• The Fusion of Mexico-U.S. Gangs and Drug Cartels: The Spillover of Mexico Gang and Cartel Violence into the U.S; but the Crime Traffic isn’t Strictly Going one Way.
Almost overnight, Mexico’s seeming penchant for crime has become one of Washington’s most alarming dilemmas as well as an example of its new willingness to openly recognize that Mexican criminality is one of the country’s most important export products–value added, with blood. While it seems that Mexico’s crime surge into the U.S. has been of recent vintage, in fact it goes back a number of years, and its tentacles have been engaged for a long time in penetrating various aspects of the U.S. economy and society. But by no means is the traffic only going one way.
Going back decades, the U.S. has treated the Mexican drug war as being largely self-contained, with its residence being exclusively in Mexico. It was assumed, despite the flowering rhetoric that the incoming Obama administration’s selective amnesia portrayed, that it would admit to partial U.S. responsibility for crime in the region. Traditional attitudes, however, began to dramatically change when a series of U.S. dignitaries, including President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, acknowledged that the U.S. shared paternity for the smuggling of U.S.-sourced contraband weapons into Mexico. It also was now prepared to speak out boldly that the problems created by the U.S. demand for drugs has been taking its toll on Mexican security forces, its bureaucracy, and its society in general.
For years, Washington has been slow to acknowledge that Mexico’s anti-drug war is a manifestation of the shortcomings of its own domestic policy. As a result, the U.S. inevitably was sucked into what is now an institutional and bilateral anti-drug brawl. The world is now witnessing a U.S. tipping point for what was once considered a uniquely Mexican responsibility. Consequently, outreach by the Mexican gangs has led to a much broader, much more conventional war, and a much dirtier war with a spiking level of unqualified violence and a list of casualties being inflicted on both sides of the border. Since Mexico’s President Calderón took office in 2006, over 17,000 Mexicans have been killed in drug-related gang battles. The widely held belief that Mexico alone was accountable for the region’s drug-related violence was put to the test when Washington became prepared to acknowledge that Mexico’s slug-fest was in fact, fully bilateral in nature. This was dramatically evidenced by Secretary Clinton’s high-level mission to Mexico at the end of March where she, along with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, flew to Mexico City, where in a meeting with Calderón, they acknowledged that Mexico’s drug war was rapidly engorging the U.S., and that Washington must own up to its share of culpability.
Only recently did Washington belatedly acknowledge, after a long period of compelling evidence had built up, that thousands of Mexicans have been murdered in the drug wars, often through the use of U.S.-supplied illegal weapons. The multi-lateralization of the anti-crime war in Mexico became complete with this acknowledgement. Although the U.S. may not have been fully cognizant of its complicity in the past, Washington hopefully is now prepared to accept responsibility that it is currently involved in three costly wars simultaneously–Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war against gangs and drug violence in Mexico. Furthermore, Washington’s sponsorship of the Mérida Initiative represents only a fraction of what it will have to allocate to the border war in the near future.