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December 2006
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Mexico and the use of troops

I’ve got to admit that I was a bit puzzled earlier this week when Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon decided to send 7,000 soldiers, federal police and Navy forces to Michoacan to fight the drug war, and then expanded that to other states.
Using troops in a so-called “drug war” is kind of like the British redcoats in bright uniforms, marching in formation and upset that the colonists aren’t playing fair. It just doesn’t work. Sure, you might nail a few of the more obvious targets, but the rest of the trafficking system will just blend in like a chameleon, giving soldiers nothing to shoot at but civilians.
And sure enough, the LA Times reports today: Mexico anti-drug effort mostly a bust (“… and not the kind Calderon had in mind.”)

New president’s initiative yields little in the way of seizures and no arrests despite its high profile.

So far, no surprise.
But there was a very interesting passage at the end of the article:

The Calderon administration’s strategy may be limited, at least for now, to warning traffickers that the government will interfere with their business unless the killings end, analysts say.
“They’re not trying to end drug trafficking or drug use,” said Jorge Chabat, a drug trade expert. “They’re just trying to maintain a minimum amount of order.
“This is more like a father with a misbehaving adolescent.”

Woah! That’s very interesting. My reading of that is that Mexico may be wishing to send a negotiating message that non-violent trafficking may be winked at by the state in order to reduce the violence. If so, that’s a pretty major policy decision that won’t sit well with the U.S.

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