The rampant drug trade and violence in Mexico and the United States’ shared responsibility for this problem will be key topics for Presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderon when they meet in Mexico City tomorrow. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) calls on both leaders to discuss long-term policies that are needed to reduce the harm caused by drugs in both countries.
“For far too long, the United States viewed drug trafficking and the violence and corruption related to the drug trade as Mexico’s problem,” affirms Maureen Meyer, WOLA Associate for Mexico and Central America “The Obama Administration is showing clear signs that this is no longer the case.” Apart from the steps already taken by the US government, including the recently announced US-Mexico Border Security Policy, President Obama should detail the efforts his government will make to rethink US drug policy and to address lax laws and regulations governing the US firearms industry.
“The Obama administration has announced a Border Security Plan, now it's time to produce a concrete plan to address drug consumption in the US and tighten up the loose regulations that allow firearms to be trafficked into Mexico,” said Meyer.
While Obama has lauded Calderon’s efforts to confront violence and drug trafficking, the need for Mexico to address the weaknesses of its police and judicial systems has fallen by the wayside. Persistent corruption and impunity within Mexico’s criminal justice system perpetuate drug trafficking and the violence that comes with it and lead to human rights abuses. “Mexico will not overcome the threats of the drug trafficking organizations until it is able to identify, prosecute and punish drug traffickers, for this Mexico needs to ensure efficient investigations and the adequate collection of evidence” states Meyer. Delays in implementing important reforms to Mexico’s justice system allow impunity to prevail for most crimes. Likewise, the military cannot replace the police. The continued use of the armed forces for Mexico’s public security needs takes away pressure to combat corruption and create effective and accountable police forces.
There is no quick fix to the drug-related violence plaguing Mexico, but it is clear that efforts solely focused on law enforcement and the use of the military have shown themselves to be insufficient. During their meeting, Presidents Obama and Calderon have the opportunity to discuss their current counter-drug strategies and prioritize policies that will produce long-term change, and not quick tactical victories.
Maureen Meyer, Associate for Mexico and Central America