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Mexico's Spreading Drug Violence

Mexico's economy is slowing--remittances from abroad are down, as is U.S. demand for Mexican exports. But one sector is doing a brisk business--the funeral industry near the U.S. border (Reuters). Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon began his offensive against drug cartels and organized criminals in December 2006, drug-related killings have escalated, as has the need for undertakers. Though the drug war receives minimal attention north of the border, some authorities say it increasingly threatens the stability of the Mexican state and poses a security threat to the United States.

Calderon has moved aggressively against Mexico's drug cartels. He has deployed over thirty thousand soldiers across the country, purged several police forces of corrupt members, and pushed a judicial reform package through Congress. But the violence has only mounted. More than four thousand people have died in drug-related violence this year, up from more than 2,500 deaths in 2007. The escalation is so great that drug gangs are widely suspected of causing the plane crash in early November that killed the interior minister, though the government says pilot error was the cause (NYT).

The drug cartels' infiltration of the police, judiciary, and political parties has severely compromised the government's ability to fight the drug cartels, some experts say. As Alma Guillermoprieto writes in the New Yorker, the end of one-party rule in Mexico precipitated the need to run expensive election campaigns, which the drug cartels are reported to now fund. The Mexican army is considered relatively clean, but its deployment has presented new opportunities for corruption, and causes tension with local security forces.

Experts say little progress will be made until Mexico's police and judiciary are reformed. Mexican professor Ana Laura Magaloni, speaking at the Wilson Center in May...

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