Failed State Watch: How Much Longer for Mexico? (Part One)

For years now, the drug war raging between the well-armed Mexican drug cartels and the Mexican government has been well documented by the international press. And with that war now spilling into American cities located near the Mexican border, news agencies here are paying more attention to the escalating violence. But while there has been no shortage of reportage on the drug war, few reporters are investigating the rampant corruption within the Mexican government itself that has facilitated the spread and growth of that drug trade -- and in many cases has participated in it.

Today, as Mexican drug cartels become more emboldened and lawlessness spreads throughout the country, the Mexican government is struggling to maintain control. One by one, cities within Mexico are being taken over by drug lords and criminal kingpins, as mayors, police chiefs, and police officers are either bought or assassinated by the cartel leaders.

During his campaign for president in 2006, Mexican President Felix Calderon vowed to go after the drug cartels and to reduce drastically the drug-related crime wave that besieged the nation. However, what President Calderon apparently did not take into consideration when making this campaign promise was the rampant corruption within the government itself, from its judicial system to law enforcement, which has allowed this unprecedented growth in power and influence by the Mexican drug lords.

Only four short years ago, it seems Felipe Calderon had no idea how insidious the corruption had become. In a leaked diplomatic cable from the U.S. embassy in Madrid, a conversation in 2007 between the Mexican president and the visiting former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar reveals that Calderon had admitted that the Mexican government had completely miscalculated the corruption in Mexico and the influence wielded by the drug cartels:

Aznar had just completed a trip to Mexico and believes that President Calderon is doing a "credible job." Aznar said Calderon admitted to having completely misjudged the depth and breadth of corruption in Mexico and that the pervasive influence of narcotics in the country was beyond comprehension.

The “credible job” Aznar referred to is debatable when you consider that three years later the drug war in Mexico has only gotten worse, and the corruption that has permeated the Mexican government has grown and continues to provide aid and shelter to the criminal rings that operate virtually unchallenged within the country. It is estimated that 90% of the cocaine that is brought into the U.S. comes through Mexico, and while close to 40,000 Mexicans have been killed by drug violence in the past four years, only 2% of the crimes committed are ever punished. This gives the drug lords an immense advantage not only over the Mexican president, but over the Mexican population as well, which is powerless to combat the violence.

What hope for a normal and safe existence can a law-abiding Mexican have when he or she knows that for every 100 of their fellow countrymen beaten, raped, or murdered, only two will see justice prevail?

Even when the Mexican government manages to capture one of the capos, as they refer to the drug kingpins, too often these ringleaders go free due to lack of evidence, legal errors, or unlawful actions committed by government law enforcement officials during their investigations. Blog del Narco (, a popular Mexico based blog run by two anonymous bloggers reporting on the drug-related violence happening throughout the country, reported recently on five high-profile cases of captured capos who ended up going free:

Whenever the federal government captures a capo they display them like collected trophies, going as far as showing them on national television. However, when the time comes to prove their guilt to judges, all the sub-secretary of the Organized Crime Special Investigations department (SIEDO) collects is defeats.

Five cases of accused high-profile drug traffickers, some included in government television spots, have been thrown out by the judicial authorities this past year for lack of evidence, omissions or errors in the case files, or for illegal actions undertaken by the investigative authorities.