Mexico: Avoiding Another Colombia


March 14,2008: The government is increasingly concerned that "anti-NAFTA" rhetoric in the US election amounts to "Mexico bashing." NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Association; it is a frequent target of US politicians who blame NAFTA for American job losses. Mexican reformers are pleased with NAFTA, for several reasons. Mexico has benefited from free trade with the US. Trade has also exposed the "hidden cost" (sometimes not too hidden) of corruption. NAFTA is a political tool for fighting corruption in Mexico.

March 10, 2008: Police said they seized a large cache of arms in the resort town of Cancun (east coast). The cache included grenades a "weapons with laser targeting sights." The Mexican resort town of Acapulco (on the west coast) has been "ground zero" for a gang war and the war has hurt Acapulco's economy. The government has said that it intends to protect its tourist industry; it provides a lot of good jobs.

March 9, 2008: Police and soldiers engaged a group of "heavily armed gunmen" in a major firefight in Chihuahua state (northern Mexico, Texas border). Six of the gunmen were killed, as well as a soldier. Seven other people were wounded. "Heavily armed" seems to be an accurate statement. Mexican soldiers reported the gunmen "launched grenades" at them. US-made M-79 40 mm grenade launchers have been available on the "weapons blackmarket" for years. US M-203 rifle and grenade launchers (an M-16 with a 40 mm grenade launcher under the barrel) are also turning up. The report did not say what the gunmen were armed with, but grenade launchers are military weapons. This is another example of why the police say they are "outgunned" by the cartels and the cartels paramilitary enforcer units.

March 6, 2008: Is Mexico "the new Colombia?" No, not by a long shot. However, the phrase the "Colombianization of Mexico" continues to crop up in many articles and commentaries. The phrase refers to Colombia's two decade war with drug cartels. In 2002 Colombia began winning that war, and Plan Colombia helped. This was a program that included US financial support and lots of US military equipment. In Colombia the drug cartels carved out "duchies" beyond government control. Mexican President Felipe Calderon concluded Mexican cartels were doing the same thing, albeit on a smaller scale – that's one reason he employed the Mexican Army in his "Cartel War." Calderon decided to act before Mexico became a "new Colombia."




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