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The Enigma of Mexico Being Labeled a Failed State by Some
email this pageprint this pageemail usJerry Brewer -
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October 18, 2010

The palpable assertion that Mexico may be nearing, or has reached, the status of being a failed state is a legitimate topic of international concern. Both the U.S. and Mexico had previously and vehemently denied the labels of narcoterrorism, terrorism or “spillover violence,” until recently. The fact is that those labels stuck in the minds of victims, the victim’s families, and all of those in harm’s way, including law enforcement on both sides of the border since at least 2005.

With little practical control over much of its territory, and being laced with widespread corruption and terror, these factors forced involuntary movements by affected populations that were directly in harm’s way.
Texas border police and sheriff’s offices along the Mexican border were no strangers to the early manifestations of the graphic violence that was en route to the U.S. border. The U.S. Border Patrol reported that its agents were routinely being shot at in the Tucson sector of the Arizona border in 2005. A sheriff in Webb County, Texas (Laredo) reported camouflaged “paramilitary-type” soldiers seen on U.S. soil, heavily armed and escorting drug loads.

The shootout in 2005 in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, with grenade launchers, bazookas and automatic weapons, was evidence of the threats to come. It was terroristic in nature, it appeared to be primarily a narco-based attack, and those involved had indeed crossed over to the U.S. side.

Faced with the significance of potential geopolitical consequences in admitting state failure, confessing the facts and admitting weaknesses, along with a viable recovery strategy, is a healthy game plan towards restoring homeland security. The cards on the table are a better play than a stacked house of cards that easily collapses.

Mexico has in fact failed at some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government. It has sustained the loss of physical control of some of its territory, and at times relinquished ground to superior armed forces against policing and governing officials. The erosion of legitimate authority and rule of law has been evident for quite some time.

Providing necessary public services has been difficult for officials, and thus characterized by noticeable social, political, and economic failures. These were not necessarily deliberate failures, just terror and fear at the numbers of kidnapped, tortured, beheaded and murdered police, government officials, media, and other innocent victims.

With little practical control over much of its territory, and being laced with widespread corruption and terror, these factors forced involuntary movements by affected populations that were directly in harm’s way. The economic fallout has also manifested itself in industry, as many factories in Mexico for U.S. and international firms using Mexican labor (maquiladoras) fear for the safety of workers and the physical security of their plants.

U.S. private sector organizations operating in Mexico are obviously concerned that the graphic violence could impede their facilities and operations. The Texas corridor with Mexico is primarily affected. Recent kidnappings and killings in major tourist areas of Mexico, such as Acapulco, Mazatlan and Cancun, are major concerns for Mexico’s tourist industry. The kidnappings at the Holiday Inn in Monterrey back in August of this year were additional factual evidence of the scourge.

Many wealthy Mexican families have moved to safer locations within Mexico, as well as the U.S., as organized criminals continue to move beyond drug trafficking and into additional crimes of significant profit in extortion and kidnapping that have included transnational migrants, as well as human and sex trafficking.

Overcoming the loss of governance and control of areas that are critical to Mexico’s economic growth must be a priority. It is fact that this has happened. The continued threat with the ongoing violence poses “an existential threat to Mexico’s long-term political and economic stability.” Businesses and factories are reporting reduced sales and/or revenue, increased costs for security and rising insurance costs. Shootings at or near facilities, carjackings, armed robbery burglaries, cargo theft and other related crimes have forced many to utilize body guards, escorts and armored vehicles.

The criminal implications in Mexico’s control, governance and establishment of a stable rule of law will continue to be a deciding factor in Mexican investment. Too, with Mexico’s business prospects more closely scrutinized due to higher risk and considered undesirability by some for future expansion, Mexico’s mandate must be to regain control of its homeland for greater economic and political stability.

Mexico is valiantly sustaining its physical fight and must continue current and new initiatives as a sovereign nation against these enemies of the state — for that is what they are. Mexico must not relinquish additional territory or ground, nor fade in its efforts to establish the rule of law and order.

Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia. His website is located at

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