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Why Mexico Must Destroy the Cartels

7:31 AM, May 9, 2013 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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Even if Mexican officials wanted to imitate the old PRI strategy and forge some type of “unofficial truce” with the cartels, it would not be possible. A decade ago, there were four massive cartels that controlled most of the Mexican drug trade. Today, according to Mexico’s attorney general, there are literally dozens of small or medium-sized drug-trafficking organizations—perhaps up to 80 in total. How would a democratic government in a decentralized political system orchestrate a sustainable truce among so many competing criminal outfits? And how would it convince the Mexican people to support such an arrangement?

Whether or not Peña Nieto will admit it, there is no practical, acceptable alternative to the strategy he inherited from Calderón. The idea that Mexico could achieve long-term peace and stability by laying off the cartel leaders is dangerously wrong. As former DEA chief Robert Bonner has written, “The public will never believe in the rule of law if the government itself permits certain criminal groups to operate above it.” Mexican officials should take those words to heart.

Ambassador Jaime Daremblum is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.

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