Publication: Military Review
Date published:
Language: English
PMID: 27465
ISSN: 00264148
Journal code: FMIR

IN JANUARY 2009, the retiring director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General Michael Hayden, described the increasing violence in Mexico along the nearly 2,000-mile long U.S. southern border as greater than Iraq and on par with Iran as the greatest potential threat to U.S. national security in the future.' The Joint Operational Environment, 2008, a study authored by the U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM), said either Mexico or Pakistan were "worst case scenarios" for U.S. national security should either nation rapidly fail or collapse.2

Tension on the Border

Violent deaths in Mexico nearly doubled in 2009 to just over 7,000, and the manner of death in some cases was especially gruesome.3 Reports of brutality and emerging accounts of government corruption add to the negative popular perception of Mexico in the United States. Mexico appears capable of becoming a failed state where a destabilizing insurgency could potentially thrive.4

In March 2010, drug cartel gunmen assassinated U.S. consulate staff employees and their spouses in the presence of their children in the middle of the day as they left a consulate social event.5 In response, the U.S. Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security joined the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence to conduct an impromptu cabinet-level visit with their Mexican counterparts to strengthen relationships and to ascertain how best to support the Mexican government's struggle with illicit drug organizations.

United States experts on Mexico and Latin America identify weaknesses in specific areas, but they clearly articulate exceptional strengths in others. For example, in her Foreign Affairs article, "The Real War in Mexico," Shannon O'Neil, the director of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy for Latin America, declares that Mexico will not fail. Citing Mexico's ability to meet the essential needs of its populace, hold free and fair elections, and exercise civilian political leadership control of the military, O'Neil recommends that the United States recognize Mexico as "a permanent strategie partner, rather than an often-forgotten neighbor."6 Many of O'Neil's comments reflect the tensions between the two nations as artifacts of a long history of cooperation, competition and compromise, while significant amounts of literature, largely written by Mexican authors, plead for the United States to understand the conflicted relationship between the two nations.7

Is the increased cross-border criminal violence in Mexico evidence of impending state failure, or is it merely an unintended side effect of democratization? O'Neil claims that the current high level of violence reflects "an unintended side effect of democratization and economic globalization," and not a signal for the eventual failure of Mexico as a nation-state.

The narco-criminal violence along the U.S.Mexico border and within Mexico is the reaction of criminal organizations to President Calderón's aggressive and intensifying counter-narcotic policies. Elected as an anti-corruption conservative, President Calderón continues to pursue policies that represent the will of the people expressed in free and fair elections. The voters chose from among multiple viable competing political parties, including one that reigned in Mexico for nearly seven decades. The empirical evidence, whether of an emerging democracy or of a declining nation-state, indicates that Mexico retains national durability and strength despite significant economic challenges that include a deteriorating security situation in some areas.

In When States Fail: Causes and Consequences, Robert Rotberg of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University posits that states are strong or weak "according to the levels of their effective delivery of the most crucial political goods."8 In hierarchical order, Rotberg's criteria for determining the strength or weakness of states include the provision of security, the uniform application of the rule of law, the ability of the populace to participate in free and fair elections with the tolerance of divergent positions, and the provision of essential services such as education and medical aid.9 The level at which states provide these political goods determines their "strength" or relative durability.

Assessing the presence of or lack of democracy highlights Samuel Huntington's concepts of political modernization and adaptability as a rationalization of authority and the increased participation in politics of social groups throughout society.10

For seven decades since 1 929, Mexican politics were dominated by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Mexican politics largely resembled the subliminally oppressive conditions described by Marina Ottaway in Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi- Authoritarianism. ' ' In fact, Mexico endured what Samuel Huntington described as a one-party authoritarian regime whose success came from the consistent rotation of new leaders from conservative to progressive and back.12 Huntington asserts that this rotation provided stability as tempered ambitions kept potential political opponents in line.

