Foreign Policy

Will U.S. Recognize Mexico's Spring Uprising?


Look at that fivehead

If the popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East didn't present a big enough problem for the foreign policy realists-turned-revolution cheerleaders in the Obama administration, it appears that Mexicans have caught the freedom bug, and that U.S.-backed Mexican President Felipe Calderon is hell-bent on squashing it:

On Sunday thousands of Mexicans marched in the capital, Mexico City, to demand an end to the "war on drug trafficking" launched by President Felipe Calderón. They view it is an absurd war that has cost 40,000 lives. Similar protests were held across the country.

The March for Peace With Justice and Dignity that culminated in the capital made demands on the authorities and on the criminal gangs to put an end to the violence. The protesters think that organised crime has infiltrated the government and that there is now a "co?opted state" – a "rotten state". The war on drug trafficking "is not supported" by the people, according to the Catholic bishop Raúl Vera. The protests are supported by the Catholic church. "We Mexicans must shout a categorical 'stop!'," said the Mexican Episcopate Council.

Calderón's government has reacted negatively to the protests. The public security minister, Genaro García Luna, said it was "unthinkable" that the fight against the cartels might be wrong. Calderón boasted that he had "the law, reason and force" on his side.

Do such blatant salutations to iron-fistedness make Calderon's enablers uncomfortable? Probably. Will Pres. Obama hold Calderon to the same standards as the other dictators he's been lecturing recently? Probably not. The U.S. has been falling over itself to please Calderon since Obama came into office.  

In September 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compared Mexico to Colombia of 20 years ago. The key lines: "These drug cartels are now showing more and more indices of insurgency; all of a sudden, car bombs show up which weren't there before. It's looking more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago, where the narco-traffickers control certain parts of the country, not significant parts."

Calderon went bananas, prompting Pres. Obama to tell a Spanish-language news outlet that Clinton didn't know what she was talking about. In turn, Calderon gave Obama a little pat on the butt for dismissing an entirely accurate assessment of Mexico's dance with failed statehood.

"I think the one who best-corrected Secretary of State Clinton was President Obama, and he did it very well. In Colombia, not just 20 years ago, but still now, there are parts of the territory that are controlled, dominated by and governed precisely by criminals and guerrilla forces. In Mexico there are NO parts of the territory in the hands of criminals."

"It is very painful for Mexico that such careless statements are made … so careless, not responsible, as those by Secretary of State Clinton, because they damage Mexico's image terribly. Yes, we have problems; yes, we have some things. I think the main thing in common with Colombia is that we are both countries that suffer the results of drug use in the United States. Both countries are victims of the enormous American consumption of drugs and now, in addition, of an exacerbated sale of arms from American industry."

While Clinton got to keep her job after questioning Mexico's stability, Calderon saw to it that U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual did not. Pascual "resigned" his post after Julian Assange leaked diplomatic cables in which the former Brookings Institute VP criticized not just Mexico's inability to act on drug trafficking intelligence in a timely manner, but also its abysmal prosecution rate for murders (Pascual noted in one cable that "only 2 percent of those arrested in Ciudad Juarez have even been charged with a crime.") Calderon complained that the cables caused "severe damage" to Mexico-U.S. relations, and Pascual got the boot. (In his new capacity at State, announced today, Pascual will be "Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs," which sounds a lot like a rubber room.)

But that's not say that Calderon doesn't have a crush or two north of the border. DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart (a Bush holdover-turned-Obama nominee who was confirmed in December by a Democrat-led Senate) is a woman after his own heart. "It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs," Leonhart told WaPo last month. She added that the cartels "are like caged animals, attacking one another." Which means that if Obama decided to chide Calderon for ignoring a popular uprising, he'd have to chide his Justice Department for aiding and abetting. 

Related: Last month, Calderon's predecessor Vicente Fox called for legalization

NEXT: Kids Nowadays! With Their Cameras, Their Questions, Their Expos Hats, and Their Arrests for Filming Cops

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “the law, reason and force”

    Yes, no, and not really.

