Recently there has been a surge in violence and brutal acts committed by drug cartels, causing a national emergency in Mexico. The power of the cartels has allowed them to corrupt governmental institutions and law enforcement agencies at the state and local levels.
At a Heritage Foundation event, General Barry R. McCaffrey, former director, U.S. National Drug Policy during the Clinton Administration, discussed why it is important for the U.S. Administration of President Barack Obama to focus on the crisis confronting Mexico as a result of the flow of drugs, guns, and money that are the byproduct of the drug trade. The United States and Mexico have a very important relationship. Mexico supplies a third of the U.S. imported oil and the U.S. accounts for 47 percent of all foreign direct investment in Mexico.
McCaffrey said “drug addiction in Mexico is doubling among young people.” Since 2002 Mexican national drug consumption has increased by 30 percent. The fastest growing addiction rates are among the 12-17-year-old population. Mexico’s children and workplaces are being contaminated by drug abuse and the situation is only getting worse. McCaffrey said “the Mexican State is engaged in an increasingly violent, internal struggle against heavily armed narco-criminal cartels.” Mexican Police officials and Army troops have been tortured, murdered and their decapitated bodies left on display.
McCaffrey said “Mexico needs international support, not just law enforcement.” The Obama Administration has the opportunity to pursue a strategic partnership based on consultation and cooperation around issues of shared national interests. McCaffrey said “the Obama Administration must focus on the worsening problems in Mexico, which threaten U.S. national security.”
Stephen Johnson, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Andrew Selee, Director, Mexico Institute, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, also discussed the current conditions in Mexico and what the U.S. should do to help.
Johnson said “they need to use technology to have a better idea of where movement is.” If they can track the movement of drugs, they will have a better idea of where the drugs are moving and a better chance of catching and stopping the drug cartels. Johnson also said “we need to streamline the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.” The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 states that “no assistance will be provided to a government which “engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, unless such assistance will directly benefit the needy people in such country.”
Selee believes there are three things the U.S. should do and think about. He said the “U.S. should support Mexican efforts to build institutions, not just in Mexico but in Central America.” If Mexico builds institutions then they are trying to get the resources and training needed to get the drugs off the street and to educate young people about drugs and their effects. Selee also said “we need law enforcement cooperation and we need to look at what we can do here in the U.S.” Selee believes “the U.S. should use presidential leadership and Congress to demand reduction, provide prevention and treatment and make it difficult to take arms across the border.”