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It took the deaths of two American citizens and the husband of a diplomatic employee—all tied to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez—for the Obama administration to apparently take notice of Mexico’s drug problem. Still, it seems that even the rhetoric from Washington will limit itself as much as it can to address this crisis as long as the bloodshed continues to hit outside of U.S. national borders.
On March 14 all the headlines focused on the targeting of U.S. Consulate employees in the border town of Ciudad Juarez, which has become one of the main stages for drug-related violence in the recent years. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was quick to respond to these attacks in an unusual address on a topic that had been left off the agenda until recently.
It seems that as long as the victims of drug-related violence did not carry U.S. passports, the Obama administration only cared enough to issue petty warnings to American tourists not to visit our country. Yet when Enriquez, Redelffs and Salcido were gunned down President Barack Obama told the world he was outraged and promised a quick response to the issue. Clinton said that “this is a responsibility we must shoulder together” and subsequently made an official visit to Mexico 10 days later. There, she met with key officials in Calderón’s administration to work on a joint solution to the problem.
The promise of a shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration on (in this blogger’s view at least) a problem generally created by the most profitable market for the drug trade filled Mexico’s hopes. But we were reminded of former Mexican President Porfirio Díaz’ famous quote “Poor Mexico! So far from God, so close to the United States.” Clinton’s visit to Mexico turned out to be yet another example of quick and shallow politics to diffuse a media situation, instead of addressing the real problem head-on.
Reminding us of the $1.4 billion investment the U.S. is making over three years in “a thus-far unsuccessful effort to crush cartels who ship $40 billion worth of illegal drugs north each year” Clinton came to Mexico to accept part of the blame of this problem by saying that the U.S. should crack down on gun control. “These criminals are outgunning law enforcement officials […] And since we know that the vast majority, 90 percent of that [weaponry] comes from our country, we’re going to try to stop it from getting there in the first place,” Clinton said. As always, the question of U.S. consumption was marginally addressed and no specific strategy to decrease it was put on the table.
In a recent interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, President Calderón said that as long as the largest market for these illicit products is not willing to discuss alternative solutions (such as legalization), debate over these strategies in source countries is futile. Both Calderón and Porfirio Díaz’ words hit right on target.
As long as the Obama administration continues to look at the problems brewing south of the U.S. border as something of marginal importance—deeming his attention only when the U.S. media cares enough to cover the death of Americans—Mexico is left alone to deal with this growing hot topic. $1.4 billion and a promise on gun control are just not going to cut it.
*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.
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