By Jon Dougherty
After years of escalating violence among rival drug and human smuggling cartels, a new analysis of conditions in Mexico says the country’s government is in a “fragile” state and is on the verge of failing, which would have major security implications for the United States.
“Mexico is a fragile state, and without action, faces the risk of becoming a failing, or worse, a failed state,” writes Alexander Grinberg, a U.S. Army officer and expert in defense policy and strategy.
Noting that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development defines a fragile state as one that is “unable or unwilling to perform the functions necessary for poverty reduction, the promotion of development, protection of the population and the observance of human rights,” he goes onto point out that a decade ago U.S. Joint Forces Command expressed concern that the Mexican government had the potential to collapse completely.
Grinberg also noted that just last year, because of escalating cartel-related violence, the U.S. State Department was compelled to issue travel warnings for five of Mexico’s 32 states.
“Many other states are still considered dangerous, and the U.S. State Department has advised American tourists caution if not total reconsideration,” he writes, adding that the Mexican government has simply been unable to control the cartels or curb the violence and internecine warfare.
Grinberg notes further:
The Mexican government is in a prolonged state of civil war with various cartels, and the state is losing. Rampant corruption from the local to federal level breaks down the fundamental principal-agent relationship between the government and its population, encouraging locals to turn to militias for protection. The militias are, in part, a result of widespread corruption as well as the Mexican military’s deterioration. Mexico’s military faces large numbers of desertions, while measures to provide security for its population continue to fail. The United States should continue to treat Mexico as a welcome economic partner but accept that Mexico is a fragile state, and thus a serious security risk.
“The drug war in Mexico is escalating, and it is creating a spillover effect in the United States. In the United States, the majority of the concern from the Mexican drug war focuses on its impact on the opioid epidemic, a growing topic in both countries,” Grinberg wrote.
His warning comes as President Donald Trump is considering declaring a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Now is the time—this is the moment—to finally secure the border and create the lawful and safe immigration system Americans, and those wanting to become Americans, deserve,” the president said during his State of the Union Address Tuesday.
According to a White House backgrounder:
— Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested 266,000 aliens with criminal records in the last two years.
— Deadly drugs are flowing across our borders, taking far too many American lives.
— 1 in 3 migrant women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek to the border.
— The number of criminals arrested by Border Patrol and ICE includes aliens charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, nearly 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings.
“We are facing a humanitarian crisis as human smugglers exploit our immigration system for profit and drive migrants to make the treacherous journey north to the border,” the backgrounder states, noting that the president has requested nearly $6 billion in new funding to shore up border security.
Grinberg notes further that the security infrastructure throughout Mexico is failing, especially the military.
“One of the reasons Mexico cannot gain ground over the cartels is because its military is deteriorating through ineffective leadership,” he wrote. “The first indicator of the military’s breakdown is the deterioration of discipline where there is a growing number of unlawful killings and human rights violations.
“As the drug war continues, and the federal government does not crack down on the human rights violations, the Mexican military will further deteriorate. The Mexican military leadership’s lack of control over the behavior of their forces indicates an erosion in the chain of command and the respect for their Code of Military Justice, and it suggests further corruption,” he added.
PBS interviewed local reporters in Cancun as well as a former police officer; the public network found that cartels offered payments of $26,000 compared to a soldier’s salary of about $600 per month.
Some analysts were hopeful that Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, would usher in changes and reforms that will curb the influence of the cartels and the violence they produce. But so far, there is little reason for optimism.
“Obrador’s amnesty proposal, a way to attack cartel funding and offer a peaceful alternative for certain low ranking and non-violent cartel members, is idealistic but naive,” Grinberg writes.
“Continuous gun battles and the failing military and police force raise concerns over Mexico’s stability as a state. The power dynamic continues to shift where the state continues to lose any monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and there’s a real possibility that Mexico can fail as a state and one that is on the United States’ border. The United States needs to take a hard look at Mexico and treat it as a growing security threat,” Grinberg concluded.