World Citizen: Why Colombia Won and Mexico Hasn’t

World Citizen: Why Colombia Won and Mexico Hasn’t

On the surface, the troubles Mexico is facing seem to resemble the devastating challenges that its South American neighbor Colombia suffered not many years ago. It is not surprising, then, that Mexico looked to Colombia’s impressive victories against drug cartels a decade ago and the subsequent economic and social improvements as a model worth emulating. And yet, Mexico has shown few signs of achieving comparable results.

A closer look at the differences between the countries’ security problems and their strategy, tactics and execution offers useful glimpses into the demands of governance and the deep roots of the two countries’ security problems.

When Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto came to power last year, he sought to stanch the hemorrhage. His predecessor, Felipe Calderon, had fought with fierce determination against the drug cartels that had brought their horrifying violence to the country. But Calderon’s heavily militarized strategy was failing. Some 70,000 had been killed in drug violence since the government launched the anti-gang campaign six years earlier, and thousands more disappeared. Nothing seemed to stop the gruesome spiral of death. The drug gangs continued killing anyone who stood in their way. Decapitated bodies, sometimes dozens of them, were found on city roads, and children’s parties were interrupted by assassins. The most dangerous professions in Mexico were any that could possibly interfere with the work of drug lords; journalists, mayors and other politicians were frequently murdered by the gangs.

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