Mexican Voters Don't See Drug War Violence As a Sign of Success


Mexico's three leading presidential candidates all seem inclined to de-escalate a literalized drug war that has killed some 50,000 people since the end of 2006. President Felipe Calderón, like U.S. officials, has argued that the horrific violence is a sign of success, but that idea "has lost resonance with the public," The New York Times reports. The crackdown demanded by a U.S. government intent on stopping Americans from getting the psychoactive substances they want has had no discernible impact on drug consumption here, but it has destabilized the black market, leading to an entirely predictable increase in violence:

The focus on arresting top traffickers and extraditing them to the United States has weakened several organizations, the Mexican and American authorities have insisted, but the bloodshed caused by newly emergent and splintering groups has overwhelmed the local and state authorities and left the impression that the antidrug forces are losing ground.

"They can get some of the guys at the top, but now you've got all these other guys running around doing whatever they want, and the state and local police can't handle it," said an American official who requested anonymity because of the political sensitivities.

Not surprisingly, Mexicans resent the idea that they should accept mass murder and mayhem in their country as the price of a vain crusade to protect American drug users from themselves, and the presidential candidates recognize that political reality. Enrique Peña Nieto, the nominee of the Instititutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), says "the task of the state, what should be its priority from my point of view, and what I have called for in this campaign, is to reduce the levels of violence." Josefina Vázquez Mota, the nominee of Calderón's National Action Party, says "results will be measured not by how many criminals are captured, but by how stable and secure the communities are." Democratic Revolution Party candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador—whose slogan is "abrazos, no balazos" ("hugs, not bullets")—joins Peña Nieto and Vázquez Mota in promising to stop using the Mexican Army for drug law enforcement. A foreign policy analyst at the Mexican think tank CIDE tells the Times,  "You go ask the majority of people about a drug lab in the city, they are going to say, 'As long as they don't kill or rob me, it doesn't matter.'" Those priorities seem pretty sensible to me. American drug warriors, of course, are alarmed.

More on Mexico's drug war violence here.