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 bad news is that closer cooperation in taking out the CEOs of illicit business enterprises has done little to curb violence in Mexico or throttle the flow of drugs north and the smuggling of guns and cash south. One CEO goes, another one steps in his place. Real change would require an admission by political leaders that conventional drug war strategies have failed and, more importantly, that there’s a need for significant societal changes in both countries.
In the United States, millions of Americans would need to stop snorting, sniffing or injecting the drugs produced in Latin America and smuggled across the 2,000-mile border with Mexico. In Mexico, deeply-rooted traditions resistant to assistance from outside allow crime syndicates to flourish – acceptance of corruption as a way of life and “dreadfully little respect for the law,” in the words of former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda.