Mexico’s security situation worsens

Mexico’s security situation worsens

Despite significant efforts by the Nieto government, Mexico has been unable to curb the influence of organised crime and establish security across the country. The disappearance of 43 students is only the latest of many examples.

On 26 September, the government of Enrique Peña Nieto launched an investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, in Mexico’s southern state of Guerrero, by unknown agents.

Analysts point the blame to the municipal police force, which are alleged to have links with local criminal drug networks. This event has drawn anger across all sectors of society and the Mexican public, even now used by now to the violence and the corruption of government officials.

Despite having a relatively strong economy and political stability in the south and centre over the last few years, the country has faced an increasingly worrying security situation.

A long history of patronage networks, combined with the rise of the lucrative illegal drug trade and flow of weapons from the United States, has become an existential threat to the normal functioning of the country’s institutions. There has been a dramatic rise in the number of cases reporting collusion between public officials and drug cartels, either through force or bribes.

Despite the direct involvement of the federal government in tackling this problem, there has been almost no change. Instead, there is a deep-seated distrust between the local population and public officials, in addition to the dire security conditions for journalists.

Since the national government took over in 2012, there has been a commitment to tackling corruption and re-establishing state presence, including gaining back the terrain lost to the most powerful criminal organisations.

In recent months, the country’s special forces have been able to target key figures within these groups in a much-needed public boost for the government. Nevertheless, this is unlikely to deter their influence or operative capacity for the foreseeable future.

Mexico’s powerful drug cartels, which include  “Los Zetas” and “Sinaloa Cartel,” still maintain very strong links to both the state and the federal level of the government, all while diversifying their revenue streams by attempting to take full control of the supply chain and expanding their operations into the lucrative illegal oil trade.

The events of Iguala have drawn a never-before-seen public outcry from across the country. This will likely result in a number of prosecutions, which may include the resignation and prosecution of several public officials, but its impact is unlikely go beyond that. There are no indications of any involvement by senior officials that will make it easier for Peña Nieto’s government to place the blame at the local level, further avoiding any opportunity for real reform.

The public’s awareness of the lack of accountability and transparency and the precarious security situation in parts of the country have put pressure on Peña Nieto’s administration. But given the extent of corruption in the public sector and the influence that criminal networks have on the state, it will take a lot of political commitment and sacrifice to improve the security situation. This will probably exceed the will and time that this administration has on hand.

Categories: North America, Security

About Author

Sergio Rojas

Sergio is a contributing analyst for several risk management consultancies in Canada and the UK. He holds a Masters degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and Bachelor degrees in Commerce and Political Science from the University of Alberta and Carleton University in Canada.