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Effects of the neoliberal reforms in Mexico: The framing of the drug war

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Abstract

Has the evolving economic relationship between Mexico and US, guided as it has been by the neoliberal ‘Washington Consensus’, contributed to the conditions which have led to Mexico’s drug war? Analyzing the recent times of U.S.-Latin America relation, Peter Andreas observes that, “much of U.S. policy towards Latin America in the last decade has been driven by two agendas: promoting the spread of neoliberal market reforms and combating the spread of the illegal drugs trade.” Mexico has not been the exception to either of these U.S. dictates, but rather increasingly, the main focus. Indeed, ever since the Mexican debt crisis of 1982 when a series of painful neoliberal economic reforms triggered the “lost decade” for all of Latin America, many of these countries became ensued by the same problems and were treated by the same U.S. solutions. Moreover, problems such as drug trafficking were not solved, but merely relocated as they crept up again wherever they met less resistance. While the war on drugs rages on in Mexico, that lack of apparent progress (for decades in Latin America as a whole) and of effective U.S. cooperation raises serious doubts of the effort’s real objectives. For example, the quelling of major drug cartels in Colombia after the heavy involvement of U.S. military in 2002 was seen with suspicious eyes by all Latin American countries as a means for direct U.S. military involvement in the region. Similarly, the sterilization of the Mexican government after the neoliberal reforms, have left for little course of action in a seemingly endless and brutal conflict. Contradictory U.S. policy has left Mexico in the paradoxical position of attacking one of its most lucrative markets while conforming to U.S. standards of economic austerity and deregulation. This investigation aims to address how the neoliberal terms imposed upon Mexico have forced it to fight a war which is unfeasible in the long run (and maybe even in the short run) and how this fact is being used to further push U.S. elites’ interests in the region. Using Theotonio Dos Santos’ dependency theory, it will examine the rationale behind U.S. insistence on the drug war in Mexico, and Latin America in general, and why it has directly hindered other proposed realistic solutions for the containment of powerful drug cartels and drug-related violence.