News / Americas

Mexico Begins Search for New President as Criminal Violence Soars

Packages containing crystal methamphetamine seized during an anti-drug operation are displayed to the media in Tijuana, Mexico (file photo)
Packages containing crystal methamphetamine seized during an anti-drug operation are displayed to the media in Tijuana, Mexico (file photo)
Greg Flakus

On Sunday, July 3 Mexicans in the state of Mexico, which borders Mexico City, will elect a new governor, while the current governor,   Enrique Pena Nieto campaigns to be elected president.  The politicking in Mexico comes as the current president, Felipe Calderon, is enmeshed in a war against drug cartels and other criminal organizations that has cost around 40,000 lives in the past five years. Some Mexicans hope a change in leadership may lead to diminished violence or even a truce with the powerful cartels, but, as  The war is likely to continue well into the next presidential term.

One of the international observers on hand for the voting in the state of Mexico is Professor George Grayson of the College of William and Mary, considered one of the top US experts on Mexico. He says Governor Enrique Pena Nieto wants to use the election as a springboard for his presidential campaign.

“He wants to make sure that his successor wins by a huge majority to give impetus to his juggernaut as he seeks to become chief executive next year, so this July 3rd gubernatorial contest is really in many ways a primary for next year's election," said Grayson.

Public opinion polls indicate Pena Nieto is likely to get his way Sunday and that he has a very good chance of winning the presidency next year.  He is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI, the party that ruled Mexico uninterrupted for some 70 years before Vicente Fox of the National Action Party won the presidency in 2000.

Some Mexicans see a return of the PRI as a possible way of stopping the violence. They say the party, for all its unsavory reputation for corruption and abuse of power, did maintain public order when it was in power, perhaps even making deals with cartels to turn a blind eye to their drug smuggling as long as they avoided violence.

Grayson, who says the PRI did make such deals in the past, says that is unlikely now. He says Pena Nieto and other candidates have told him personally they would never negotiate with the cartels.

“It is not because they are opposed to trying to reach a modus vivendi [agreement for peaceful coexistence], but there are just too many big shots now and one of the cartels, which calls itself Los Zetas, could not be trusted any further than you could throw its paunchy leader," he said.

Aside from the trust factor, Grayson says there is also the question of with whom to negotiate.  The most powerful drug cartel, that run by Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman in the western state of Sinoloa, is being challenged by not one, but several rivals whose alliances with each other are constantly shifting.  Most of the murders in Mexico over the past few years have involved gunmen from one cartel killing operatives from another cartel.

Some have suggested that legalization of drugs might curb the power of the cartels, but the men with guns are not likely to disappear from the scene even if that did happen. Security analyst Scott Stewart of Austin, Texas-based Stratfor, a global intelligence company, says US law enforcement agencies have determined that many of the cartels are not exclusively drug traffickers.

“Previously they would call them drug-trafficking organizations, or DTOs, and today they are increasingly referred to as trans-national criminal organizations, or TCOs, because they are involved in all these different crimes," said Stewart. "Especially a lot of the weaker organizations. Sinaloa does not seem  to be quite that much involved in these other crimes, but many of its enemies, especially the remnants of the Arellano-Felix organization, the remnants of the Carillo-Fuentes organization, Los Zetas, they are involved in kidnapping, extortion, cargo theft, alien smuggling, even CD and DVD piracy.”

The Mexican Attorney General's office estimates that criminal gangs are generating about two million dollars in cash flow every day by pirating music CDs and movies on DVD.  If criminals kill each other over drug profits, they will also fight over the money generated by other crimes.

Stewart says some Mexican politicians might see an advantage in favoring one or two major crime organizations in a bid to reduce the violence that has disrupted normal life in many cities near the US border.

“If the more extreme violent people can be taken out then the more business-oriented folks, the folks who are more interested in moving product and not necessarily creating these big battles might move to the top," he said.

Stewart sees a bigger problem holding back efforts by President Calderon to defeat the powerful criminal gangs. He says the massive profits of these cartels have benefitted the Mexican economy and, by extension, many elite citizens who may not have any direct connection to the criminal enterprises.

“It is not just street-level thugs running around with AK-47s," said Stewart. "We are talking about billions of dollars being infused into the Mexican economy.  That is the kind of money that is being handled by legitimate bankers, legitimate business people and people who are very well tied into the Mexican establishment.”

Stewart says similar benefits have landed north of the border, where U.S. investigators have found banks involved in money laundering for the Mexican cartels.  North Carolina-based Wachovia  Bank recently agreed to pay 160 million dollars to settle a U.S. government probe into alleged laundering of Mexican drug money.

But aside from any financial benefit some influential people might obtain, there is also the question of how much they are willing to do personally to strengthen their country's ability to fight crime. George Grayson says that is the element that he finds sadly lacking in Mexico.

“If there is going to be any progress on the drug war in Mexico the elites are going to have to commit themselves to fighting organized crime," he said. "They are largely cocooned from the violence.  They have state-of-the-art security systems in their homes, they have experienced drivers, they have bodyguards. We found in Colombia, progress could be made in their drug war only when the establishment committed itself to fighting the bad guys and thus far, outside of the north of Mexico, the elite simply has not made that commitment to fight organized crime. Until they do, the violence will continue to escalate.”

While crime and insecurity are likely to be issues in the coming presidential campaign in Mexico, Grayson says it is likely that the person who succeeds President Calderon next year will continue the fight against the criminal organizations, perhaps with some modifications or new programs. But, he says, the cartels are unlikely to disrupt elections because they know that if Mexico's governmental institutions breakdown and anarchy threatens, it could open the way to more direct intervention by the United States and a disastrous disruption of their lucrative illegal trade.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Venezuela Says Will Push OPEC Until Oil Reaches $100

Saudi Arabia blocked calls from poorer members of the OPEC oil exporter group for production cuts at a meeting in Vienna
More

Mexican Leader Announces Nationwide Crime Crackdown

Announcement comes as 11 mutilated bodies found in violence-racked Guerrero state
More

Soccer Icon Pele Moved to Special Care Unit

Legendary soccer player's personal aide says Pele, who is suffering a urinary tract infection, is 'completely fine,' move was primarily to protect his privacy
More

Venezuela’s Military Introduces Hugo Chavez Course

Fans say it promotes late leader’s humanist values; critics deride it as deification
More

Video Talks on New UN Climate Treaty Set Next Week in Peru

Representatives from 200 countries will discuss emissions reductions, setting stage for broader talks in 2015
More

Colombia's FARC Free Two Soldiers to Restart Talks

Troops taken captive in restive eastern department of Arauca in November 9 military operation freed with help of ICRC
More