Mexico in Crisis

Friday finds me off to Mexico for an assessment visit and lecture on human rights and public security. The crisis in Mexico has reached new levels as rival cartels battle for turf and fight off the government’s attempt to end their trade, while trafficked victims get caught in the crossfire.

The crisis is being framed as a ‘war’ on drugs, which since 2006 has led to 28,000 deaths; a number that should shock the world into action to find a solution. The ‘war’ framing is probably not the correct one (and neither is Hilary Clinton’s unfortaunte construction ‘insurgency’), as much of the trade is based on demand from users in the United States and there are huge financial incentives for the cartels to continue their operations.

The US has extended an additional $175 million (with some human rights requriements that have reamined unmet to date) to assist the war while there appears to be very little appetite to reform the financial institutions through which a large proportion of the drugs money is laundered.

There is worry within the domestic and international human rights community that the war has led to unacceptable abuse, violence and impunity, all of which is fueled by corruption. There is also concern that state institutions lack the capacity to be able to cope with the crisis.

I am looking forward to seeing all my friends, colleagues and new colleagues in Mexico. I have taught many of them who are working tirelessly on different dimensions of the crisis from montitoring to advocacy to analysis. I hope that in a small way, I can add value (however incremental) to the discussion and work with colleagues on pursuing a solution.

As I travel to Mexico I am reminded of the words of Thomas Jefferson:

‘He who trades liberty for security, deserves neither and will lose both.’

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