Memo From Mexico: Is Mexico About to Fall Apart?]
For a couple years now, I`ve been toting up the
unpleasant symptoms of
Mexico`s lurch toward failing statehood from the
viewpoint of a concerned neighbor who lives next door to
a crack house. Now I read that VDARE.COM`s resident
Mexico expert Alan Wall thinks that I`m overstating the
I read his
analysis with interest because of my great respect
for his opinion. But still think I`m right—Mexico is a
lawless mess that`s getting worse and presents a near
and present danger to us Americans, who have unlucky
NOTE: It was, of course, the Mexican
Porfirio Díaz who was
credited with saying "Poor
Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United
States", but the corollary is obvious.]
One crisis that doesn`t seem imminent is a
Pancho Villa style revolution. I`ve never suggested
that scenario was likely. Marxicans clearly hoped that a
teachers` strike in Oaxaca in May would grow beyond a
leftist mini-insurrection into a national uprising. The
Oaxaca disturbance has lasted several months and
shut down much of the central city. But it didn`t
A precedent occurred earlier in Chiapas, when
Subcomandante Marcos tried to stir up a
revolution as NAFTA was implemented in 1994. His
small army of disenfranchised Mayan Indians took over a
town or two, but that uprising remained localized also.
The Mexican meltdown is instead a 21st century
phenomenon in which non-state actors—the drug
cartels—acquire enough money and power to carve out
their own areas of control through private armies. Think
In fact, the
Colombianization of Mexico is an
accepted description. It describes
Mexico`s new status as the illegal drug hub of the
hemisphere, with all the carnage and corruption that
"`The Mexican cartels are
the most dangerous trafficking organizations in the
world,` says one U.S. official in Mexico City who asked
not to be identified for security reasons. `They`ll kill
you for a dime, and they have everyone paid off and
scared to death.`”
[Losing the War: A sharp spike in drug-related violence
has some analysts worrying about the `Colombianization`
of Mexico, Newsweek 7/11/06].
Wars among the cartels are a
growing source of violence, wreaking economic
devastation on places like Nuevo Laredo, a border town
lost 60 percent of its American business in the last
At least 40 businesses have closed in the town,
where firefights between cartels may include
rocket-propelled grenades and hundreds have been killed.
In August 2005, the
State Department closed down the US Embassy in Nuevo
Laredo for a week to reassess security after a
shootout between drug gangs using machine guns, grenades
and a rocket launcher. During the previous month, the
police chief was gunned down just hours after taking
And even without the cartels, crime is worsening to
the point where average Mexicans feel threatened The
issue has become part of the political debate—Mexico
George Grayson remarked in November about el
Presidente Calderon, "He knows it is imperative
that Mexican citizens feel that they are safe in their
Mexico City is home to
"express kidnapping" in which middle class
people are snatched and forced to give up their debit
card and pin number. As a result of kidnapping becoming
a more common form of rip-off, Mexico is
#2 worldwide in kidnappings per capita.
In 2004, a stunning quarter million people rallied in
Mexico City to protest the government`s inability to
stem the worsening crime wave. People carried pictures
of crime victims and demanded the death penalty be added
to Mexican jurisprudence.
From 1992 to 2002, Mexicans
reported at least 15,000 kidnappings—second only to
(guess who?) Colombia, according to the Inter-American
March organizers said most violent crime goes
unreported, partly because of
police corruption and the knowledge that nothing
will be done.
"We are afraid. We can`t go out onto the street
and the police do absolutely nothing to protect us,"
said Yolanda Tellez, 62, who is retired. [Mexicans
protest at soaring crime, by Mary Jordan, The
Melbourne Age, June 29, 2004]
When crime reaches a certain level,
it becomes an issue of national security. The Vice
President of Colombia, Francisco Santos, said as much in
is the biggest problem of the next decade," he said. "It
will hinder tourism, investment and threaten democracy."
crime called `biggest threat` to Latin America,
EuroToday September 19, 2006]
Street gangs have proliferated throughout
Central America in the 15 years since the end of
civil wars. Guatemala has called in United Nations crime
fighters, in an admission that its own police forces
Quite simply, what`s going on in
Mexico fits the definition of a
failed state. The combination of factors—growing
corruption and crime, lessened competence in Mexico
City, the rearrangement of Mexican geography into cartel
fiefdoms with the uptick in narco-influence (see
map)—have merged to lessen government power.
