The drug trafficking problem in Mexico is not new. The country is a major source of heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine for the American market as well as the principal transit and distribution point for cocaine from South America. For years, people both inside and outside Mexico have worried that the country might descend into the maelstrom of corruption and violence that plagued the chief drug supplier in the western hemisphere, Colombia, from the early 1980s to the early years of this century. There are growing signs that the “Colombianization” of Mexico is now becoming a reality.
If Mexico goes down the same path that Colombia did, the consequences to the United States will be much more severe. Colombia is relatively far away, but Mexico shares a border with the United States and is closely linked to this country economically through the North American Free Trade Agreement. There is simply no way for Americans to regard the alarming trends in our next‐door neighbor with indifference.
Washington has pressed Mexican governments for years to be more proactive against the drug‐trafficking gangs. Since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006, U.S. officials have gotten their wish. Calderon has even given the military a lead role in combating the traffickers, a step that previous presidents had declined to take. The principal outcome of his strategy, however, has been an even greater level of violence, with military personnel increasingly being targets. The military also has now been exposed to the temptation of financial corruption that has compromised Mexico’s police forces so thoroughly.
Even supposed victories in Mexico’s drug war prove to be mixed blessings at best. As Stratfor, a risk‐assessment consulting organization, notes