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Mexican drug war said to be 'not quite at war, not quite at peace'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 21st, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

When the new Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December of 2012, he inherited a largely failed "war on drugs" waged by his predecessor, Felipe Calderon. Efforts under Calderon's regime, while resulting in the overthrow of major drug lords, saw the deaths of thousands of innocent bystanders. In response, Director of Security Policy at the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, Alejandro Hope took to the stage at Washington's Woodrow Wilson Center, in a presentation entitled "Not Quite at War, Not Quite at Peace."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - part of the presentation included some bitter humor. In a power point presentation, Hope put up a slide reading: "How Do You Say Quagmire in Spanish?" The answer: "Michoacan."

It's in this western state of 4.3 million where at least as many as 1,000 drug-related homicides over the past year. The ongoing violence there not only includes law enforcement and criminal gangs, but locally organized and increasingly well-armed vigilante groups as well.

One tiny candle to light up the darkness --

It is here that violence has become so severe that the central government is taking over law and order responsibility from local and state authorities.

There have been substantial drops in the death tolls in Ciudad Juarez and Monterrey, where civil society and business have assumed a larger role in crime prevention but not much change in other states.

Hope says that security expenditures keeps growing, cartel kingpins are still top targets and Mexican ministries are still dealing with the U.S. government. Nieto's plan to create a 40,000-strong National Gendarmerie has been pretty well stymied by opposition from the military, whose role in the drug fight remains a constitutional issue for the country.

Despite this, Hope says that the situation is better than in 2011, "but we are clearly not out of the woods."

One factor that's not being reported among these grim statistics is the fact that thousands of Mexicans are returning to their country after years of living north of the border.

A recent survey of returning migrants seemed to confirm analyses of the past two years that Mexican immigration to the U.S. had peaked at slightly more than 12 million and that the number going back exceeds the number leaving.

Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together, a nonprofit group based in San Antonio and Mexico City, surveyed 600 returnees and presented its findings recently at another Wilson Center forum. An estimated 1.4 million Mexicans left the United States for their home country between 2005 and 2010. The survey found that most of the Mexicans never intended to remain permanently in the United States, and that 89 percent returned voluntarily and not under threat of deportation.

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