Inability to enforce the law and preserve order over
territory is one definition of a failed state. That`s
exactly the situation in Mexico.
The new Presidente, Felipe Calderon,
took office December 1, albeit under inglorious
circumstances as he hurriedly
took his oath among brawling opposition legislators
who sought to prevent his swearing in.
But one of his first major acts has been to send
6,000 troops to Michoacan to round up traffickers. He
also plans similar military incursions in other areas.
Calderon appears to be made of sterner stuff than his
predecessor. But it remains to be seen how much the
military deployment is for the cameras.
Let`s consider some other symptoms of the Mexico
- Cartels have consistently beaten back
police and the Mexican army when the government has
attempted to reassert its authority. El Presidente
Vicente Fox sent troops into
Nuevo Laredo June 13, 2005, but when the military
was pulled out in late July, the city was "more
violent" than when they went in.
Regions that once were free of narco-violence,
tourist areas that bring in needed cash, are now
free-fire zones. Once glamorous Acapulco is now called
Narcapulco, because the drug gangsters have moved in
with little opposition.
Cartels have taken a style cue from al Qaeda and are
now using beheadings to terrorize the police and
populace. In April, gangsters from one drug gang
decapitated the commander of a special strike force
and one of his agents in the resort city. Police cannot
protect their own men, much less the civilians entrusted
to their care.
- A poll last spring revealed that
half of Mexicans believe their country is on the
brink of chaos, that "50 percent of respondents
feared the government was on the brink of losing
control." Part of the reason was the decreased sense
of personal safety that average Mexicans felt due to the
violence and corruption they see in their communities.
- Mexico`s oil reserves becoming pumped out.
The Calderon government recently announced it would
tax on soft drinks to make up for falling oil
revenues. The chief oil field at
Cantarell is projected to decline by 14 percent a year
between 2007 and 2015. Oil provides 40 percent of the
federal budget, so a dry-up at the pumps is serious.
Falling revenues for the government
oil monopoly Pemex mean decreased tax receipts and
less money to deal with Mexico`s many real needs in
education, health care and infrastructure. (A systemic
source of Mexican enfeeblement is the critically
low level of taxation generally, particularly from
who pay zip.)
In a country where the underground untaxed economy is
enormous, there`s a
popular saying among wealthy Mexicans: "If you`re
paying taxes, you have the wrong accountant."
It`s unsurprising then that Mexico raises less
revenue through taxation than nearly any other Latin
just 12 percent of GDP, which is one reason why the
nation`s enormous wealth is not better utilized. By
comparison, the United States takes in 25-28 percent of
its GDP in taxes. Even
Brazil taxes itself at twice the Mexican rate.
- At least one American
investor decided against putting money into Mexico,
$40 million for a project near Zihuatanejo because
of crime at levels of social destabilization.
Unquestionably there are many unreported others who
avoid the narcostate as simply bad business.
Finally, let`s consider the daily crisis of Mexico
that`s before our eyes. Millions are fleeing
Latin America`s wealthiest nation to work in
America, where they are despised and exploited.
Twenty-five million Mexicans are already here, and
46 percent of those still living in Mexico would leave
if they could, according to a 2005 Pew poll.
Not only is Mexico a failing state, it`s also a
failing society. The country should be a paradise. It
has valuable resources, great natural beauty, an ideal
location and hard-working people. Its
elite do very well indeed.
What it doesn`t have is an aversion to corruption.
While many Americans live their entire lives without
paying a single bribe,
mordida [bribery] is
endemic in Mexico. Such attitudes lead to dishonest
police and politicians. Add a permissive attitude about
smugglers are romanticized in
song, and you have a perfect atmosphere for
How much worse can it get? The issue of law and order
in Mexico in the near term hinges on how serious
Calderon is about cracking down on the cartels—and
whether he can bring meaningful force to bear given the
corruption of the army and police.
Colombia really are the possible models over the
long term since cartels are not unlike
The cartels have virtually unlimited money, and
Mexico City is taxing soda pop to raise funds. Increased
instability from organized crime will only encourage
millions more to abandon the sinking ship and go north,
since we know few Mexicans care to stand and fight for
Bottom line: Mexico has an immense problem. Which
means the U.S. does, too.
her] her lives in northern
California and writes frequently on her websites
multiculturalism is a failed ideology, particularly so