It surprised me that few Mexican officials seem to take into account the relevance of the recent experience of Colombia (with the notable exception of Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora). In both countries drug trafficking exists in symbiosis with the weakness of the rule of law. In Colombia, a historically weak state, combined with a difficult geography, allowed for the growth of irregular armies of guerillas and paramilitaries, some time ago turned into bands of drug traffickers. Happily, Mexico doesn't suffer these evils.I wonder if Reid doesn't understate what Mexico is doing to address those ills. Last year's judicial reforms and the drug judges I write about here every so often are a good step toward a more efficient, independent judiciary, although it will take years for the reforms to really take hold. Reforms to the federal police have been ongoing (including more developments just yesterday). Of course, none have succeeded in creating a professional, respected Federal Police, but clearly it is a goal for Calderón's team.
But Colombia also has what Mexico lacks: an independent and relatively efficient judicial branch, a national police that enjoys the respect and collaboration of the public, and specialized bodies well trained in the techniques of criminal investigation. The security forces are beneath a single --and civil-- authority. In Álvaro Uribe, for all his defects, they have a president who has shown urgency and force in overcoming any bureaucratic sloth. Furthermore, Colombia has almost a decade of experience combining the support of the United States with its own efforts (as in the Mexican case, the aid is a small fraction of its own security expenditure).
It's true that all these efforts have not impeded the recent growth of cocaine production in Colombia. But they have achieved a significant improvement in public security, which is more important. Of course there are many differences between Colombia, a politically unique country, with a long democratic tradition, and Mexico. But the size of the challenge that Mexico confronts in the realm of security mean that it can't give it itself the luxury of ignoring similarities and extracting corresponding lessons.
I'm also not sure Colombia in particular is the best example. First of all, an independent judiciary and a competent police force are both universal goods, not something Mexico needs to learn to appreciate by looking at other nations. Furthermore, of course Mexico should take what it can learn from any other country's experience, from Sri Lanka to Italy, but Colombia's challenges are fundamentally different from Mexico's. And despite all the advances the country has made, as well as the recent decline in Mexican security, Colombia remains far more dangerous than Mexico.