Here at War Is Boring I’ve been accused of only caring about the major hotspots in the U.S.-led “Global War on Terror,” plus, for some reason, East Timor. There are lots of conflicts and potential conflicts way outside the scope of the ol’ GWOT, folks have pointed out — and they’re absolutely right. So I’ve recruited an up-and-coming young writer to brief me — and you — on some of the places I’ve overlooked. Everyone, meet Zach Rosenberg. He’s here to tell us about Mexico. Take it away, Zach …
Mexico enjoys a close relationship with the U.S., with high levels of trade and culture exchange. This closeness brings great rewards to both countries, but also creates problems. In Mexico’s case, many of these problems have to do with the fact that it sits next to the U.S. So, what are some of the major problems, and why should they concern us?
1) Drugs: The U.S. is by far the world’s largest market for drugs, and despite billions of dollars poured into efforts (pictured) to stop them from coming in, the smugglers don’t seem to have many export problems. The vast majority of cocaine and crack is smuggled over land across the border. While I find the U.S. “War on Drugs” to be tragic and ridiculous, the fact is that drugs can be dangerous, and the flood from Mexico creates serious public health and law enforcement issues all over the country. Readers from the Southwest probably have some interesting stories about it.
2) Gangs: Many of these problems come from the drug gangs themselves. They are, for the most part, tightly organized, well financed, and heavily armed. The Mexican government is fairly corrupt at all levels, but the local police take that particular cake. The consequence of this is that drug gangs, despite the efforts of Mexico City, operate in a law enforcement vacuum, intimidating and killing rival gang members, police, reporters and innocents, and few people try to stop them. They are so imbued into the local culture that narcocorridos, songs about drug dealers, are a popular favorite in the region; many people pray to the patron saint of the trade.
3) Oil: Yes, oil. Lots of it. The U.S. imports huge quantities of the stuff from Mexico, and it’s a hot issue on the Mexican political scene these days. The Mexican state oil company, PEMEX, works with old equipment and technology and has serious problems with funding and payment, say nothing of the complex political environment. This issue is ongoing.
Next, Zach will tell us about the Mexican military and how it factors in all these problems. Check back later.