Since Felipe Calderón (PAN-conservative National Action Party) came into office in 2006, drug related violence is at an all time high in Mexico’s drug war.  Calderón comes from the state of Michoacán, where drug-related violence is particularly evident.  The war is based on the increasing power of cartels (mafias), weak local authorities, distrust for the government, overall corruption, and worldwide drug consumer markets.  According to an article, “Mexican cartels gained their dominance in drug trafficking in the mid-1980s, when U.S. drug agents and the Colombian government cracked down on Colombian cartels and drug routes through the Caribbean. The vast majority of cocaine headed to the U.S. started going through Mexico.”

Distrust for the government relates to Mexico’s unstable political past where local militant leaders, or caudillos, took control; cartel leaders could be seen as modern-day caudillos.  Cartels have become powerful as they offer protection, jobs, and support filling a void where the government has marginalized so many citizens living in sub-standard, impoverished conditions.  Cartels also gain control through fear by utilizing extortion, money laundering, and violence, including torture and kidnapping, in addition to having expert military connections and access to weapons through the trafficking of arms.  Some of the most dominant cartels include the Sinaloa Cartel, the Zetas (Gulf Cartel), and La Familia, which has ties to the Zetas.  As mentioned in an article, “the Zetas act as assassins for the Gulf cartel. They also traffic arms, kidnap, and collect payments for the cartel on its drug routes.”  The drug cartels often have more control than local authorities; such is the image portrayed by an article which states, “Cadillac Escalades and Lincoln Navigators with low tires and chrome rims patrol the streets of Zitacuaro, even as trucks of army troops roll past.”

In order to combat corruption within the government, “President Calderón purged 284 federal police commanders, including federal commanders of all 31 states and the federal district. These commanders were suspended and subjected to drug and polygraph tests. The Mexican government immediately named replacements for the 284 dismissed commanders. The new commanders all successfully passed an array of examinations designed to weed out corrupt officers, including financial checks, drug testing, and psychological and medical screening. These tests are to be repeated on a regular basis…In addition to the anti-drug operations, President Calderón has increased salaries of troops involved in counter-cartel operations by nearly 50%.”

In more recent news, Mexico elected a new attorney general after the prior attorney general, Eduardo Medina Mora (PAN) recently resigned,  Arturo Chavez Chavez (PAN), the main candidate supported by Calderón, received opposition from the Senate.  Mexico New Attorney GeneralChavez, from Chihuahua, is being criticized by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and human rights activists for potential mishandling of investigations of the killings of hundreds of women in Juarez, where mass femicide is currently taking place.  Chihuahua is currently one of the most violent areas in Mexico.  In present Mexican politics, it is important to look for candidates with high moral standards that can stand against the corruption of the Mexican government; for this reason, Chavez is seen by some as a controversial choice.  The attorney general plays a key role in combating the corruption involved in the drug war.

Another interesting approach to calming the violence is censoring a popular genre of music.  Narcocorridos, banda ballads praising drug culture, are being taken off the airwaves in hopes of diminishing the exposure of the glorification of the drug cartels.  “The Mexican Senate, unable to act itself because of freedom of speech legislation, exhorted individual states to restrict narcocorridos, saying the songs create a virtual justification for drug traffickers.”  Since the government cannot ban the extremely popular genre, individual states have voluntarily enacted bans with local radio stations.  According to an article, “the first thing a drug runner would do after a successful run was to hire someone to write a corrido about it.  Corrido performers normally charge thousands of dollars, or tens of thousands of pesos, to write and perform such a piece.”  As an example, one of the most famous Sinaloa Cartel leaders, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is “celebrated in corridos for repeat­edly escaping from Mexican prisons and avoiding extradition.”

In conclusion, steps are being taken to solve the issues of corruption in the Mexican government.  With increased solidarity and international intervention, we can hope Mexico promptly resolves its ghastly violent drug war.