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For decades, the United States has pressed Mexico to do its share in the war on drugs. But when America's southern neighbor steps up to the challenge and confronts the vicious cartels, many U.S. commentators recoil at the violence, disparage Mexico, and talk about sealing the border with our second-largest
Download Audio as MP3 trade partner. How best can the United States pull its weight and help Mexican leaders and courageous law enforcement confront a menace to society and to a shared future? Does Mexico have a strategy worth backing? Are the United States and Mexico prepared to do more to help weaker Central American neighbors deal with gangsters evading Mexico's anticartel campaign? Please join us as policy experts with intimate knowledge of these issues analyze the drug threat and propose constructive recommendations for battling a common foe. AEI's Roger F. Noriega will moderate.
|9:30||Panelists:||Liz Harper, U.S. Institute of Peace|
|Steve Johnson, Durango Group|
|Andrew Selee, Woodrow Wilson Center|
|Moderator:||Roger F. Noriega, AEI|
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Washington, DC 20036
American Enterprise Institute
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
WASHINGTON, APRIL 9, 2009--"Mexico is not a failed state," Steve Johnson, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs, emphasized at an AEI event on April 1. Despite the protracted battle between government and police forces and drug cartels there--which has resulted in over seven thousand deaths in the past year and has raised fears that the violence could spill across the border into the United States--Johnson noted that "this issue has been with us for years," and the challenge demands a response that includes law enforcement and public health initiatives, not simply military action like moving troops near the border.
As Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, reminded the audience, "the violence [in Mexico] is important because it calls our attention, but it's also a problem because it directs our attention away from what's important." Selee and Johnson agreed that drug trafficking is a transnational phenomenon with its roots in a global market. It is not merely Mexico's problem.
Selee noted that powerful Mexican drug cartels have been pursuing new transit routes and have experienced schisms within their ranks. Add to this Mexican president Felipe Calderón's tough stance against drugs, and cartel operatives have not been able to hide behind a veil of corruption and inaction. This has resulted in a subsequent escalation of violence, which should be taken as a sign that Mexico is ramping up its counternarcotics efforts.
The panelists agreed that the United States cannot wince from Mexico's growing challenges. In addition to addressing the demand for drugs at home, it should also support institutional and police reform in Mexico, they said. AEI visiting fellow Roger F. Noriega declared it "time to end the debate whether we are going to help Mexico or not." Due to the two countries' interdependent trade relationship and strong historical and cultural ties, the United States must continue to stand by its neighbor. "Mexico is trying to be a good neighbor," Johnson said. "The least we can do is try to be one back."
Liz Harper is a senior editor for public affairs at the U.S. Institute of Peace. She is also a contributing writer for Americas Quarterly, with a regular blog on americasquarterly.org. She previously covered foreign affairs and defense for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and worked as a reporter for the Online NewsHour, Hoover's business magazine, and the Tico Times.
Steve Johnson is a senior associate at the Durango Group. He served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs from 2007 to 2009, in charge of U.S. hemispheric defense strategies and security ties. Previously, Mr. Johnson was a senior policy analyst for Latin America at the Heritage Foundation. His commentaries have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, Business Week, FoxNews.com, National Review Online, Diario Las Américas, and El Comercio (Peru). He has lived in El Salvador, Honduras, and Uruguay and observed elections in El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Nicaragua.
Roger F. Noriega is a visiting fellow at AEI, coordinating the Institute's program on Western Hemisphere issues. Twice appointed by President George W. Bush (and confirmed by the U.S. Senate) and with a ten-year career on Capitol Hill, Ambassador Noriega's breadth of experience offers strategic vision and practical insight on the Americas. As assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, he managed a three-thousand-person team of professionals in Washington, D.C., and fifty diplomatic posts to design and implement political and economic strategies in Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. As U.S. permanent representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), Ambassador Noriega coordinated complex and sensitive multilateral diplomacy in a thirty-four-member international organization to bolster OAS efforts to promote trade, fight illicit drugs, and defend democracy. Ambassador Noriega has held various other positions, including senior policy adviser with the U.S. mission to the OAS, many program management and public affairs positions with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State, press secretary and foreign policy adviser for former representative Robert Whittaker (R-Kans.), and research assistant for the secretary of state of Kansas.
Andrew Selee is director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mexico Institute, which seeks to build dialogue and understanding on U.S.-Mexican relations. He has recently edited a new study entitled The United States and Mexico: Towards a Strategic Partnership, which was published in January 2009. He is the author of The United States and Mexico: More Than Neighbors and editor or coeditor of a dozen publications, including Perceptions and Misconceptions in U.S.-Mexico Relations and Mexico's Politics and Society in Transition. Mr. Selee is an adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University and previously taught at George Washington University. He serves on the board of the U.S.-Mexico Fulbright Commission and on the Independent Task Force on Immigration of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was previously a national board member of the YMCA of the USA and continues to serve on its international committee. Prior to joining the Wilson Center, he worked as professional staff in the U.S. House of Representatives and for five years for the Mexican YMCA on community development programs.