Some Thoughts about the Drug War, the Clinton Visit, and Mexico’s Elite

By George W. Grayson on March 24, 2010

The Washington Post recently editorialized that … “it’s hard to think of a higher [White House] priority than stabilizing a neighbor and major trading partner.” Statements from the Clinton entourage echo this naïve belief that Uncle Sam can fix intractable problems abroad, especially in an adjacent nation.

Yet success in advancing security presupposes that the star-crossed country’s power structure pitches in. Instead, they cocoon themselves with security systems, armored vehicles, and second homes in Texas even as they ignore the roots of the turmoil: lousy public education, substandard health-care, and a dearth of job training.

Impunity reigns as revealed in the hobnobbing with Sinaloa Cartel Mafiosi of the Jesús Vizcarra Calderón, PRI’s gubernatorial candidate in drug-infested Sinaloa. It remains to be seen what will happen to Víctor González Ortega, the president (speaker) of the Baja California State Legislature, whose February 21 arrest for being knee-walking drunk was taped by a local TV stations. Authorities found cocaine in his official automobile.

At all levels, elected officials enjoy generous incomes, hefty fringe benefits, “leaving office” stipends, and other princely perks. In addition, the Federal Electoral Institute lavished $288 million on political parties in 2009. No wonder that “have nots” often take jobs as lookouts, couriers, and growers for the drug lords.

Ghastly kidnapping-murders spark candle-light marches, but average citizens feel impotent to influence self-serving law makers. These same congressmen reject risk contracts embraced by Cuba and every other oil-endowed country except North Korea and Mexico, which is moving inexorably toward importer status.

An antiquated fiscal regime plus widespread evasion mean that tax collections approach only 12 percent of GDP—on par with Haiti. Ubiquitous monopolies and oligopolies impede growth and competitiveness of a nation that boasts hydrocarbons, gold, silver, beaches, the 12th largest industrial sector, and hard-working people.

Self-interest dictates that the U.S. takes an assertive, cooperative stance against the raging war that is spilling across the Rio Grande. Until Mexico’s elite commits itself to this crusade, Washington’s impact will be marginal, at best. That the nomenklatura has turned a blind eye to the socio-economic and security needs of the masses will find migrants attempting to reach "El Norte" despite beefed up interdiction efforts.

Grayson, a CIS Board Member, teaches government at the College of William & Mary. His latest book is "Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State" (Transaction Publishers, 2009).