Considering New Strategies for Confronting Organized Crime in Mexico

Eric Olson
Mexico Institute
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
March 2012

Mexico has experienced an unprecedented rise in crime and violence over the past five years with over 47,000 people killed in crime related violence during this period. For some, the increase in violence is a tragic by-product of President Calderón’s full frontal assault on criminal organizations. For others, the government’s actions, while well intended, have only marginally impacted trafficking while exacerbating the violence.

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Whatever the reasons, both Mexico and the United States are entering a critical period where decisions about the future of security cooperation and crime fighting strategies come more sharply into focus. Both countries will hold presidential and congressional elections in 2012 giving policy- makers and the public an opportunity to take stock of the bi-national security strategies pursued thus far, and debate the best strategies going forward.

While it is unlikely that the framework of “shared responsibility” and close bilateral collaboration will be upended, regardless of the election results, 2012 represents an important opportunity to assess the strategies to date and refine our understanding of the security threats posed by organized crime, violence, illegal drug use and trafficking in both Mexico and the United States.

To this end, the Mexico Institute brought together a number of leading scholars and experts to discuss and analyze the nature of security threats the U.S. and Mexico face from organized crime. The result has been the compilation herein of cutting edge analysis and innovative approaches reflecting some of the latest research and information available about drug trafficking, organized crime and violence in Mexico. Together these ideas challenge much of the conventional wisdom and commonly held assumptions about Mexico. They suggest important new strategic directions for both countries that build on what has already been tried, while redirecting current strategies to prioritize reducing the violence associated with trafficking and organized crime.