Nov 122011

Today, we take a quick look at Mexico, the Un-Failed State: A Geography Lesson, published on the InSight Crime website. InSight Crime’s stated objective is “to increase the level of research, analysis and investigation on organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

diffusion of violence in Mexico


Gary Moore, the author of Mexico, the Un-Failed State: A Geography Lesson, considers some of the claims made recently about Mexico being a “failed state”, where parts of the country are effectively no longer under government control. As the title of article suggests, Moore does not find evidence to support these claims.

His position is set out early in the article when he writes that, “The statements are all serious assessments of an elusive reality. The violence in today’s Mexico forms a twilight zone. It is not an all-consuming apocalypse, but it is also not the relative peace of Mexico a generation ago.”

The article is illustrated by three maps, “snapshots” of the situation in the early 1980s, in 2006-2008 and in 2011. While these appear to show that there has been a significant expansion of violence across Mexico in recent years, some caution is needed since the evidence used for each map is entirely different.

Moore’s article is a useful overview of how and why violence has diffused across much of Mexico since President Felipe Calderón declared a “war on drugs” in December 2006. It is, though, only an overview. There are significant local differences even within those states (such as Tamaulipas and Chihuahua) which are considered to be among the worst for drug violence in the country.

Few analysts would disagree with the article’s concluding statements that:

“In the 1970s it was natural to assume that these throwback “bandido” areas were shrinking and would soon disappear, as the march of development brought education, opportunity and civilization.”

“The harsh news from the drug war is that the reverse has occurred. The landscape of no-go zones has swelled across Mexico, as at no time since the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920.”

The Mexican Revolution threw Mexico into convulsions for more than a decade, and the war on drugs looks set to last at least as long.

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