Now Presidente Felipe Calderon is dropping big hints that he is losing the war on cartels, despite his serious efforts. Is Washington paying attention?
Calderon delivers blunt view of drug cartels’ sway in Mexico, Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2010Calderon’s description of the cartels’ attempt to “replace the state” sounds like a genuine narco-nation is forming up next door. Wouldn’t it be wise for Washington to install a strong military presence along the southern perimeter? Bring those troops home from Germany etc. and place them along our own border.
Reporting from Mexico City — Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Wednesday delivered an uncommonly blunt and dispiriting assessment of the broad sway held by violent drug traffickers throughout the besieged country.
From the “most modest little towns” to major cities, Calderon said, traffickers attack, intimidate and blackmail Mexican citizens as part of an illegal business that goes far beyond the simple transport of narcotics.
“Their business is no longer just the traffic of drugs. Their business is to dominate everyone else,” Calderon said. “This criminal behavior is what has changed and become a defiance to the state, an attempt to replace the state” by exacting war taxes and taking up arms more powerful than those used by outgunned government forces.
Calderon was speaking in what appeared to be unscripted remarks during the last day of a three-day conference on national security held in Mexico City that has included the participation of church leaders, academics, security officials, business and civic groups and journalists.
He said the government would press ahead in its military-led battle against drug cartels. But in the unusually bleak portrait that he offered, he acknowledged the need to significantly alter the drug war strategy to include education as well as addiction and jobs programs and to involve greater segments of society, including religious groups.
More than 28,000 people have been killed in drug cartel-related violence, according to data newly released by the Mexican national intelligence service, since Calderon launched the offensive against drug trafficking shortly after taking office in December 2006.
“If the government were to stop fighting the criminals, there are those who think this would end the violence. I doubt it,” Calderon said. “But are you really saying to me, Mr. President, don’t mess with the criminals and let them just take away the Mexican people?”
Calderon for the first time said he would welcome a debate on whether drugs should be legalized, a controversial and politically fraught topic. On Tuesday, several participants in the conference urged legalization. Calderon warned that such a measure could endanger Mexican youth by making harmful drugs even more available.