Over the last year, Mexico has been swept up in a tidal wave of drug violence. Things have gotten so bad that, according to a recent Pentagon report, the country risks a “sudden collapse.” For more, listen to our online radio show on Mexico’s war on drugs.
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Mexico for a series of high level talks. Not only does the Pentagon assessment have Mexican officials bristling, there are lingering resentments over other issues too — there’s a growing trade dispute and ill will over the construction of that giant border fence.
Worldfocus editorial consultant Peter Eisner, the former deputy foreign editor of the Washington Post, writes about engaging with Mexico and its troubles rather than building fences.
“Show me a 50-foot fence, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.”
That quote from Janet Napolitano when she was governor of Arizona makes more sense every day. Napolitano, now the Secretary of Homeland Security, was referring to the multibillion dollar, 700-mile long fence being built along the U.S.-Mexican border.
The idea of the controversial fence was to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking across the border. Many people — including most people in the Mexican government — agree with Napolitano that the fence was a bad idea.
For many, the fence has come to symbolize arrogance and disinterest in dealing with real issues, such as poverty that fuels immigration, and consumer demand that supports the multibillion dollar cocaine, marijuana and heroin trade out of Mexico.
And if anybody in the United States still thinks the fence can hide the uncomfortable reality across the Rio Grande, they’re deceived.
The wave of drug violence in Mexico is bleeding over into the United States, and U.S. military officials fear a worse scenario: One Pentagon study says that Mexico, like Pakistan, faces the prospect of being unable to deal with the violence and could become a failed state.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is diving right into talks about drug cooperation, trade and other issues today and tomorrow in Mexico City and Monterrey. And President Obama is scheduled to go to Mexico in less than a month.
The administration has an opportunity to come up with answers that would include engagement with the Mexican government rather than building barriers. The answers will probably be costly, but there is rising sentiment in Washington that Mexico can’t be left, as one analyst recently said, to “muddle through somehow” on its own.
– Peter Eisner