The center-right National Action Party, or PAN, established with the help of the very influential Roman Catholic Church, leveraged Mexican distrust for the PRI and campaigned for social and economic reform. The move towards the center-right reflected a resurgence of conservatism, both social and economic, intended to thwart deteriorating security conditions. President Vincente Fox's election legitimized a multi-party at the national level. Mexico finally emerged as a truly democratic polity. The election exemplified what Huntington described as the central procedure of democracy, "the election of leaders through competitive election by the people governed."13

In the meantime, the United States focused on international terrorism after the September 11 attacks. It did not help that Fox openly disagreed with U.S. foreign policy and the war in Iraq. The United States did not put much effort or resources on the counter-narcotic strategic partnership with Mexico until the Merida Initiative became law in June of 2008. The Merida Initiative established a multi-year program with heavy investment in counter-drug forces, especially in Mexico. Congress approved funds targeted to support Mexico in its struggle against illegal drug organizations.14 The United States held up recent payments because of alleged Mexican human rights violations, but resumed them once Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certified that human rights conditions met "acceptable" standards.15

Felipe Calderón took office in 2006 despite a disputed election fraught with claims of irregularities and alleged voter fraud.16 Calderón vowed to win the war against drug trafficking and drug cartels and deployed over 35,000 Mexican Armed Forces troops to combat a threat to Mexican national stability.17 The deployments placed tremendous strain on the Mexican military, which bears the burden of eradication, interdiction, and law enforcement operations while the Mexican Federal Police undergo reforms to reduce corruption and dysfunction.18 The Mexican Army continues to enjoy the confidence of the population, but military operations, while marginally successful against the powerful drug cartels, have failed to change the tolerant mindset the disenfranchised and desperately poor have about illicit activities such as the drug trade.19

Security: The "Prime Function"

Robert Rotberg identifies security as the primary political good that any government must provide to its people, calling it the state's "prime function."20 He defines security as the means to -

prevent cross-border invasions and infiltrations, and any loss of territory; to eliminate domestic threats to or attacks upon the national order and social structure; to prevent crime and any related dangers to domestic human security; and to enable citizens to resolve their differences with the state and with their fellow inhabitants without recourse to arms or other forms of physical coercion.21

By this definition, the sharp rise in criminal violence in the northern regions of Mexico and the border states of the United States indicates declining security conditions due to gangs, crossborder crime (i.e. smuggling, kidnapping, etc.), and transnational terrorism.

Often using mercenary paramilitary forces, competing drug cartels are waging a "narcoinsurgency" on a national scale in large portions of rural Mexico's populated areas.22 Motivated by greed, these opportunistic organizations take advantage of society's devolution into poverty by inserting large criminal systems that defy judicial authority. Elevated rates of recidivism reveal minimal deterrence of crime.23 Declining social conditions indicate proxy governance by narcocriminal elements, at least at the regional or state level. These cartels have no interest in providing any essential services required by the people.

Gangs like Los Zetas are also a formidable paramilitary force threatening the stability of Mexico. They produce violent transnational terrorism and export it to the United States.24 Los Zetas takes its name from the federal police radio code for the force pursuing Arturo Guzman Decenas, a lieutenant in the elite Army Airborne Special Forces Group, who deserted the Mexican military to protect the then-leader of the Gulf drug cartel, Osiel Cardenas Guillen.25 Guzman and 30 commandos who joined in the desertion had received exceptional training from European nations, Israel, and U.S. Army Special Forces, making them superior to the federal police and the average Mexican soldier.26 Better equipped and armed, the Zeta gang has access to large caliber automatic weapons, surface-to-air missiles, and high-tech communications equipment, while Mexican security forces have only austere capabilities.27

The Mexican Federal Police and the Mexican Army killed or arrested many of the original 31 Zetas, but younger, less well-trained members fill the gap. The gang employs ex-Kaibiles, elite Guatemalan Special Forces, to improve member training on tactics and weapons.28 Their expertise in counterinsurgency tactics provide a kinetic advantage to the ruthless younger generation of Zetas, also known as "The New Zetas," or "Nuevo Zetas." With training bases across Mexico and Guatemala, the Nuevo Zetas proliferate nationally and internationally.29

The primary systemic weakness of Mexico is its inability to keep its citizens secure and exercise its authority over its sovereign territories. Nikos Passas, professor of criminology at Northeastern University, defines cross-border crime as "conduct which jeopardizes the legally protected interests in more than one national jurisdiction and which is criminalized in at least one of the states/ jurisdictions concerned."30 In describing this phenomenon, Passas includes terrorism along with the emerging crimes brought on by globalization.

We can discuss the metrics of troop/police deployments and mathematically measure murders, attacks, and other violence, but we cannot measure the psychological phenomenon. Do the people feel secure? Bruce Schneier, a leading expert on security, in his essay, "The Psychology of Security," says there is a difference between feeling secure and actually being secure.31 Polling conducted by Gallup Consulting in February 2009 indicated that Mexicans increasingly felt less secure.32 Polling by MUND Americas in Mexico City also confirms this from a Mexican source.33 Although most Mexicans have a highly unfavorable view of the cartels, they see their government as unable to do anything about them or illegal narcotic activity.

