This month, about 26 people a day are dying from criminal and terrorist
violence a day in Iraq. That's a bit lower than the death toll in northern Mexico,
which on a bad day (like last November 3rd) saw 58 people killed. The police
are generally helpless, hundreds of thousands of middle-class Mexicans have
fled the border region, often to the United States (if they had
dual-citizenship, which many do). Those without money must hunker down and wait
for someone to win this war. The drug gangs show no signs of weakening,
although the army believes that it can prevail in the next year or so.
2008: So how is the Cartel War going, two years on? President Felipe Calderon
-- the man in the cauldron-- sees progress. In a recent speech Calderon
addressed what he saw as the deep challenge in Mexico -- corruption. "Instead
of faltering," Calderon said, "we have taken on the challenge of
turning Mexico into a country of laws." Corruption in the police and
judiciary provides the "dirty space" for all types of crime, but the
drug cartels essentially began carving out "drug duchies," which is
one reason Calderon decided to use the Mexican military. Calderon saw a
situation similar to that in Colombia, where at one time the rebel FARC
organization openly claimed territory. FARC started out with political aims and
still claims political aims, but the people of Colombia came to know it as a
criminal gang in the narcotics and kidnapping business. Mexico's drug cartels
skipped the political stage though they love buying politicians.
sees his war as a war for modernity, for systemic change. This is why he also
speaks of economic transformation (eg, opening the oil business to foreign
investment) and "structural reforms" (something of an all
encompassing code word for reforming the police, the judiciary, and politics).
His own words drive the point home:"Nowadays we are experiencing the
consequences of years of indifference to the cancer of crime, impunity and
corruption. This scourge became a threat to the peace and well-being of Mexican
families and constitutes a challenges to the state's viability."
government says that it seeks change in five major areas. It calls them, (1)
Rule of Law and Security, (2) a Competitive Economy that will Create Jobs, (3)
Equal Opportunities, (4) Environmental Sustainability, and (5) Effective
Democracy and Responsible Foreign Policy.
2008: The government wants foreign investors to help reverse Mexico's decline
in oil production. The government hopes foreign oil companies will be
interested in exploring the Chicontepec basin in eastern Mexico. The government
currently estimates the basin has at least 12 billion barrels in it, but could
hold tens of billions more. The problem is that the geology is complex and
recovery requires "advanced technologies." Mexico has budgeted money
(up to $30 billion) to develop the field, but that may not be enough. The
government pointed to Chicontepec as an immediate example of the need to
modernize energy investment laws in order to attract capital. It was one reason
some legislators decided to support Calderon's energy investment reforms.
Mexico produces around 2.75 million barrels a day, but its older fields are
producing a lot less oil today than they were even four or five years ago.
2008: According to the US Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the city of
Houston, Texas is the "top source" for illegal firearms entering
Mexico. The Gulf Cartel is particularly "connected" in Houston and
according to the BATF has at least "three cells" in the Houston area.
2008: Authorities found nine headless bodies in Tijuana (Baja California). The
victims were likely part of a gang war going on in the city. Mexican police
said approximately 350 people have been killed in drug gang-related violence in
and around Tijuana during he last two months.
2008: Mexican media reported that November 2008 was the deadliest month in
Mexico's now two-year old Cartel War. Over 700 people (one source reported 701
to be precise) were killed in November. 669 were killed in October 2008. That
brings the death toll for 2008 to somewhere between 4900 and 5100 murders. One
source reported 4961, another 5024. Still, the Mexican government can point to
some progress in reducing kidnappings since launching an anti-kidnapping
initiative as part of its August 2008 national security accord. The government
reported that kidnappings since September have averaged 72 a month. This is
down from an average of 90 a month (January through August 2008). But remember
several things about all of these numbers -- they rely on reported and
investigated crimes. That said, the 2008 death toll is another indicator that
Mexico is a country at war.