What Should Be Done About Violent Crime in Mexico?
A reader named Rodolfo Ostolaza writes in with a most heartfelt plea about violence in Mexico. He would welcome all suggestions.
I live in Mexico City and, although the wave of violence in my country has not yet fully reached this area, I’m worried because we are living a state of terror, with bloody attacks, and a lack of humanity. That is why I am requesting your help.
What do you think we can do to change this? According to the chapter on crime reduction in Freakonomics, a judge’s decision was more influential than a change in public policy and law enforcement bodies in reducing crime in the U.S. I wish we could apply this “recipe” (allowing abortion throughout Mexico, which is currently legal only in Mexico City) to keep the hope that, in the future, things will be brighter. However, considering the Mexican idiosyncrasy, with strong influence of the Catholic Church, I believe that this measure would have, at best, a marginal impact.
I want you to share this question with your readers. Give us suggestions, ideas, different perspectives to analyze the problem. What follows are some thoughts and questions of how, I think, the problem should be analyzed.
First we must understand precisely the problem itself. It is true that the violence began to grow exponentially after President Calderón declared war. Without consulting the population, he launched a battle, first against drug cartels, and then against organized crime, in order to legitimize its mandate, because he could not fulfill his campaign proposal of more employment. It is worth emphasizing the difference between drug trafficking and organized crime, since the former gave way to other terrorist activities, which are already part of the second group.
This war has a failed strategy. The government is attacking the head of an octopus. Once it falls, the tentacles are looking to take their place. That begets more violence. We are no longer talking about 2 or 3 cartels fighting over territory. Instead we have several organizations looking to “win” the drugs market, but they are also diversifying theirs activities. It’s not just the drugs anymore; it’s rape, kidnapping, murder and plain terrorism. Those “new” markets are attractive to them. Obviously there are economic incentives for this behavior, but there must also be other kinds of incentives. What are the incentives of these criminals, these terrorists who attack us?
More importantly, how to annihilate the impact of such incentives? Currently there are several cities where the army patrols the streets. This is not contemplated as a function of the armed forces, but of local police corps, which leaves the soldiers in legal limbo, even a constitutional one. But despite this, clashes between soldiers and criminals are common. This shows that the presence of the army does not diminish criminal activity.
Two possible solutions are commonly proposed (and both are quite aberrant). The first one is drugs legalization. This would be irrelevant, since violence is not confined to this area. The kidnapping industry and terrorism attacks can be analyzed as separate from drug trafficking activities. In addition, it is unclear what benefits would be obtained with it. Maybe we would have more businessmen and fewer criminals (imagine the drug lords doing lobbying!), or maybe we would have a new tourism experience, which would not last long if violence is not reduced.
The second alternative suggests negotiating with drug lords. In addition to the enormous moral problem posed by this, it seems impractical given the number of organizations involved. It would be the State as a regulator of an oligopoly. But the incentives to break the agreement may be sufficient to start a new war between cartels. Moreover, it does not ensure that violence will decrease, because it is possible that the link has been broken.
So what to do? Should we militarize the country? Should we kill criminals at the bottom of the pyramid violently, to make the profession riskier? Should we negotiate with criminal organizations, with terrorists? Is drug legalization a solution, or a source for new problems? What can citizens do to change the situation?
Many of the previous opinions come from conventional wisdom. Therefore I beg you to help us find the right questions to analyze this problem, which will give us at least hope that something can be done
I understand that other world problems such as famine in Africa, riots in Libya, fear of U.S. recession, debt of European countries, etc., exists. But what is happening in Mexico is relevant on the world scene, given our proximity to the United States. If violence is taking over our country, who says it will not seek a larger pie?