Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Pact after Calderón?

I have a piece at Foreign Policy in Focus outlining why I don't see a pact as a likely scenario after Calderón leaves office:

It’s not clear how much of the recent spike in violence is directly related to Calderon’s policies, and, consequently, sensitive to future changes in government strategy. In 2009, then-Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora reported that 90 percent of those killed in drug-related violence since Calderón arrived were criminals, while just 6 percent were government agents. Assuming the statistics are reliable, this seems to suggest that the government, though not a mere bystander, is not the most important actor on the stage.

If the violence is due primarily to factors that are independent of Calderón (such as the militarization of gangs, the feud between Chapo Guzmán and Vicente Carrillo in Juárez, a growing local drug market), then removing the army from the streets and reducing the risk of arrest for the capos—which is basically all the government has as bargaining chips—won’t lead directly to an enduring peace between the warring factions. Instead, the gang leaders would have to decide of their own volition to bury the hatchet.

Unfortunately, recent history suggests that regardless of the government’s posture, the biggest players in the industry are not enthusiastic about submitting to any sort of agreement that would allow some control over their violent conduct. On at least three occasions during the Calderón presidency—in June 2007, in October 2008, and in February 2009—major gang leaders have met with the express goal of settling disputes and returning the industry—and by extension, the nation—to some modicum of safety. In each instance, the pacts failed, and violence has continued to rise.

Not to be wishy washy, but I hasten to add that while I believe very much in the logic employed in the article, I could still be quite wrong. Predicting is always a fraught business, even more so when you are talking about a hidden industry.

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