In December 2006, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon launched a campaign against Mexico’s drug-trafficking organizations. That war continues to rage four years later.
In a violent and visible confrontation that began on December 9, 2010, the Mexican federal police delivered a punishing blow against La Familia Michoacana, a dug trafficking cartel with cult-like aspects. Mexican authorities believe Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, a.k.a. “El Chayo,” was killed in the action. Moreno was the “Family’s” second top commander.
In the last year, Arturo Beltran Leyva, Edgar Valdez Villareal (a.k.a. “La Barbie”), and Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, and at least five other high-profile drug chiefs have been either killed or arrested. Mexico’s drug “capos” are clearly on the run.
Attacking these Mexican kingpins is one prong of an increasingly multifaceted strategy and demonstrates the increasing operational effectiveness of Mexican law enforcement. They also entail cooperation between Mexican law enforcement and tactical units, often spearheaded by units of the Mexican navy, working closely with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and other arms of our government. U.S. intelligence support remains a critical asset in fighting the drug war in Mexico.
Yet after four years, the security situation in Mexico remains troubling. Many anticipate that 2011 will be no better or even worse in terms of overall violence. As drug organizations fracture, violence often spreads. In addition to drugs, transnational criminal organizations are turning to extortion, kidnapping, and migrant smuggling. Public support for President Calderon’s drug fight is dwindling, and political infighting is on the rise as Mexicans look to the presidential race in 2012.
Mexico and President Calderon continue to look to the U.S. for sustained support. The U.S. has a vital stake in a stable and secure Mexico freed from the scourge of the drug cartels. Both parties need to recognize the inevitable and complex linkage between the flow of licit goods and the flow of illicit goods across our southern border.
Tools available to the U.S. include the continuation of Plan Merida, now known as Merida 2.0. The revised Merida proposal focuses on “four strategic areas: disrupting the capacity of the criminal organizations, reforming and strengthening security and justice institutions, creating a 21st century border that advances citizen safety and commerce, and building stronger, more resilient communities that can resist the influence of the cartels.”
Also needed is improved coherence and coordination of U.S. strategies for fighting drugs from source to consumer. The proposed Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act of 2010, authored by Reps. Eliot Engel (D–NY) and Connie Mack (R–FL), and introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Richard Lugar (R–IN) is a step in the right direction and can build bipartisan support for future anti-drug strategies.