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)

    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

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.

    More Americas News

    USOC: US Athletes Should Stay Home if Worried About Zika Virus

    United States Olympic Committee tells US sports federations that athletes and staff concerned for their health over Zika virus should consider not going to Rio 2016 Olympic Games

    Haiti's President Leaves Office Without a Successor

    Embattled Haitian President Michel Martelly left office Sunday as required by Haiti's constitution, ending his 5-year term with no one elected to replace him

    'Revenant's Inarritu Wins Top Directors Guild Prize

    Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's win, with only weeks to go before Academy Awards on February 28, leaves race as wide open as ever

    Colombia: 3,100 Known Zika Cases in Pregnant Women

    But Santos says in televised address in his country that there's still no evidence definitively linking the virus to microcephaly in newborns

    Pope to OK Use of Indigenous Languages for Mass in Mexico

    Move before trip to the country next week is symbolic gestures in defense of Indian rights

    Ecuador Sacks Military Top Brass Over Questioned Land Deal

    Armed Forces apparently sold 66 lots to Environment Ministry for $48 million, but report from Attorney General's office says they were worth only $7 million