This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Failure in Mexico: The State vs. the states

During the week of 5 January, Mexican military forces engaged and captured Enrique "El Primo" Rivera Garin, a suspected operator of the Beltran Leyva brothers cartel in the town of Tlapa de Comonfort, located in the state of Guerrero.

At the time of his arrest, Rivera had on his person some five kilos of cocaine, two assault rifles, a shotgun, three handguns, thousands of dollars in cash, over seven yards of detonating cord, and a cartridge of industrial explosive.

After his arrest, the town's mayor fired the entire police force. He suspected that the whole group had been working with the narco cell run by Rivera.

Reflecting on what Boz recently posted concerning a range of ideas and positions on Mexico as a failed state, I came to the conclusion that we shouldn't be talking about that yet. It's ok for the DOD to engage in long range planning. That's what they do.

In a Dallas Morning News article, the author takes a moment to consider Ciudad Juarez as a failed city, noting that the mayor and other city officials now commute from El Paso.

The same could probably be said of Tijuana. And I spoke with a contact in Culiacan yesterday who told me that he was all but convinced that it was time to leave the city. He said the violence there is the worst it's ever been. Most violent acts are likely not even reported.

I would submit that rather than consider Mexico as on the road to a failed state, we should dig deeper, look at the state level within Mexico, not simply the State. We should also look at the possibility of failed cities, and towns - especially towns like Reynosa, Matamoros, and Nuevo Laredo on the US-Mexico border where the chances of failure appear most likely.

Violence in Mexico has finally gained traction in US news. But rather than talk about possible eventualities, which is interesting I admit, let's focus on realities.

Ciudad Juarez is an ugly reality. So is the small town of Tlapa de Comonfort.

My question is how many small towns in Mexico are under the complete control of narcos. How many cities? And how many Mexican states? Counting those numbers, we will over time gain a better handle on whether or not Mexico will fail at the national level or become something perhaps even worse: a hollow democracy that, due to the ideals of sovereignty, shields corruption, crime, and violence that extends from the top all the way to small, forgotten towns all over the country.

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