35,000 Mexicans have died in drug-related violence since 2006 when Mexican resident Felipe Calderón began to crack down on the cartels; in 2010 more than 3,100 have died in Ciudad Juarez alone.1 In neighboring Guatemala, the government declared an official “state of siege” along its northern border with Mexico to permit its military to fight the los Zetas cartel.2 Unfortunately, efforts to counter cartels and drug trafficking have largely failed thus far.
We are simply not fighting this “war” properly and as a result we are losing it. Violence spills over our southern border more and more regularly. Worsening violence and instability in the region threatens U.S. national security interests and demands a stronger response. To address this threat, the United States and its partners in the region should look to Colombia for guidance and assistance. Colombia has fought similar threats with some success and is emerging from three decades of crisis fueled by drug trafficking organizations and violent cartels. While Colombia will face many challenges for some time to come, it is increasingly secure, democratic and able to help its neighbors.
The United States and its partners throughout the Western Hemisphere stand the best chance of securing the region against the most dangerous cartels by attacking them together. A regional security framework such as the “Mesoamerican Security Corridor,” proposed by the U.S. Department of State, offers a new opportunity to link U.S. and Colombian assistance and counternarcotics programs in Mexico to address challenges in the Central American states to Mexico’s south. Such a regional security framework will be necessary to defeat the cartels and reinstitute the rule of law and justice. A key element of the framework should be greater cooperation and coordination between major U.S. security assistance programs.
Transnational cartel networks cannot be defeated in just one area, one border or one country. These organizations conduct activities throughout the region and therefore are able to adapt quickly to new security measures taken to counter them. A reinvigorated partnership between the United States and Colombia, Mexico and the nations of Central America is the only effective means to attack this transnational threat, secure the safety of the people and promote the rule of law and justice throughout the region.
Live Long and Prosper....