This past weekend, gun battles between federal forces and drug cartel gunmen
in Mexico claimed more than 20 lives. One of the bloodiest incidents
occurred in the resort city of Acapulco, where soldiers killed 16
gunmen. But there are
signs that the government is making progress in its war against
Saturday night in Acapulco was livelier than
usual, with gun shots and grenade blasts echoing through the streets
near beachside hotels. The news reports are likely to further crimp
Mexican tourism, already in a downturn after the emergence of the swine
influenza A-H1N1 virus in Mexico in April.
But many Mexicans
are hailing the fire fight in Acapulco as a victory for the cause of
law and order since the soldiers defeated the drug gangsters, losing
only two of their own, even though the criminals used automatic weapons
and lobbed as many as 50 grenades at the soldiers.
victories politically benefit President Felipe Calderon, who declared
war on the drug cartels shortly after he came to office in December
One of the top U.S. experts on Mexico, William Grayson
at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, says Mexicans strongly
support Mr. Calderon's fight against the criminal gangs.
public approval [rating] is now at 69 percent - the highest of his
administration because the people perceive that he is a decent man that
handled the swine flu outbreak judiciously and that he is doing his
level best to combat the narco-traffickers," he said.
Grayson says this bodes well for Mr. Calderon and the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, in the July 5th mid-term elections.
Calderon and the PAN have very astutely done is focus attention on his
war against drugs. And in so doing, they have diverted people's minds
from the incredibly harsh economic conditions that beset the country,"
Grayson says Mexico's gross domestic product is
likely to drop 5.5 percent this year due to the flu scare,
the worldwide recession and declining production from Mexico's oil
fields. But he says President Calderon has bolstered the nation's
confidence and pride by taking on the criminal gangs and the corrupt
officials who have allowed them to flourish.
"I was impressed
that last month there was a strike [i.e., a police operation] in [the
Mexican state of] Michoacan in which 10 mayors and 17 so-called 'public
officials' were arrested, that there was not even the hint of a leak
before that operation was carried out," he said.
that while Felipe Calderon's campaign against the powerful drug lords
is a necessary effort to protect the nation from criminal enterprises,
it will not end narcotics trafficking.
"You really cannot win a
war against these incredibly powerful, brutal, enormously wealthy
cartels - either in the United States or in Mexico. The best you can
hope [for] is to manage the hostilities and try to minimize the number
of civilians who die," he said.
What Mr. Calderon may be able to
accomplish, in Grayson's view, is substantial reform of Mexico's police
and judicial system so that the public will have more confidence in its
law enforcement system and be more willing to cooperate with
authorities. He says drug smugglers will always be around, but that
the government may have a chance to substantially reduce their power
and their threat to public safety.