    By the way, what’s up with the story about the cartels getting weapons from the US government? Is there anything to it?

    1. The BATFE definitely ordered gun shops in Texas and Arizona to sell firearms to people who failed background checks. This story makes it sound like they told ICE/Customs to let them pass across the border, too.

  2. Drugs are bad, mmmkay?

    Well, unless you have to cram all night in Harvard and plan on being President one day.

  3. (In his new capacity at State, announced today, Pascual will be “Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs,” which sounds a lot like a rubber room.)

    He’s been put in charge of groveling before the Saudis. Sounds like fun.

  4. It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs.

    How do these people look at themselves in the mirror? They are finding fucking mass graves for christ sake. And they have the temerity to call mass killings success?

    1. If the people had not been selling these drugs they would still be alive.

      1. Right. They should have been selling tiny plastic guitars, novelty sombreros, and three foot tall margarita glasses to tourists in Tijuana, mang.

      2. You are evil

      3. Right, because the cartels never go after people uninvolved in the drug trade. Say, family members of business associates, or government officials tasked with investigating crimes, or people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    2. It’s just Mexicans, Troy. They don’t count.

      1. Yes, they do count, but they should not be selling drugs.

        1. But if no one sold drugs, how would people be able to buy them?

            1. If they do grow them, I hope the plants shrivel up and die just as your blog did.

              1. Juanita, you would be perfect in my next movie. I’ll send a van to pick you up.

                1. You will not need a van. I am not morbidly obese like your rather.

                  1. Shhh…just let it happen.

                    1. I like you sick fuck and would love to support your film. Please tell me it’s a slasher and the jewish boy gets his dick cut-off

        2. What if they weren’t selling drugs? What if they were just caught in the crossfire?

          Oh…silly me, what was I thinking. 1st, they are brown people. 2nd, they are Mexicans, an egregious class of brown people if there ever was one. 3rd, what is a few ten thousand dead people just to make drugs marginally more difficult to get?

          BTW, Folks, cops love Juanita: she swallows.

          1. Of course, helle swallows

        3. Is Juanita spanish for ‘cunt’?

  5. Let’s say Mexico legalized drugs tomorrow. What would the cartels do? Suddenly stop bribing and shooting people? Or would they continue behaving as now, perhaps bribing and shooting different people? Or what?

    I do support legalization, but I wonder about the transition. (Yes, I know how the end of Prohibition worked in the US, but Mexico is a rather different place.)

    1. The cartels don’t care what they sell – they aren’t experts at drugs so much they are experts at criminality.

      They’ll move on to sponsoring/co-opting politicians’ efforts to control/regulate whatever else they still have under their thumb. I’m guessing, say, real estate development, especially along the coasts those gringos find so attractive. (Which will be a million times more attractive after prohibition ends)

      1. They know how to make money. My guess is they’d cut out the middle man and run for office themselves.

      1. …by DOJ’s Eric HOOOlder!

    2. Human trafficking. But I keep making the argument that it’s a lot easier to catch people running guns or people than drugs simply because of the size of the item.

      1. But i think the margins/volume on humans and guns is much lower. You could get back to like 80s or 90s level cartel power.

        1. Absolutely. Criminal organizations will generally continue to be criminal organizations and they will continue to do bad things. But why should they have the golden goose of prohibition? Make them work as hard as possible.

        2. Exactly — cartels can’t simply “move on to something else” and expect anything close to the same profits they see with drug trafficking. That’s always the couterargument — well these guys aren’t going to become used car salesmen! They’re criminals, and they’ll move onto other crime.

          As if money isn’t the driving factor behind pretty much all criminal activity.

          1. Well, I don’t speak for everyone, but I make snuff films for personal enjoyment, not monetary compensation.

            1. Even better, pick-up juanita helle pronto

          2. Why do people sell drugs?

            To make money, duh.

            Why does organized crime run protection rackets, gambling and prostitution?

            Do make money, duh.

