Mexico: Drugs, Violence and Expanding Criminal Networks

October 21, 2010 — Dr. Andrew Selee and Armand Peschard-Sverdrup joined us for a discussion on Mexico’s expanding criminal networks and the violence that has erupted in recent years. Dr. Selee is Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute. He is an Adjunct Professor of Government at Johns Hopkins University and has been a Visiting Scholar at El Colegio de México. Mr. Peschard-Sverdrup is a senior associate at CSIS where he serves as director of the Mexico Project, and the CEO of Peschard-Sverdrup & Associates.  He is a guest lecturer at the Mexican Advanced Area Studies Seminar at the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State, the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., and the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, Ontario.

Dr. Selee opened the discussion by pointing out that while the situation is very tenuous, positive efforts are being made to fight violence and the continued existence of drug cartels. The cartel violence should not be characterized as an “insurgency”, and the government is actively involved in fighting the violence and working to prevent more in the future. On the other hand, while killings stem largely from power struggles between cartels, “second businesses” have emerged in conjunction. Extortion and kidnapping, for example, are increasingly troubling the nation and new evidence shows an alarming level of organized crime penetrating the state. Dr. Selee then went on to recommend policy ideas that included the need to address the U.S.’s role as a huge consumer of drugs, and to further cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico to address long-term challenges.

Mr. Peschard-Sverdrup followed up with a historical background of Mexico’s many years of single-party rule. Following a series of reforms, the government has continued to fight corruption left over from its 71 years under Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) authoritarian rule. In many ways, this corruption contributes to the influence of the nation’s drug cartels and the violence they continue to cause. He then went on to offer some perspective on Mexico’s situation, arguing that it is not falling apart. Incidents of violence are not widespread and are instead isolated to specific areas. Like Dr. Selee, he is hopeful for the future, and commends the current level of cooperation between the United States and Mexico.

During the question and answer segment, both speakers discussed the statistics regarding weapons sales from dealers in the U.S. to Mexico, and expanded on the distribution of violence in certain areas. They also answered questions regarding congressional reform, Mexico’s federal police problem, and offered more policy recommendations regarding border issues and the Mexican military.

Security for a New Century is a nonpartisan discussion group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected]


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