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Why a truce between Mexico and the drug cartels makes no sense

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President Felipe Calderon, who once served on Fox’s cabinet as energy secretary, acidly responded that the years of truces with organized crime under previous governments are precisely the reason for Mexico's security problems today. The National Action Party (PAN), which Mr. Calderon and Fox both belong to, passed a motion censuring the former leader for his comments. Though a political rival of Calderon’s, Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, a presidential hopeful for 2012, also rejected the truce proposal, saying it would be like “throwing in the towel.”

While the politicians’ reponses appear to be a question of ideology, there are also powerful practical reasons for rejecting the truce: It simply is not feasible.

Advocates of a truce often point to the 1980s and 1990s, when agreements between the PRI governments and the reigning drug barons supposedly kept violence to a minimum. The idea that there was an explicit deal, in which the government tolerated organized crime in exchange for relative peace, is undermined by the periodic outbursts of bloodshed seen in that period, as well as occasional arrests of even the most powerful capos. However, there is no question that there was significant interaction between high-ranking federal officials and the most powerful trafficking networks during the 1980s and 1990s, and that this played a role in limiting the violence.

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