Across Mexico, the lawlessness and carnage of the drug wars have given rise to scores of local self-defense forces aiming to defend their communities. The federal government may be tempted to disband and disarm these armed vigilantes, but until it can shape up its security sector, the local groups offer an imperfect but acceptable alternative.
Under the security cooperation agreement called the Merida Initiative, the United States provides military and law enforcement assistance to the Mexican government in support of efforts to combat drug cartels and organized crime. The United States and Mexico jointly developed this agreement in response to a substantial increase in drug-related criminal activity and violence on both sides of the border.
Since 2006, the Mexican government has been in embroiled in a bloody drug war, which has failed to significantly curbtrafficking. This Backgrounder looks at Mexico's eradication efforts, along with U.S. policy options for one of its most important regional allies.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the National Drug Control Policy, discusses global drug policy, including a new emphasis on programs that recognize drug addiction as a disease of the brain instead of a moral failure, domestic and international trends in drug consumption, and the diversification of transnational criminal organizations.
Mexico is winning its death match against the drug cartels and rebuilding once-corrupt institutions in the process. But an election is approaching, and the candidates are calling for a truce. Mexico can take its place in the sun, but only if it wipes out the cartels for good.
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.