            But because these activities are frowned upon by the courts, the people involved must settle disputes among themselves, usually with violence.

            I’d say some are attracted to criminality for the money, some are just thugs.
            I agree that the thugs would be less likely to become car salesmen than the ones attracted to crime for the money, but with drugs legal at least they would not be rich thugs with gold plated pistols.

          3. Why would they move on to something else? If the cartels are the ones currently producing and distributing drugs, why couldn’t they continue to do so if the product became legalized?

            1. Well US policy muddles things up considerably, but still: the profit margins in the drug trade are enabled by prohibition. Without a black market, selling heroin is no more lucrative than selling alcohol. Some current criminal producers and traffickers might indeed continue with their jobs in a legal drug trade, but they’d be working with a legal commodity. The change in income and lifestyle would be significant.

              It’s about profit margins.

              1. Their is no reason to think that they wouldn’t be able to earn large profits. Sure, legalization may result a lower sale price, but the cost of business for the cartels would also lower. Think of all the costs built into illegal drug prices, that would go away if drugs were legalized.

                Bribes, ranging from local law enforcement, to federal officials. Lost product, whether seized or stolen. High transportation costs, due to evading both military and law enforcement. Funding a militia like element, to fight rival gangs, law enforcement and the military. Destroyed crops as a result of the war on drugs.

                I would imagine that these costs add up to be huge. If drugs were legalized, the cartels would be no different than the sugar, corn, coffee, and tobacco industries.

    3. I agree. It’s a little like stopping smoking after you get lung cancer and hoping it clears up. Stopping prohibition would have prevented them from becoming so powerful, but oops.

    4. Let’s say Mexico legalized drugs tomorrow. What would the cartels do?

      Probably pretty much what they do now, at least up north. They aren’t fighting over the Mexican black market. They’re fighting over the US black market.

      Sadly, Mexico can’t solve this problem on its own. The US has a headache, and so Mexico has a fucking brain tumor the size of a grapefruit.

    5. This argument never makes any sense to me. Cartels are killing over the black market. So legalize ? Oh no, cause then they’ll keep killing. So illegal: killing. Legal: killing. Heads I win, tails you lose, either way, we gotta keep fighting them.

    6. History says they’d move into prostitution, gambling, theft, and extortion, just like the American mafia did after the end of Prohibition. Of course, none of those are nearly as lucrative as drugs, so you’d see a drop in the number of participants (most likely via a bloodletting among the current crop of banditos).

      1. Or they could run for political office and do all those things legally.

      2. They are already working in human smuggling, extortion, theft, etc. Gambling is legal, however, so no real black market for it.

    7. If drugs were legalized, the cartels would would do the obvious, and transition to become a legitimate business. I’m sure, if given the option, the cartels would prefer to operate in the same manor as the sugar cane, coffee and tobacco growers. Why should we assume any different?

    8. PapayaSF: Let’s say Mexico legalized drugs tomorrow. What would the cartels do?

      I know what they’d probably do. They’d probably sell drugs legally and make almost as much money as they currently do without the risk of death.

  6. Riggs is the new Balko.

  7. On Sunday thousands of Mexicans marched in the capital, Mexico City, to demand an end to the “war on drug trafficking” Fucking A.

    The protesters think that organised crime has infiltrated the government and that there is now a “co?opted state” ? a “rotten state”

    You know, they might be on to something there.

    1. Is there a difference between government and organized crime?

      1. When organized crime commits acts of violence against you you can run to government and they will promise to help you while actually doing nothing.
        When government commits acts of violence against you you can run to God and he will promise to help you while actually doing nothing.
        When God commits acts of violence against you you can go to the insurance company who will promise to pay you while actually giving you nothing.

        Luckily insurance companies do not commit acts of violence or we’d be totally screwed.

      2. “Is there a difference between government and organized crime?”

        Govenment crime is poorly organized.

  8. Regardless about how you feel about the issue, can we all agree that comparing the democratically elected Calderon to men like Mubarek and Assad is ridiculous?

