Since 2006, the Mexican government has been in embroiled in a bloody drug war, which has failed to significantly curbtrafficking. The ongoing conflict poses mounting challenges for Mexico, which is trying to polish its image as an investment hotspot, as well as the United States, its most important regional partner.
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.
The primary political parties in Mexico negotiated these accords to create congressional consensus and move forward on reforms in the areas of civil rights, economics, security, and governance. The original pact was signed on December 2, 2012, and a fourth political party joined on January 28, 2013.
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.
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