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Jun 14 / Jon

Five myths in the US about drug trafficking in Mexico

Translated by Mohammad Movassaghi.

Ultimately after reading the translated version, the target audience should come away with an educated and objective view of the reality of the drug trade on the ground in Mexico relative to the spin US news media. This should help to diffuse negative and inflammatory stereotypes with regard to Mexican culture.

Source text: “Cinco mitos en Estados Unidos sobre el narco en México”.

“Five myths in the US about drug trafficking in Mexico”
By Carlos Chirinos

Mexico is in the US media almost everyday, but it is usually only about bad news: drug trafficking and the violence associated with the struggle between drug cartels and Mexican state officials.

The American public’s view seems to fluctuate between feelings that these tragic stories take place in a distant, lawless land with no connection, and the need for alarm that the violence is spreading at an accelerated pace.

Recently at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexican Institute, the centre of American political studies published a paper in the Washington Post about the disinformation in the US about Mexico.

The institute’s director, Andrew Seele who is one of the author’s of the paper, told BBC how this “myth” often prevents citizens, politicians and media from understanding what happens south of the border.

Myth 1: indiscriminate violence

The paper points out that there has been an increase in drug related violence due to the struggle between cartels for control of trafficking routes in the US, the primary market for their goods.

“Violence in Mexico has regional overtones, while others are still in relative peaceful. We must recognize that overall Mexico has similar crime rates, and in some cases less than some neighboring countries”, said Steele.

Although in his investigations Steele says the majority of the victims are drug dealing gang members (there are few civilians killed in the “line of fire”, while soldiers and police account for 7% of the casualties according to the article), he recognizes that in some cities there are troubling levels of violence.

Ciudad Juarez, in the state of Juarez, for instance is frequently cited, where since 2006 more than 5000 people have died because of the war on drugs.

Myth 2: A lost cause

Studies done at the Wilson Centre cited a survey by the Mexican newspaper Goals, in which 59% of respondents believed that the cartels were winning the battle against the government. This feeling is shared by most Americans.

Nonetheless, Seele believes that this is an inaccurate view and refers to the police successes against drug traffickers, for instance the capture of Arellano Felix, head of the Tijuana cartel.

“In the long term, the Mexican government has the ability to change what is today a national security issue into a public safety issue, says Steele who notes that this would require shoring up weak justice institutions.

The authors of the study assert the urgent need to modernize and professionalize Mexican courts and police. They believe the constitutional reform of 2008 is a good starting point.

Myth 3: Corruption and drug trafficking

American citizens and figures of authority have come to view Mexican security forces with suspicion, and in the recent past they have had their reasons.

Last year, the Fiscal Investigation Agency was disbanded for alleged corruption. The head of Interpol Mexico, Prosecutor officials, regional and local police chiefs, hundreds of officers and several mayors have been arrested for association with organized crime.

Sometimes it seems like an internal battle between parts of the state. There are officials who are fighting crime and there are those who collaborate with organized crime. There are positive signs however, at least fundamental ones. Above all there are brave journalists and civic leaders who seek to hold the government accountable to the citizens according to Steele.

Nonetheless Steele recognizes “that it will be a major struggle to alter the tide of corruption in any part of the state.”

Myth 4: Mexican Problem

This is perhaps the most widespread and unfounded myth, because the drug trade is a bilateral market.

“The money that finances organized crime is courtesy of US consumerism. Weapons are for the most part imported illegally from the US. We are talking about a cyclical narcotics market ranging from south to north, and money and arms from north to south”, according to Steele.

Americans spend $60 billion on illegal drugs, and it is estimated that $39 billion of this amount is transferred out of the country and into the bank accounts of drug traffickers.

Since President Barack Obama assumed power, he and his cabinet have recognized the co-responsibility the US has in controlling the problem of having the primary target market that traffickers seek. The government has announced it will focus on programs to reduce consumption.

Myth 5: The violence comes from the south

The recent executions of three Americans associated with the consulate in Juarez reactivated the concerns of those warning that cartel violence is corrupting the border region.

Even the US media warned that the problem could be reaching remote areas of the border such as Phoenix, Arizona which has been dubbed the nation wide capital for kidnappings.

Nonetheless, El Paso, Texas has one of the lowest crime rates in the US despite being at the forefront of Juarez, which is regarded as one of the most violent places on the continent.

Andrew Seele recognizes that “there is violence associated with drug trafficking in the US, but it is a matter of local violence.

“The Mexican groups operating in the US try not to draw attention because they fear the authorities have the ability to pursue, and prosecute them.” Although imperfect in the US, there is an institutional framework that complicates the life of organized crime, and it also aspires towards to Mexico, and Mexican society.

Experts from the Woodrow Wilson centre the impression held by many citizens, and above all many congressman that Mexico is heading towards failed state status, as were considered Afghanistan and Somalia. This is perhaps the myth most feared by Americans.

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Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada
This work by Spanish 401, UBC, Professor Jon Beasley-Murray is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada.