In this joint WOLA-BFDPP policy brief, the authors provide an overview of current and past drug policies implemented by the Mexican government, with a focus on its law enforcement efforts. It analyzes the trends in the increased reliance on the Mexican armed forces in counter-drug activities and the role that the United States government has played in shaping Mexico's counter-drug efforts. It is argued that government responses that are dominated by law enforcement and militarization do little to address the issue in the long term and draw attention away from the fundamental reforms to the police and justice systems that are needed to combat public security problems in the country. The brief also argues that the most effective way to address drug trafficking and its related problem is through increased efforts to curb the demand for illicit drugs in the United States and Mexico.
Since 2005, Mexico has been beset by an increase in drug-related violence. In that year over 1,500 people were killed in drug-related violence; in 2006, the number of victims climbed to more than 2,500. In response to the violence, just days after assuming the presidency in December 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderón launched "Joint Operation Michoacán" (Operativo Conjunto Michoacán), deploying around 6,500 soldiers and police in the state of Michoacán to set up roadblocks and checkpoints, occupy key areas where drugs were sold, and execute search and arrest warrants of individuals linked to drug trafficking. After a record year of drug-related killings, "Joint Operation Michoacán" was the first of several military-dominated operations launched by the new administration in Mexican states where organized crime was believed to be concentrated. Despite the efforts of the Calderón Administration, however, 2007 promises to be yet another bloody year, with the number of killings reaching 2,113 by the second week of October.