A Spreading Cancer in Mexico

Reporting from Mexico for the December issue of the The Atlantic, author Philip Caputo writes that "drug trafficking and its attendant corruption are a malignancy that has spread into Mexico's lymph system."

Caputo cites:


• a Mexican law professor's conclusion that "17 of Mexico's 31 states have become virtual narco-republics, where organized crime has infiltrated government, the courts, and the police so extensively that there is almost no way they can be cleaned up."

• a U.S. government estimate that "the cultivation and trafficking of illegal drugs directly employs 450,000 people in Mexico."

Caputo's report is all the more distressing because of its moments of restraint. He uses the word "hyperbole," for example, to describe forecasts that "Mexico could become a failed state and the U.S. could find itself with an Afghanistan or a Pakistan on its southern border."

Among other places, Caputo traveled to Nuevo Casas Grandes, where the murder rate is "20 times as high as New York City." This blog last checked in on Mexico's drug war back in early October. So Caputo's piece amounts to a useful, specific, readable update.

One especially interesting passage explores the problems that arise when a country deploys tens of thousands of soldiers within its own borders to handle duties traditionally reserved for police. Caputo writes about "Javier Rosales, a medical technician who died after he and a friend were captured and tortured by soldiers." He continues:

Members of (Rosales') family went to the state justice office and the federal attorney general’s office to file a complaint against the soldiers and demand an investigation. They were turned away because, the officials said, charges of army misconduct fall under military jurisdiction. However, Enrique Torres, a spokesman for the Joint Chihuahuan Operation, told me that the army looks into such allegations only through internal investigations or when formal charges have been filed by state or federal prosecutors. It’s pure catch-22 ...

 

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