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Mexico’s Continued Problems

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Since everything is so fine and stable here in the United States, let’s look at the problems of our southern neighbor. The violence in Mexico doesn’t get the headlines it did a decade ago. The open warfare on the cartels of Felipe Calderón’s presidency subsided to some extent when Enrique Peña Nieto took power in 2012. The incredible brutal violence against the women of Ciudad Juarez declined as well. But the overall level of violence in Mexico, largely due to the drug trade, has not improved. In fact, it has gotten worse, in no small part because white people in the United States love them some heroin.

Drug war bloodshed in Mexico has spiked to record levels, with more homicides recorded in June than in any month in at least two decades.

Prosecutors opened 2,234 homicide investigations last month, according to government statistics released Friday. That’s an increase of 40% over June of last year and 80% over June of 2015.

Rising demand for heroin in the United States and a bloody power struggle inside one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels have put the country on track to record more killings in 2017 than in any year since the government began releasing crime data in 1997.

The 12,155 homicide cases opened from January to June make 2017 the deadliest first half of a year.

Though violence used to be concentrated in a handful of states, it is now rising nationwide, with 27 of Mexico’s 32 states recording an uptick in homicides compared with last year.

That includes states that are home to formerly tranquil tourist destinations including Cancun and Cabo San Lucas, which have each been the site of deadly shootouts.

Guerrero, home to the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, had the highest number of homicides this year, with 1,161 cases opened since January.

The thing is that Peña Nieto and the ruling party PRI maintain a complete inability to govern effectively, as the historian Christy Thornton explores in this op-ed.

The sinkhole disaster is just the latest in a endless series of scandals facing the president, including forcibly disappeared students, government contractor kickbacks, an escaped drug kingpin, a botched visit by then-candidate Donald Trump, a sharp spike in gas prices, steady increases in rates of violence and murder, and revelations of government spyware targeting rights groups and journalists. Peña Nieto’s approval rating now hovers between 12 and 20 percent — and this has had serious consequences for his party.

Most telling were last month’s gubernatorial elections in the Estado de México, the country’s most populous state, known as the “cradle of the PRI.” The party has held the governor’s office there for nearly 90 years, and the outgoing governor won his seat with 65 percent of the vote. The PRI’s Alfredo del Mazo — a well-coiffed son and grandson of former governors, and cousin to Peña Nieto — should have easily continued this tradition and won in a landslide. But as the elections approached, polls revealed a tighter race than many expected. It was all the more surprising that the challenger, Delfina Gómez Álvarez, was not affiliated with one of Mexico’s traditional opposition parties but with Morena, the anti-establishment, leftist party founded by Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2014.

Gómez faced an uphill battle: Having been in power for nearly nine decades means the PRI has a well-oiled machine for winning elections — and much of it operates outside the law. On the morning of the election, Morena officials arrived at multiple local offices to find severed, bloody pig heads piled at their doors. Throughout the day, activists and citizens made hundreds of reports of irregularities by PRI operatives, ranging from illegal transportation to the polls and vote-buying to intimidation and violence — some of which I saw myself as I traveled around the state to observe the polling.

In the end, these dirty tricks helped the PRI hold on to power — but barely. Del Mazo garnered less than 34 percent of the vote, a loss of nearly half the support the party received in the last elections. Morena’s Gómez nearly matched him, with 31 percent, and activists have filed a petition for a full recount, given the documented irregularities and the closeness of the tally.

This is a staggering setback for the PRI. Even in the traditional seat of their power, even with a concerted campaign of less-than-legal tactics, Mexico’s most establishment party is now holding on by the skin of del Mazo’s shiny white teeth. With all eyes now on the 2018 presidential race — where López Obrador is already the presumed front-runner — new polls show that the PRI is in free fall.

The PRI should lose next year. But they will probably cheat to win, as they have done repeatedly in the past, most notoriously in 1988 but to no small extent in 2012 when it regained power from the PAN. I will believe that López Obrador, a leftist, will become president in Mexico when I see it. That said, the widespread disgust toward the PRI, might actually overcome the intimidation, vote buying, violence, and just flat out cheating that we can expect.

Is there anything the U.S. should do about this situation, other than getting its people to stop sticking a needle in their veins? No, and it should stay out of it. But of course it’s never hard to find powerful Republicans calling for the U.S. to invade a nation of brown people. You’d think there would be sort of limit, even on the internet, on how stupid an article can be before it can’t get published. But evidently not. Here’s Matt Mayer, a former senior official in the Department of Homeland Security, arguing that the U.S. needs a war with Mexico to stop the opioid epidemic.

This unfortunate reality raises a very uncomfortable question: Do we need to go to war with Mexico to ultimately win the war against opioids and other death drugs? By “go to war,” I mean a formal declaration of war by Congress against Mexico in which we use the full force of our military might to destroy the cartels, the poppy fields and all elements of the drug trade. Ideally, as our fight is not with the Mexican government, its military or its people, which try to weaken the cartels, we would try to partner with those entities against the cartels, much as we partnered with the South Vietnamese government and military against the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army.

It sounds crazy, I know – unless you acknowledge we are already fighting a war with Mexico.

Short of such an all-out military effort, has anyone offered a realistic way to defeat the drug cartels and stop the flow of death drugs? Crushing the supply of opioids and other death drugs from Mexico will allow our treatment activities to gain ground against the epidemic and one day get ahead of it. If inexpensive heroin laced with fentanyl, or carfentanil, continues to be easily accessible in our communities, the wave of the opioid epidemic will simply continue to build. We must do something to force the wave to crest and to crash.

Killing a bunch of Mexicans is indeed something!!!

Let me put this issue in perspective. Since the first al-Qaida terrorist attack in Yemen in 1992, fewer than 5,000 Americans have died in terrorist attacks, with many of the deaths occurring on Sept. 11, 2001. In response to terrorist attacks, we waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and spent hundreds of billions of dollars on external and internal security measures to detect and to prevent future attacks.

Leaving the rise of ISIS out of this description is surely an accidental mistake.

If we did all of that in response to radical Islamic terrorism, why is it so crazy to consider using our military power to defeat the Mexican drug cartels which have inflicted far more death, mayhem and costs on America than al-Qaida and the Islamic State group combined? Unlike terrorists living in far-off places, halfway around the globe, the Mexican drug cartels are operating right next door and within our communities, pushing enormous amounts of heroin, meth and other death drugs across the southern border and into the veins of our communities.

War with Mexico may sound crazy, but allowing militarized drug cartels to run drug production facilities aimed at supplying opioids and other death drugs to Americans within 1,000 miles of our southern border is even crazier, especially as the death count hits 50,000 people per year. We can continue to fight this war for decades with walls and arrests, or we can win this war in years with aircraft carriers, jets, bombs and the United States Marines.

Imagine how many lives we can save of those 500,000 Americans predicted to die because of Mexican opioids and meth. War with Mexico doesn’t sound so crazy anymore, does it?

Actually it sounds fucking batshit insane.

In conclusion, I am probably spending a week in Mexico this fall. I look forward to briefly living under a government less kleptocratic and embarrassing than that of the United States.

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