Monday, October 26, 2009

More on El Universal's Drug Crime in the US Series

Jorge Chabat on the idea seemingly behind the series' agenda, that drug crime in the US is no different than in Mexico:
This argument absolutely has some truth to it: very efficient distribution networks obviously exist in American territory and it's clear that the politicians of the government in that country haven't managed to break them up. And that of course explains the existence of corruption among the authorities of the United States. Nevertheless, it would be an error to think that this phenomenon has the same form in both countries. The fundamental difference is that, despite the corrupting influence of drugs, the American institutions are more solid and have managed to maintain this criminal activity as a problem of public security and not a problem of national security as has happened in Mexico. In other words, drug traffic in the United States doesn't threaten governability --not yet, some would say-- as it does in Mexico. This is due not only to the greater strength of the institutions but also to the fact that the distribution networks are fragmented, unlike what has happened with the drug cartels in Mexico, at least up to now. Indeed, that is the goal of the Mexican government: fragment these criminal organizations so that the effects of drug traffic, violence and corruption, don't place at risk the stability of the country.


The goal of the Mexican government is that the phenomenon of drug trafficking presents characteristics similar to those of the United States and that it ends up not threatening the governability of our nation, but if Calderón's government fails in this endeavor, the opposite could happen: drug traffic in the US could begin to resemble Mexican drug traffic, with similar levels of corruption or violence.
As far as his final conclusion, I suppose that could happen, but I don't see much evidence of it. The border area aside, I don't see why drug traffic is today much more of a threat today than it was in the 1980s, when Medellín and Calí were two of the scariest words in the American media. If US institutions could survive the rise of cocaine and the crack epidemic, I don't see any reason to assume that governability could be at risk in the near future. Rather than the Edgar Millánes of the United States being killed and the its Noé Ramírezes being bought and the nation one day facing its own group of untouchable kingpins, I think the threat is more small-bore and tactical: the US should be wary of kidnapping (see Phoenix) playing a larger role in areas where Mexican gangs operate, and should be conscious of the possibility that municipal police departments are purchased wholesale.

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