Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | September 7, 2010

Colombianization of Mexico

For some time now, much talk has been comparing Mexico to Colombia:  kidnappings of civilians and politicans, car bombs, machine-gun massacres. Drug distribution. Cartels. Academics have been calling it the Colombianization of Mexico.

Much comes up about the lessons Mexico should take from Colombia: Mainly to pin cartels against one another and let the infighting take care of it.

In 1999, Plan Colombia was born: A $7.5 billion aid package for Colombia; for which Colombia pledged $4 billion and received $3.5 billion from the international community. Its intention was to curb the drug trade and stimulate a lawful economy. Its parallel intention was to fight the FARC which back then controlled as much as 30 percent of the national territory.

In June 2008, the Mérida Initiative was born: the U.S. pledged Mexico and the Central American countries $1.6 billion for the next three years to curb drug trafficking, transnational organized crime and money laundering. And, it seems, its real intention was to make Mexico and Central America feel less abandoned as the U.S. drug consumers are in cushy treatments, if at all reprimanded, while the deaths, often violent, happen south of the border.

The Mérida Initiative seems a goodwill token, and one not to be taken lightly given the 2,000 mile border shared by Mexico and the U.S., until you realize the bulk of it stays in America to pay for war hardware, aircraft, surveillance software, and other goods and services, all produced by U.S. private defense contractors. Mexicans must feel cheated.

At least with Plan Colombia there appeared to be co-sponsored initiatives beyond counter-narcotics: human rights training; and programs to build schools, roads and clinics in areas of high coca production; and aid for internal refugees.

Washington policy clumps together the problems of the two countries, and much criticism arises: Mexico’s challenges are cartels whose M.O. is to gain territorial control for drug distribution. Colombia, on the other hand, is defied by terrorist groups whose objective is to take down the government and to be seen as political actors (though as they kill people, they kill their political credibility, and as they traffic drugs, the FARC, the ELN, and the paramilitaries are gaining reputation as, simply, drugs cartels.)

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