Comparing 'Plan Columbia' and the 'Merida Initiative' in Mexico

Topics: Mexican Drug War, Colombia, Illegal drug trade Pages: 10 (4190 words) Published: April 2, 2011
The purpose of this paper will be to make a comparison between the Colombian drug cartels at the turn of the century with the mexican cartels today. The object of this comparison will be to determine the effectiveness of large scale millitary intervention against drug cartels.I will assess weather this comparison is not only justified but in any way usefull in understanding how fight a well funded well armed non-state enemy. This is a response to public comments by high ranking United States officials making this comparison (most notably secretary of state Hillary Clinton) while pledging a significant amount of American resources to such an effort. I will also attempt to answer all of the various questions that are begged by this nature of action. Most people do not realize the sheer lucrativeness of the drug trafficking business especially on an industrial scale. “The (Mexican) cartels have built a network of dealers in 231 U.S. cities from coast to coast, taking in about $39 billion in sales annually, according to the U.S. Justice Department.” (*1) To put that into perspective, In 2009 Canada's total annual military expenditure was just over half (21 billion USD) of the total annual profit of the Mexican drug cartels in the United States.(*2) Comparing Columbia and Mexico

The 1st thing that is obvious when making this comparison is the fact that Mexico is over twice the size of Columbia both in land mass and in population. In terms of governance Columbia was in a state of profound political instability from as early as the 1940's while Mexico enjoyed a relatively stable PRI government following he Mexican civil war. Geographically the two countries have nothing in common but their proximity to each other. Mexico is a largely flat terrain that poses no real problems to transportation and offers little in the way of cover. By Contrast Columbia has a large mountainous area covered in tropical forests, the majority of the drug production takes place is these remote areas. From a governmental standpoint, the Colombian government is largely decentralized compared to the federal structure in Mexico. Due to the federal government and the larger tax base the Mexican government has some extra capacity when it comes to overall resources available before assistance. As far as the method in which the governments of these two countries approach dealing with traffickers is quite diffrent, Mexico has up until very recently preferred to use it's police forces to deal with drug traffickers while Colombian governments have preferred to use their military as a police force, which is more common in most Latin American countries.

The Mexican Cartels
There are essentially two major Cartel groups within Mexico that fight each other for a large piece of the drug trade. The first is made up of the Tijuana cartel and the Gulf cartel make up the first major group and operates primarily out of North of East Mexico. A group known as “The Federation” is made up of of many smaller cartels and “is led by representatives of the Sinaloa, Juárez and Valencia cartels”. (*3 p.4) members of this group as scattered all throughout the rest of Mexico. Even though these groups are concentrated in certain areas there isn't a place in Mexico that is off limits to any of these groups. All of these groups operate independently and it is not uncommon for alliances to be fickle between drug traffickers. None of the Mexican drug trafficking organizations are known to have any political allegiances or stated long term goal other then to make money and control as much turf as possible in order to achieve that end while minimizing the damage to the people of their own groups. The Mexican cartels were not always as violent as they are today, the fall of the PRI along with a strengthening of the Mexican police force is said to have resulted in the upswing in violence. Another contributing factor the recent escalation in violence is that since the fall of Major...

References: 3- (CRS report on mexican drug cartels to the U.S. Congress.(2007)
4- (article on jailbreak)
6-John Bailey- Plan Colombia and the Mérida Initiative: Policy Twins or Distant Cousins?(February 9, 2009)
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