    1. God I’m going to hate myself for saying this…

      You know who else was democratically elected?

      1. Godwin?

      2. reagan…as union prez for the screen actors guild

      3. Julius Caesar?

      4. IIRC, Hitler was not elected. He was reluctantly appointed chancellor as part of a deal to form a coalition government.

    2. Ladies and gentlemen, ‘citizens’ of this alleged democracy, I stand here to ask of you to consider the following facts . . . for nine decades there was only one party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, from which all political decisions were filtered through, and ladies and gentlemen of this alleged democracy, does that make sense? ‘Institutional’? ‘Revolution’? You can have a revolution, you can have a institution, but you can’t have an institutional revolution. It does NOT make sense!

    3. I have to agree with Robert here.

  9. The protests are supported by the Catholic church. “We Mexicans must shout a categorical ‘stop!’,” said the Mexican Episcopate Council.

    So this is what theocracy looks like.

    1. no or they wouldnt be protesting

    2. How’s it a theocracy if the government ignores the church?

      1. Got it–If the Government follows the advice of the church, it’s a theocracy. If the government ignores the church, then the government is dictatorship like in Syria.

  10. You fool, Riggs!! You’ll draw Juanita out of her cave with this troll bait!

    1. Too late, Naga. Too late.

  11. PapayaSF|5.9.11 @ 12:57PM|#

    Let’s say Mexico legalized drugs tomorrow. What would the cartels do? Suddenly stop bribing and shooting people? Or would they continue behaving as now, perhaps bribing and shooting different people? Or what?

    I do support legalization, but I wonder about the transition. (Yes, I know how the end of Prohibition worked in the US, but Mexico is a rather different place.)

    Without a similar legalization in the US, this would have almost no effect on the cartels. And if the US legalized drugs, it would have huge implications for the Mexican cartels even if Mexico kept drugs illegal. As much as the Mexican government’s deep corruption is a real problem, the drug war is in real ways a problem created by the US.

    1. If the U.S. legalized and Mexico didn’t, it would wipe out the cartels, because all production could be handled domestically for far cheaper.

      1. Only with illegal immigrant labor. So one way or another, we’ll be smuggling something in from Mexico.

        1. You don’t think American workers could make drugs cheaper than prohibition-level prices?

          1. They could until the unions moved in.

            1. They could until the unions moved in.

              Then they would have to move the factories to Mexico.

              It’s a vicious circle.

          2. I am dubious about anyone’s ability to get lots of seasonal labor to harvest plants without using illegals.

            1. Pay them in weed and they’ll be turning people away.

              1. Weed, the new currency.

                In colonial times, in NJ, they paid road workers with applejack. That was before the unions moved in.

                1. If people traded with a tangible asset, how could the central bank steal all the value away?

                  1. Why a tangible asset? The only problem with federal reserve notes is that their producer faces no market pressure. It’s amazing they’re as stable as they are when you consider that they’re pure monopoly (not Monopoly) money.

      2. There’s a very important 3rd player: Colombia. Without legalization here what the US or Mexico do is not all that important.

    2. Actually, in the latter half of the prohibition era, booze was legal in Canada and illegal in the US.

      It was well known that brewers and distillers in Canada were shipping to the US, but since there was no Canadian law against it, the Canadian suppliers sold their booze openly without government hassle. There was very little gang violence in Canada vs what went on in the US at that time.

      The Canadian suppliers had no incentive to be violent locally as it would attract the attention of the police and make their neighbours angry at them.

      [BTW: Several large Canadian fortunes of prominent families – Labatt, Bronfman, for example – were made at that time. They are now considered very respectable established families.]

      1. well, we had the Kennedys

      2. Thank you posting this. I was wondering if there was a good historical example of what might happen if a neighboring country legalizes a substance for production and use, while the other neighbor continues to prohibit the production and use of the substance.

        1. Bear in mind that this is the nation that gave us Bachman-Turner Overdrive. How violent could they be in the first place?

