A Few Words on The Border

Unless you live near the Southern Border or seek out news on Filepe Felipe Calderon’s re-invigorated war on drugs in Mexico chance are that you don’t know too much about a brewing war that is rapidly escalating. I have to admit that if it wasn’t for Mrs. Juniorprof’s family I wouldn’t know very much about it either. The family that I married into lives along what used to be a sleepy border area where the desert makes the rules. For decades this large family has lived on both sides of the border in relative peace and quiet. The vast majority of the men on the US side work in law enforcement, mostly as Border Patrol. The men and women on the Southern side own a few small businesses that have supported the family through the ups and downs of the Mexican economy for the past decades. For the past few years we have heard news of more and more drug gangs moving into the area as life in these little border towns has become more and more dangerous.

When Filepe Calderon took over the Mexican presidency he committed to reduce corruption and to lessen the grip that the Mexican drug-lords hold on so many facets of the future of the Mexican economy. While this is an important action, violence has increased and many areas are getting close to the brink of utter chaos. An editorial in the NYtimes today makes the case that Mexico needs help from the US government to continue to wage this war that is fueled by the seemingly endless appetite for drugs (and cheap labor) in this country. I found myself in near total agreement with the proposals laid out in the editorial.

Last night we had dinner with one of my cousins (by marriage) who happens to be a Border Patrol Officer. First off, let me say that I have always admired this cousin (who has always been particularly close to Mrs Juniorprof). He is one smart, tough dude and he does his increasingly dangerous job because he cares about the safety of the border areas. He filled us in last night on a number of things that I never would have known about otherwise (at least in such detail):

1) Drug and human trafficking from Mexico to the US are essentially one and the same. The drug rings run both of these activities and they do so with a level of brutality that most of us cannot imagine.
2) Border Patrol and Mexican Authorities cooperate heavily in keeping the border areas safe but the Mexican Authorities don’t have the equipment or technology to do their jobs effectively. Better equipped authorities on the Mexican side would make the border safer right away.
3) The problem is meth, plain and simple. Remember the meth epidemic that swept (and is still sweeping) through the Northwest and into the Plains-states? Well its got a grip on the Southwestern border now and is spreading from small town to small town.
4) Border fences are very complicated beasts. Bigger and longer fences have brought the appearance of order to many border areas but they have also made it much easier for drug gangs to control human trafficking, making it more brutal (and more expensive) and increasing the level of corruption on the US side. They also push the movement of drugs and people to more and more dangerous terrains. This causes the drug gangs to take a high volume approach to drug and human trafficking moving drugs and workers in increasing reckless ways with increasingly desperate (and often first-time) traffickers. Everything and everyone is expendable to these people.

He shared many other stories and problems with us that aren’t really appropriate for detailing here. What is clear is that Calderon’s war on drugs is making progress but it is teetering dangerously close to chaos. Calderon’s war has to be viewed as a good faith effort to make the border safer for both countries and a more substantial US commitment is required if success is to be achieved.

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2 responses to “A Few Words on The Border

  1. Being from Mexico this hits close (and closer by the day) to home. First off let me just point out that Calderon’s name is Felipe not Filepe.

    What I mean by saying it is hitting closer is that it used to be that the fighting was between gangs and police or just between gangs. Most of the time that is still the case, but more and more we are seeing the fighting take place in public places. About three years ago while in Nuevo Laredo I was close to a police building that when it was attacked. But now the fighting is not only happening in the border but also in Mexico City (where I’m from) where we were not used to seeing this. People are getting scared. Calderon claims the violence is going up precisely because he is getting rid of corruption in police and government that used to look the other way. But we don’t see how this “war” is ever going to end. Not while the gangs can get so much money and superior firepower trafficked from the US.

    The editorial of the NY Times briefly touched on the fact that Mexico might refuse US aid. In fact, just today the Mexican Congress passed a resolution to not accept the aid if there are going to be a bunch of conditions tied to it. To explain this, let me try to put it in terms we use. It seems like the US is giving Mexico aid as if it were a funding agency and Mexico a scientist requesting funds. The scientis, of course, has to show results to the funding agency if he/she wants to renew the grant. But the drug war is not a situation like this. The drug war is a situation taht affects both countries and where cooperation is needed, not some type of grant. If Mexico is going to be held accountable for something then the US should be accountable too. The money and the weapons come from the US. There are things the US could do better as well as Mexico. Because this is not reflected in the aid package that the US is offering Mexico, it is being refused.

    Well, thanks for posting on this subject. Right now I am in the US for Grad School, but family and friends are in Mexico and I’ll most probably head back once done. We are worried about this situation.

  2. Rolva, thanks for the correction. On the aid package, your analogy is a good one and I agree that the Mexican Congress was right to refuse it in its present form. It boggles the mind that the US government cannot see why entering into this cooperatively (rather than semi-coercively) will make both countries safer over the long-term.

    I am also worried. The situation sucks.

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