America / Foreign Policy

The War Next Door

It is not a surprise for most people to hear that Mexico has a drug problem. International news has covered stories regarding mass murders, kidnappings, and torturing of Mexican citizens, government leaders and military troops in Mexico by numerous drug cartels. While multiple countries are responsible for the supply of the illegal drugs brought into Mexico, the U.S. is the main receiver of the contraband.

It is estimated that 70% of all imported illegal drugs in the United States comes from Mexico.[1] Under the Merida Initiative, the United States and Mexico are working together to combat this issue. However, the latest statistics released from the Mexican government indicate both countries should be doing more.

Recently, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office released statistics that displayed the tragedy the drug war has caused.  Between December 2006 and September 2010, around 47,515 drug-related deaths occurred.[2] From January 2011 to September 2011 alone Mexico saw a staggering 12,903 deaths occur; that is almost two killings an hours.  To put this in perspective, the United States had 6,364 total deaths in the entire Iraq War.[3] But even more horrific is the scene left by the drug cartel members; bodies or body parts are left on display, in public areas for anyone to view.

The latest horror scene was outside a prestigious shopping mall in Mexico City where two headless bodies were found in a burning SUV.[4] Displays like this are no longer uncommon in many major cities and communities. Tourism has become a struggling industry too. According to the New York Times, Acapulco, which was once a favorite vacation spot for travelers, “is now the second most violent city.”[2] The deadliest city is Ciudad Juarez, which is 2.5 miles from the Mexico-US border.[2]

Much of the drug-related violence is caused by cartels fighting each other over territory and routes. But, it is also caused intervention and retaliating force of the Mexican government. President Felipe Caldeŕon has made it his mission to fight the drug cartels and put a stop to the violence and illegal activity. So, when he took office on the first of December in 2006, he nearly doubled the amount of troops to 45,000 troops to fight the war on drugs.[5] The number of casualties in this war on drugs is the terrible realization of his fight.

As the United States moves forward, we should consider the violence close to home and the trafficking near the southern states. Mexico has relied on the United States many times in the past for financial aid and assistance fighting the drug trade. President George W. Bush created the Merida Initiative in 2008 which was a three-year program that provided Mexico over a billion dollars in equipment and training tools to fight the war on drugs.[6] In March 201o, the US extended their help to Mexico with Beyond Merida. The plan was Mexico with more resources, greater support for reform to their judicial system, reducing corruption in the Mexican police force and more promotion of socioeconomic factors. [7] However, clearly this money and assistance is not fixing the problems. Therefore the United States needs to focus on what else can be done.

–Catherine Kus