The civil war taking place on our southern border--and make no mistake about it that the conflict in Mexico is so unstable and deadly to merit such a title--has prompted the United States Department of State to issue new warnings
against traveling to many parts of Mexico. In 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderón dispatched several thousand soldiers to the state of Michoacán to put a halt to drug violence in the area, ending the passive stance that the federal government had taken towards the powerful drug cartels for over a decade. The initial crackdown has now escalated into an all-out war, with various factions killing over 36,000 people. On the one hand you have the fight between the Mexican federal government and the drug cartels, and on the other you have the cartels fighting each other for control of territory and supplies. The cartels are in control of huge areas of Mexico, including many cities, and very often it is the case that local police forces are corrupted and aiding the cartels against the federal military. Over a dozen town mayors and hundreds of prosecutors and police have been assassinated.
While certain states in Mexico had previously managed to remain relatively free from the Drug War, the new State Department travel warning highlights how the situation in these states is rapidly deteriorating. Most surprising on the list now is Sonora, the second largest state in Mexico, located on our border in northwestern Mexico. It is a state that I am very familiar with; a branch of my family is fairly prominent in state politics and business there and I have traveled in and around Hermosilio, the state capital, often throughout my life (I even had a few-days stay at their local hospital about a decade ago, courtesy of a ruptured appendix during spring break). Sonora now joins the list of areas in Mexico under travel warning-- any nonessential travel there should be avoided. The Mexican government is losing
the Drug War.
If anyone believes that this is not America's problem, they should note that of the 15,000 drug-related homicides in Mexico last year, at least 111 were American. Americans are routinely being robbed and carjacked in Mexico, and the violence has been spilling over
into our border towns. Much of the cartels' revenue stream comes from their business in the United States, where they acquire illegal arms and sell nearly all of their drugs (the Mexican cartels are now responsible for trafficking 90% of the cocaine entering the US, generating billions of dollars a year). In addition to the illegal gun and drug trade that they are engaged in, human trafficking (modern day slavery, usually sexual in nature) is a growing and lucrative business for the cartels. This is our problem, and as Mexico continues to destabilize we will continue to suffer grave threats to our national security. I would note that if the cartels can get such large quantities of money, humans, guns, and drugs back and forth over the border, it is not out of the realm of possibility for terrorists to figure out their way back and forth either.
Unmanned American drones are currently being used
to help in Mexico, and various parts of the American government and military are working closely with the Mexican government to help against these cartels. But it is not enough; more needs to be done. Ties between our military and the Mexican military need to be strengthened; a greater drug strategy for the entire Western hemisphere needs to be a foreign policy priority; border security needs to be stepped up; and, yes, money should be spent on training Mexican officials, engaging in public diplomacy in Mexico, and helping fund programs to increase cooperation in Mexico. Even in these days of deep debt, using resources against the cartels in the Mexican Drug War is a national security priority that should be fully funded. The costs of letting it drag on and watching our southern neighbor deteriorate further into chaos will be far greater than a few more lines to our debt.