Why the Mexican Drug Wars Matter

U.S.-Mexican relations have hit a rough patch in recent years. Intertwined issues relating to immigration, trade, and counter-narcotic operations have soured the relationship between the two countries. The importance of the U.S.-Mexico relationship should not be underestimated. Drug wars aside, Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner; 80 percent of Mexican (legal) exports are destined for U.S. consumption and trade has tripled since signing the NAFTA agreement in 1994. The problem is that Americans are also the Mexican drug cartels’ best customers. American dollars are essentially funding drugs wars resulted in the death of over 34,000 people in the past four years.

Since the September 11 attacks, one of the U.S.’s top priorities has become border security. The increasingly bloody war between the Mexican government and ruthless drug cartels has also significantly contributed to national security concerns. But national security measures have spilled over into other aspects of the U.S.’s relationship with Mexico. The American government’s cooperation to combat drug cartels has also been an extremely sensitive issue of sovereignty for the Mexican government. There is a fine line between welcomed assistance and resented involvement.

Several days ago, the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, Mexico issued a warning, albeit quite vague, for Americans in the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, and San Luis Potosi. The warning was rescinded a day later on claims that the information leading to the warning was not credible. It is still worrisome that 107 Americans were murdered in Mexico last year; a rise from 77 in 2009. This undoubtedly puts more pressure on the U.S. to put in more effort to stop these drug wars.

A question to consider: How will this drug war affect U.S.-Mexico relations?

The answer remains unclear, partly due to the secrecy surrounding collaborative operations in Mexico. But it seems that, in spite of this grim situation, there is potential for the US’s relationship with Mexico to emerge even stronger. Following a meeting between President Obama and President Calderon back in March, both agreed to step up the level of teamwork by opening a second counternarcotics “fusion” center in Mexico. This is most definitely a step in the right direction.

As President Calderon prepares to enter his final year in office (Mexican presidents serve only 1 six-year term) it will become more pressing to leave the Mexican public with a positive impression of U.S. involvement. Both governments need to do all they can to not only fight this serious problem, but to protect and strengthen their relationship in the process.

For more info on the Mexican Drug Wars, see: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL34215.pdf

By Susanna, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh Intern

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4 Comments on “Why the Mexican Drug Wars Matter”

  1. Boris Kushner says:

    A very clear and to the point analysis of the extremelly difficult and important problem. Thank you.

  2. Hannah says:

    Excellent commentary on a complicated issue.

  3. Olivia says:

    How does this issue affect the whole world?

    • Hi Olivia,

      Great question! Drug trafficking is not just a key national security issue. It is a transnational crime that can threaten economic security, the sociopolitical status of a country, as well as its human security. Drugs are no longer produced, manufactured, and distributed in just one country. Drug cartels, like those discussed above, are a global challenge with multiple complexities and vary from country to country. The Mexican Drug War is just one example of many found throughout the world.


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