Mexico and the war on drugs: Problems and solutions

The recent detention of Mario Ramirez Treviño ― head of the Cártel del Golfo (Gulf Cartel) and better known as X-20 ― in Mexico brought renewed attention to the war on drugs. However, in a critical paper published by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Pamela F. Izaguirre called Ramirez Treviño's arrest as “nothing more than superficial achievements for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s eight-month-old administration.” After providing some much needed background to the current crisis in Mexico, Izaguirre wrote:

The central issue, however, appears to be that past presidents have failed to hit at the heart of the drug trafficking organizations. According to Edgardo Buscaglia, Special Advisor to the United Nations in organized crime, by not attacking the nature of their patrimony, the most fundamental solution is not implemented, allowing these organizations to continue to thrive. In other words, DTO’s [drug traffic organizations] are determined to expand their patrimony, which is undoubtably derived from illegal activities. Their biggest achievement is to hide themselves in the legal economy through the formalization of the resources they obtain from committing crimes. Sending the military and the police force to take back the streets is only going to work if at the same time the government dismantles the patrimony of  millions, and often billions, of dollars into the hands of Mexican criminal groups. When the DTO’s start to worry that their funds and businesses might be sought after by government authorities, they will no longer be able to finance more corruption and violence.

Furthermore, Buscaglia asserts that in order for DTO’s to stay in business, they need to be protected by a three-pillar formula consisting of powerful businesses, tainted politicians, and public officials. Together, these three act as a shield of steel that keeps them untouchable and enables them to continuously grow. In her book Los Señores del Narco (The Narco Lords), brilliant Mexican reporter Anabel Hernández identifies not the kingpins, but Mexico’s powerful businessman and politicians as being the original  masters of the narco-business, who through their networks have developed thriving enterprises with absolute impunity. The problem is not that Mexico does not possess the intelligence or institutional means to stop organized crime from growing; it is that these elite groups have managed to block them.

Posted on August 31, 2013 .