• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Basic Truths on US-Mexican Relations

Via Reuters:  Obama tells Mexicans a ‘new Mexico’ is emerging.

Drug-fueled violence in Mexico is not entirely the fault of the Mexican people, he said. Instead, the United States shares the blame because much of the violence is centered around the Americans’ demand for illegal drugs and the fact that guns are smuggled into Mexico from the United States.

“In this relationship there is no senior partner or junior partner. We are two equal partners, two sovereign nations that must work together in mutual interest and mutual respect,” Obama said.

From the speech itself:

And in the United States, we recognize our responsibilities.  We understand that much of the root cause of violence that’s been happening here in Mexico, for which many so Mexicans have suffered, is the demand for illegal drugs in the United States.  And so we’ve got to continue to make progress on that front.

[...]

And we also recognize that most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United States.  (Applause.) I think many of you know that in America, our Constitution guarantees our individual right to bear arms, and as President I swore an oath to uphold that right and I always will.  But at the same time, as I’ve said in the United States, I will continue to do everything in my power to pass common-sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people.  That can save lives here in Mexico and back home in the United States. It’s the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  So we’ll keep increasing the pressure on gun traffickers who bring illegal guns into Mexico.  We’ll keep putting these criminals where they belong — behind bars.

It has to be recognized, if one actually wants to understand the situation, that these are the basic facts.  The main market for the drugs in question is the United States.  This has been true as long as there has been a “war on drugs.”  Of course, the speaking of the truth has resulted in the typical pantomime in which someone speaks the truth (that American demand is the main driver of the drug trade) and then an American commenter who doesn’t understand the situation reacts with outrage! because the speaker of truth is “blaming the US” (see Jim Hoft, amongst others). This cycle has been going on since at least the 1980s when the discussion was in the context of US-Andean relations.

The basic economics of the drug war is simple:  demand drives the process, not supply and the demand is in the US (and Europe).

Further, the US is the major source for the guns used by the cartels. Of course, this has provided a revival of Fast and Furious chatter (such as here and here). Never mind, of course, that the only reason the ill-fated program existed was because of the problem with gun smuggling to being with.  (Also, anyone who is familiar with the situation knows that the problem is gun-smuggling into Mexico is decades-old).

It is also true that the perception (and the reality) in US-Mexican relations over time has been one of the US acting like the senior partner and treating Mexico like the junior partner (and despite presidential rhetoric, odds are that this will remain the case).

Of course, it is easier, I suppose, to simply assume that the US is always in the right and that foreigners are always wrong (rinse, repeat).

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    A couple of points. First, is it your position that those who complain about cocacolonization are completely wrong because it’s their own darned fault for buying American products, imitating American culture, etc.?

    Second, I think that we need to distinguish between the drug trade and the violence that’s going on associated with the drug trade. We’re responsible for the trade in illegal drugs but the violence is homegrown. The temptation to sell illegal drugs to Americans may be too much to resist but the violence associated with it is homegrown.

    In other words, there’s plenty of blame to spread around.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

  2. gVOR08 says:

    The issue isn’t who’s to blame. The issue is what to do about it. It should be obvious by now that the growth of criminal organizations and resulting violence and corruption are far worse than the drugs. Were we to drop the WAR ON DRUGS and focus on prevention and treatment, we would certainly have less violence, corruption, and criminal activity, and we might even have less drug use. But even higher drug use would destroy fewer lives than the current situation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. @Dave Schuler:

    In other words, there’s plenty of blame to spread around.

    This ism of course, true. However, as the source of the market, we bear a lot of the responsibility.

    And the violence (whether in LA, Guatemala, Mexico, or Colombia) is heavily driven by the fact the products in question are black market products (driven by US policy).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  4. @Dave Schuler:

    First, is it your position that those who complain about cocacolonization are completely wrong because it’s their own darned fault for buying American products, imitating American culture, etc.?

    I am unclear on what you are referring to here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Andre Kenji says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Second, I think that we need to distinguish between the drug trade and the violence that’s going on associated with the drug trade.

    No, you can´t distinguish the two. The drug trade allows the worst kinds of criminals to have access to extremely large amounts of money(The PCC, a very violent Brazilian drug syndicate began when a gang of bank robbers noted how much money drug traffickers had while they were in prison) and it´s a violent trade by itself, because they requires gangs to have control over large geographical area. Most of the drug related violence is provoked by war between drug gangs themselves. That´s what is happening in Mexico and in Rio de Janeiro. In São Paulo, where there is only one major crime syndicate controlling the drug trade there is a lower level of drug related violence.

    By the way, the Mexican wave of violence began when former President Felipe Calderon tried to use the Army to fight the cartels, that´s why the PAN, his party, lost several elections in a row.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Second, I think that we need to distinguish between the drug trade and the violence that’s going on associated with the drug trade. We’re responsible for the trade in illegal drugs but the violence is homegrown.

    Dave…. c’mon…. you can not be that naive. The violence is directly related to the profit, the profit is directly to the trade, the trade is…. us.

    I used to go down to Mexico (SLP) every year….

    Been a few years. DOG I miss it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Lynn says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “I used to go down to Mexico (SLP) every year….”

    I still do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Tony W says:

    As James indicates above, it would be difficult to overstate the effect the black market has on this problem. The large amounts of money are simply remuneration for the risk taken in avoiding DEA, border security and local law enforcement. Drug policy is one area where the government has some control over the situation, but to date they have followed the head-in-the-sand policy the Reagans popularized of “Just Say No”.

    Come to think of it, maybe that’s the Republican Party’s larger problem today – maybe they are just misinterpreting Nancy’s message of 30-odd years ago.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lynn:

    I still do.

    Where do you cross at? I use to cross at McAllen/ Reynosa but I read too much in the news these days. Also, I ran into a gal from Valles a few months ago and I asked her how it was and she said, “Oh, not too bad. The cartels come in once every month or so and take over the whole city, but then they leave again.”

    Maybe it is better away from the Pan-AM, I don’t know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. KariQ says:

    The war on drugs has destroyed more lives than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. We’ve got to change!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Lynn says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “Where do you cross at?”

    I’m not sure I’d drive in, although I have friends who do. Besides, I go different places every year and use public transportation (no loooong distance buses, however).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. John425 says:

    gVOR08 says:
    Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 12:55

    “The issue isn’t who’s to blame. The issue is what to do about it. It should be obvious by now that the growth of criminal organizations and resulting violence and corruption are far worse than the drugs. Were we to drop the WAR ON DRUGS and focus on prevention and treatment, we would certainly have less violence, corruption, and criminal activity, and we might even have less drug use. But even higher drug use would destroy fewer lives than the current situation.”

    What balderdash!. Do you really think that the violence will cease as soon as we open the borders to drugs? Here in WA state they just legalized Marijuana usage. Do you really think the Latin drug cartels will sit idly by as local Seattle pot farms squeeze them out? Wow!, you live in a dream world!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0