Despite its booming economy, Mexico continues to struggle with alarmingly high levels of violence linked to drugs and organized crime. This video primer examines the crisis and explores policy options for Mexico and the United States.
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.
Shannon K. O'Neil says, "U.S.-Mexico security cooperation is vital and must continue. But with Enrique Peña Nieto's inauguration, Mexico's political landscape is now changing, and the United States must adjust its strategy and support accordingly."
President Barack Obama expanded the Merida Initiative beyond its original military scope but, CFR Senior Fellow Shannon O'Neil notes, implementation will require concerted efforts in both bilateral diplomacy and domestic policy.
Listen to CFR Senior Fellow Shannon K. O'Neil and former foreign minister of Mexico Jorge G. Castañeda discuss President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto and the future of U.S.-Mexico relations.
In an op-ed that appeared this week in USA Today, O'Neil argued that the main obstacle to better relations between the two countries is Americans' perceptions of Mexico and its people:
"In Americans' psyches, drugs dominate. When advertising firm GSD&M and Vianovo strategic consultants asked Americans to come up with three words that describe Mexico, nearly every other person answered 'drugs,' followed by 'poor' and 'unsafe.' Other questions reveal Americans see Mexico as corrupt, unstable and violent, more problem than partner. Americans had more favorable views of Greece, El Salvador and Russia."
In the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs, Castañeda and historian Héctor Aguilar Camín claim that there is a political mandate in Mexico that calls for less corruption, greater rule of law, and improved economic justice:
"Mexicans' clamor for prosperity is no longer negotiable, and today, the country is less than a generation away from becoming the full-fledged middle-class society it aspires to be. But only if it gets to work now."
Shannon K. O'Neil says, "[American] perceptions reflect the Mexican reality that dominates headlines: soaring crime rates and gruesome murders in a war against drug traffickers. But this window into Mexico overlooks an economic transformation and deepening ties with the United States that reflect a dramatically different country."
Authors: Héctor Aguilar Camín and Jorge G. Castañeda
Mexico has long been hostage to unchallengeable traditions: its nationalist approach to oil wealth, overly sensitive attitude toward sovereignty, entrenched labor monopolies, persistent corruption, and self-serving bureaucracy.
The contentious July 2006 Mexican presidential election has placed Mexico squarely back on the U.S. foreign policy agenda. This report offers concrete policy recommendations to the U.S. government on how to help Mexico deal with its future challenges. This report is also available in Spanish.
CFR Experts Guide
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.