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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

UN Rights Chief Urges Venezuela to Free Opposition Leader

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein calls for release of Leopoldo Lopez and scores of others detained in a crackdown on protests that began in February
More

Brazil's Lula Back Campaigning for Rousseff - and Maybe Himself

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva remains the one true rock star of Brazilian politics, introduced to adoring crowd of thousands over weekend as 'our eternal president'
More

Former Chilean Mayor Arrested for Pinochet-era Human Rights Crimes

Cristian Labbe, a retired colonel who later served as mayor of Providencia, is a subject of probe into rights violations, a government spokesman said
More

Poll: Venezuela's Maduro Approval Rating Drops to 30 Percent

Rating dropped from 35.4 percent in July to 30.2 percent in Sept., according to Datanalisis, amid ongoing economic crisis that has weighed on president's popularity
More

Uruguay's Roll-out of Marijuana Experiment Faces Election Risk

Ground-breaking experiment could be dropped or watered down if opposition candidate wins this month's presidential election
More

Polls: Opposition Has Slight Lead in Brazil Presidential Runoff

However, business-favorite candidate Aecio Neves is struggling to retain momentum that gave him a slight advantage over Dilma Rousseff in recent polls
More