War on Drugs

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