011 16:59 UTC

After breaking a promise to tackle immigration reform in his first year in office, President Barack Obama now thinks the time has come to deal with the thorny issue “once and for all.” It’s a safe bet that he will fail to repair America’s broken immigration system. Why? George W. Bush helps explain.

The immigration reform Bush championed would have provided tighter control over the 2,000-mile border with Mexico, a new visa system for temporary workers, and a path to legal status for millions of illegal immigrants already in the country. The bill failed in 2007 after running into stiff opposition from congressional leaders of his own Republican party.

In his memoir, Decision Points, he says the debate over the reform had been affected by “a blend of isolationism, protectionism and nativism,” apocalyptic warnings of a “third world invasion and conquest of America” by TV radio hosts and commentators and last but not least the influence of ideological extremes in Congress.

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