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Mexico: The Bicentennial and Beyond.

David Danelo, a former U.S. Marine intelligence officer, examines the security situation in Mexico on the two hundredth anniversary of its independence from Spain. He finds cause for alarm both south and north of the U.S.-Mexican border. He cites the appalling loss of life -- nearly 30,000 deaths -- mainly in Mexico's chaotic north during the last four years where the country's drug cartels have fought viciously against each other and against government forces as they seek not only to control smuggling routes into the United States but also to protect the increasing share of their income derived from extortion and kidnapping. He characterizes the situation just to the south of the U.S. border as an "irregular war" that is likely to worsen, posing a long-term threat to Mexican stability.

Although the author does not identify any ideological baggage associated with the drug gangs, he supports the American Secretary of State's view that what is happening in northern Mexico is "morphing" into an insurgency. Mr. Danelo considers the U.S. response to the chaos on its border to be "apathetic, anemic, and wholly inadequate." The United States needs to provide not only greater assistance to Mexican forces in the form of intelligence sharing and security cooperation, but also to come to grips with its own domestic issues of illegal immigration, gun control, and "especially" marijuana legalization.

The author's depiction of the carnage in northern Mexico is indeed grim, but not everyone shares his pessimism for the future. One observer points out (Newsweek Magazine, September 20) that the Mexican Government's strategy of destroying the hierarchical leadership of the Cartels may be working (twelve cartel chiefs have been captured or killed) transforming "a national security problem into a local criminal problem." Also today Mexico is far from becoming a failed state. Although drug related violence has had a negative effect on tourism and foreign investment, the Mexican economy has expanded at a 4.3% rate over the past year, not great, yet not bad in these recession-plagued times.

By David Danelo

Reviewed by Bart Moon
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Author:Moon, Bart
Publication:American Diplomacy
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Oct 4, 2010
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