The hordes of fun-seeking co-eds who made their way to Cancun for spring break this year were largely unaware of the drug-related kidnappings, beheadings and general violence that has plagued Mexico since the country's narco war came to the fore in 2008. It's too much to handle—even with a wicked tequila buzz.
The rivalry between the Calderón government and the fractious armies of drug cartels threatens to make Mexico look a lot less like Girls Gone Wild. In 2008, over 6,200 drug-related killings were attributed to the drug war. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas believes Mexico’s two largest drug cartels have a corps of 100,000 foot soldiers ready to take on government anti-drug forces.
Ciudad Juárez, a stone's throw from El Paso has become a no-go zone with drug lords battling los federales. Gangs have begun to fly ultralights across the border and into drug drops, thereby trafficking to Americans the roughly $30 billion in methamphetamines, marijuana and heroin they blow through every year. This spring, for the first time, gangs signaled that they would not hesitate to target American students enjoying the whitesand beaches hopping nightlife.
Former CIA Director George Tenet was concerned enough to email his son at the University of Pennsylvania to discourage him from going to Cancun this year. Colleges and universities have followed suit warning students to pick other countries.
The violence has become so intense in Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon that Texas Governor Perry has initiated Operation Border Star, a transboundary operation to respond quickly to any violence that may spill over from south of the Rio Grande.
The easiest solution to Mexico's drug war might be lessening the demand for the drugs that are fueling the violence in the first place through anti-drug campaigns north of the border. But given the success of such campaigns in the past, perhaps that's a facile approach. The likeliest arbiter in the Mexican dispute could be the recession. A hit of meth can go for $80. What recession-pinched free basing college student can afford that?