          1. They also gave us Loverboy, Anne Murray, and Justin Bieber.

            I know aggression when I see it.

            1. They made up for it by giving us Rush. And honestly, Canada hasn’t equaled Rush. That was kind of Canada’s crowning achievement, frankly.

              1. Eh, I would say Dave Foley and Phil Hartman, but Rush probably had more than two brilliant products to show for their whole careers.

                1. I’m speaking musically. Canada has given us lots of stuff to laugh at. They’re good at that.

              2. John Candy was cool.

          2. Ummmm fucking hockey eh.

          3. This is exactly what I was thinking. Besides, drugs are already illegal in Canada, and their violence is considerably less than ours.

            I’m pretty sure it has something to do with Justin Bieber.

          4. I refute you thus: The Shat. Kirk ordered Scotty to destroy an entire planet if Kirk didn’t get his way.

      3. My Congressman’s family made their fortune in the trucking industry by “importing” booze from Canada.

        LoBiondo Bros. Motor Express

  12. The issue here is that many Mexicans remember a time where, like the Yakuza in Japan, the authorities simply looked the other way as long as violence didn’t spill out into the public. Mexico is racked by horrid violence (check out sometime), and you can easily sympathize with all the people caught in the crossfire. They feel if the Mexican army backs down, things will return to the shadows.

    Times have changed, however. Unlike an earlier time, the cartels are fractured and bitterly set against each other. Removing the army won’t solve that. You’ve got mafia-style groups (Sinaloa, Gulf) fighting para-military groups (Zetas). Their scorched earth tactics leave a void that is filled by corrupt state police and lesser criminals.

    Short of legalization to under-cut the problem, Mexico is in for a doozy.

  13. There cannot be a solution to this problem without first recognizing and respecting my authoritah, and that of the state. Nothing else is rational!

  14. Why the hell is Reason endorsing Calderon?

  15. Is it bad that after reading this article thought “Fuck man, it would be awesome to be a corrupt DEA agent working in Mexico. I could get caught doing something illegal and then get sent to a rubber room, fucking sweetcake.”

    Yeah, I have lofty career aspirations.

  16. Also amusing, I think coke costs about the same now as it did in the 80s. No data on hand but it appears that cocaine is more inflation-proof than Coca-cola. If that’s how successful the Drug Wars are then maybe it isn’t about drugs, it’s about power and killin’.

    1. however, my sources say cocaine is cut much more aggresively these days

      1. Living a hour from the border in Arizona, My sources say your sources are wrong…

        1. probably, but my point was that legalization may not cause such a dramatic price drop. Prices are already fairly low. The WoD is hardly crimping supply enough to boost price.

        2. In LA and I’ll back you on that.

          1. Dammit the was for barstool

  17. We need to send assassination teams into Mexico.

  18. When Calderon starts deploying military units to use live ammunition on the protesters, then (and only then) can you justifiably compare him to Assad.

  19. It’s been safer there for years.

    And this is only a 3 hour drive from my house.

  20. Totally OT:

    Prince Harry Used Wiggly Worm Toy to Keep Royal Wedding Bridesmaid Happy”–headline,, May 4

    1. cut or uncut?

  21. “It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs,” Leonhart told WaPo last month.

    “It may seem contradictory, but the approach of the Death Star means the Rebel Alliance is winning.”

    1. So more violence would mean even more winning? I think maybe I’m seeing the flaw in the plans of those conducting the War on Drugs.

      1. Indeed. I’m sure simply nuking the Mexican side of the border, and mounting automated weapons that exterminate anything moving within a quarter mile of the border, would seriously cut down on cross-border drug traffic. So I suppose that would be a huge victory, both on MOAR KILLING metric and the drug trafficking metric.

        Or maybe she is consulting the Sheen Dictionary?

        1. You don’t go far enough. We need to nuke the U.S. as well, to stop the drug market.

  22. Maybe when your General?simo Barack Obama finishes in Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and Iran he will invade M?xico to help us.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.