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Clinton Compares Cartels to an Insurgency

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used strong language Wednesday to describe Mexico’s struggle against its drug cartels, comparing it to an insurgency, even though others in the administration have specifically avoided making such a comparison.

The Obama administration has been trying to determine how to follow up on the Bush-era Merida Initiative, a three-year program started in 2008 to provide $1.6 billion in equipment and training to governments in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

While drug cartel violence continues to rise, the Mexican government at times fails to act on intelligence from the U.S. — sometimes due to corruption, the Chicago Tribune reported. U.S. officials trust Mexican President Felipe Calderon, but are less sure of others in the Mexican government, Alonzo R. Pena, deputy director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the Tribune.

Still, Clinton’s statements affirmed the administration’s commitment to aiding Mexico in its fight against the drug cartels — the question is how. Clinton argued the U.S. should work with Mexico and Central American countries on a program like the one that helped Colombia’s government regain control from militants.

It’s a tricky balance to determine the right way forward, because the nationalistic Mexican government is wary of more active support from the U.S., experts told the Tribune:

Eric Olson, of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Center, said he senses from conversations with administration officials that “the administration still seems handcuffed by the lack of reliable partners at the operational level.”

Olson said that while he was reluctant to be alarmist, “I don’t think anybody thinks this has gotten to the bottom.”

Among the U.S. population, concern about violence in Mexico has so far largely focused on fear of spillover violence in the U.S. But putting up border fences and increasing patrol will not solve the drug cartel problem in Mexico, experts have said, and the U.S. has some responsibility because its citizens purchase many of the drugs that allow cartels to thrive.

Immigrants rights groups in the U.S., at least, should attempt to lean on the Mexican government to prevent atrocities like the mass murder of 72 would-be migrants in August, Hector Tobar argued in the Los Angeles Times today.

At least 400 mass kidnappings are carried out in Mexico each year, Tobar wrote, and immigrants rights groups should be protesting at Mexican consulates and fighting for more humanitarian aid:

Simply put: It’s wrong that people have to undertake the journey to the U.S. in the first place. People shouldn’t have to leave the land of their ancestors, their extended families, their barrios and their farms.

They leave because the promise of democracy in Mexico and Central America remains unfulfilled.

The Tamaulipas murders are really just the most sickening expression of a vast system of inequality and corruption that still defines life for millions of people.

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