Senior Thesis: Negotiating With Narcos: Mexico’s Power Struggle for Citizen Security

Can a dialogue of peace even be established between the Mexican government and the country’s various cartel networks?




Mexico’s narcotraficantes have come a very long way from primarily trafficking cannabis and cultivating poppy fields to dominating the present-day, multi-billion dollar transnational trade of cocaine. The illicit and synthetically prepared derivate of the coca leaf that once enriched infamous Colombian cartels and terrorized the Andean region, has now caused the Mexican government to plunge into the deadliest conflict in contemporary Latin America: the war against drugs and narcotraficantes. As these cartel networks and government forces continue to both illegally collude and violently clash, the collateral damage has caused the death of over 85,000 people from 2006-2014, where “total murders rose 112 percent” (Reuters, April 1, 2016). In addition, Mexico’s National Statistics Institute, in 2014, reported that there were 22,732 homicides in the country since President Calderon’s inauguration in December of 2006. In addition, this violence contributed to the displacement of thousands in the absence of any other effective alternative to ensure citizen safety (Eline Gordts, April 1, 2016). What immediately becomes questioned is the Mexican government’s commitment towards dismantling various cartel structures and reducing the drug trade due to the historical and continuous clandestine relationship between certain political representatives and domestic drug trafficking organizations. An analysis of Mexico’s formation from a post-revolutionary state to one currently having its citizen security and legitimacy threatened is required to better understand how the government is at risk of allowing more of its autonomy become controlled by organized crime bribery.

The intra-state conflict that has developed between the Mexican government and the country’s various regional cartels has continuously crippled the ruling state for over twenty years. Ex-Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s declaration of war was made within his first two weeks in office in 2006 as Mexican commander-in-chief. Though promising militant counternarcotic policy, this only resulted in the large-scale captures and seizures that were accompanied by appalling homicide and disappearance rates as organized crime proliferated. Countless militarized offensives to topple Mexican cartel hierarchies are still being deployed by Mexican security forces and now with the help of North American intelligence agencies. This bilateral assistance continues in the absence of a dialogue between both social forces participating in this war because a national negotiation process between these two forces at war would be fatal to the legitimacy of the government and invigorate the power of certain narcolords. The reputation of the Mexican state would be harshly criticized for seeking to mediate violence with the very perpetrators of violence they are already accused of cooperating with clandestinely. In addition, this widespread violence is causing civil society to begin to seriously question the capacity of the Mexican state to ensure the safety of its people.

Due to high levels of presidential disapproval past and current presidents experience, facilitating a peace dialogue between the government and cartel networks would become instantly critiqued by Mexican citizens who perceive their own government to be complicit in organized crime. Mexican civil society is skeptical that a negotiation would reduce violence because they fear that it will unintentionally strengthen the power of certain drug traffickers. As some of these regional cartels continue expanding their operations and wielding greater territorial control, the civilian demand for an immediate reduction and ultimate termination of violence can no longer be institutionally neglected. What is being analyzed is how much more violence will it take for the government to recognize that its complicity in the drug trade is preventing dialogues of peace to appear feasible. Political corruption only dramatizes the issue of negotiating with non-state violent actors unwilling to sacrifice their illicit trade for safer communities.

The Mexican government’s narrative about this conflict fails to acknowledge the collusion that has existed between drug trafficking organizations, armed security forces, and government officials in the past. Mexican cartel networks have historically infiltrated the government and its counternarcotic forces and this has played a role in perpetuating horrifying levels of violence. During the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s, this clandestine relationship became public as high-profile official corruption cases and greater involvement from foreign intelligence services increased. From this period to the present, this political affair experienced critical changes as cartels collapsed into more rebellious splinter groups and as the Mexican government experienced more exterior pressure to end illicit pacts with well-established cartel networks.

The Mexican state, its various drug trafficking organizations, and its citizenry maintain contrasting demands that cannot be satisfied because they would clash with each other’s interests in power and resolutions. The Mexican government remains desperate for the social stability that will draw attention away from their authoritarian and repressive rule; various Mexican cartels desire cooperation from state officials and governmental non-interference in their drug trafficking; and most importantly, the Mexican people demand their right to citizen security, jeopardized by this intrastate conflict, be protected or allowed to be safeguarded by their non-state initiatives. Challenging these narco-networks, militantly, has produced an intolerable amount of collateral damage. This has proven the need for an alternative that does not threaten the security of its citizens who are already having their safety under siege by institutional inefficiency and organized crime’s impunity. Before Mexico became heavily monitored by its northern regional neighbor, the cooperation between drug trafficking organizations and elected government officials had facilitated lower levels of violence due to an illicit pact that would now destroy the bit of legitimacy the current Mexican presidential administration continues to preserve. The arrests of high-level profiled drug traffickers in Mexico has only increased levels of social violence and produced power vacuums that allow the creation of more splinter groups to challenge the government’s capability of suppressing sources of drug trafficking. The narco-political complex continues to unfold as a violent confrontation between these two opposing forces intensifies in the persistent absence of a non-violent mediation process that requires financial and political sacrifices. Moreover, it unravels before the state apparatus that rules in the authoritarian and corrupt manner incapable of reducing the murder rate in Mexico and without secretly communicating with organized crime.

In this thesis, I elucidate how the evolving relationship between the Mexican government and the cartels ended up expanding the power of the latter as the Mexican state and its institutional efforts to address the expansion of organized crime were losing credibility. In my analysis of this history and the current state of affairs, I argue that they key obstacles to the launching of the peace negotiations is the degree of institutional corruption prolonging drug trafficking operations and the different cartels that are being fractionalized into splinter groups. This analysis is determined to provide an explanation as to why peace talks are now seemingly impossible between this national government and drug trafficking organizations and describe how the political corruption harnessed by the long standing rule of the PRI and the twelve year rule of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) created the obstacles its weakening state capacity is unable to overcome.

The complete version of my senior thesis can be viewed with the following link (comments appreciated):

Author: hastalavictoriablog

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