The Skeptics

Carnage South of the Border

The Mexican government recently admitted that the death toll for 2010 in the country’s drug war topped 15,000. That is a new annual record by a considerable margin, and it represents a whopping 60 percent increase from 2009—the year that held the previous bloody record. The carnage in the government’s effort to neutralize the powerful and well-armed cartels now exceeds 34,000 during the first four years of President Felipe Calderón’s administration.

In addition to the overall level of violence, the turmoil is spreading well beyond the border cities, such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, the usual epicenters of the fighting. The resort city of Acapulco was just rocked by an incident in which 15 people were abducted and beheaded. Monterrey, Mexico’s economic engine and once an oasis of stability, is now just another battleground in the drug war.

Yet President Calderón refuses to budge from his strategy of using the military to confront the cartels. Prominent former officials, including Calderón’s predecessor Vicente Fox, have urged him to rethink his policy—all to no avail.

President Barack Obama once called Calderon the Elliot Ness of Mexico (referring to the “untouchable” U.S. federal agent in the late 1920s and early 1930s who confronted and defeated gangster and bootlegger Al Capone). But Calderón seems far more like George W. Bush, who insisted on “staying the course” in Iraq, even as the mission became ever more of a fiasco.

Mexico is bleeding profusely, yet the Calderón government persists in a strategy that merely consigns more victims to the meat grinder. It is a tragedy for our southern neighbor, and at some point it will likely become our tragedy as well.