Those who believe that Mexico will fail argue that President Calderón's current counter-drug strategy actually triggered the displacement of malign actors throughout Mexico by aggravating the narcotics organizations. They contend Calderón caused the current eruption of violence because the displaced criminals are seeking to reestablish their operations, influence, and status. They now spread their illicit organizations into more remote ungoverned spaces, taking advantage of Mexico's porous northern border. They are also forming cross-border relationships with powerful drug networks in South America and distributors and "down-flow" actors supplying the high-demand U.S. market.34 Elaborate "third-generation" gang networks - which Max Manwaring, professor of military strategy at the U.S. Army War College, calls transnational criminal organizations - distribute, market, and sell illegal narcotics and export violence and intimidation as Mexican cartel satellites.35

Peter Andreas addresses the complex border security issue and the "loss-of-control narrative" in Border Games: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide. He writes, "The stress on loss of control understates the degree to which the state has actually structured, conditioned, and even enabled (often unintentionally) clandestine border crossings, and overstates the degree to which the state has been able to control its borders in the past."36

Mexico's disproportionate distribution of wealth, high unemployment rate, and slow rate of growth of its gross domestic product are potential sources of instability.37 Approximately 18 percent of Mexicans live in poverty in terms of access to food, while 47 percent live in poverty with respect to financial assets. Mexican citizens continue to look north for financial support and opportunity.38 Although poverty does not cause people to engage in illicit activity, it helps explain why Mexican officials are apathetic about securing the northern border.

In summary, the Mexican state appears headed for further erosion, a general lack of security, an apathetic electorate, and weakening economic and government institutions. Mexico joins a community of nations, including the United States, with an ineffective sovereign border. The illicit community in Mexican society is hard to eliminate because it has tentacles that extend to legitimate businesses. The failure of Mexico to prevent, protect against, and prosecute crime threatens all citizens' security. Feelings of insecurity depress voter turnout, encourage political corruption, and discourage belief in democratic principles.

State Strength

Mexico 's primary strengths include a representative democracy capable of fair elections, an able and largely professionalized military/security force structure responsive to civilian authority, a judiciary that strives to implement the rule of law, and a stable economic infrastructure. Combined, these elements include aspects of each of Rotberg's "political goods" criteria for state strength.39

Representative democracy. Regarding a representative democracy capable of fair elections, Grayson articulates the intricate political maneuverings that achieve further differentiation and fractionalization of Mexican political parties.40 However, this differentiation and fractionalization actually reflect symptoms of democratization insomuch as they allow for the representation of diverging views without fear of retribution.41 In fact, the development of the PAN - largely with the assistance of the Roman Catholic Church - and the subsequent election of Vincente Fox represented a desire by the Mexican people for a conservative-right, anti-corruption option with a renewed sense of hope for change. President Fox engendered an expanded economic globalization as well as anti-corruption initiatives intended to assuage the anger of those who elected him in 2000. The disputed elections of 2009, the representation of seven major political parties in the bicameral Mexican government, and openly contested local, provincial, and national level elections reflect both the necessary participatory elements of democratization and the essential political goods indicative of state strength.42

Responsive security force. As a capable and professional military/security force structure responsive to civilian constituted authority, the Mexican military has had a civil-military pact with the elected government of Mexico since the national rejection of post-revolutionary violence in 1 946. Of the 20 Latin American nations, Mexico is the only one that did not suffer a military coup or takeover of government in the twentieth century.43 The Mexican military and security forces - branches of the executive branch of government with a long tradition of domestic stabilization and an early history of political power - enjoy the respect of the people, institutionally professionalize, and respond to the constituted authority of elected civilian leaders. Underequipped and out-sourced, these forces struggle to establish control and achieve the delicate balance between policing a state and becoming a police state.

Rule of law. As a function of a bilateral security agreement with the United States, Mexico now extradites wanted narco-criminals for prosecution and subsequent incarceration. Calderón's decision to extradite these criminals was a significant departure from a longstanding precedent and demonstrates his willingness to support the U.S. National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy "building on ongoing cooperation and integrating efforts launched through the Merida Initiative."44 Calderón proved his commitment to strategic success against the cartels by going so far as to extradite Mexican citizens to the U.S. judicial system. He continues to articulate an increasingly aggressive stance against the drug cartels despite the growing apprehension of the Mexican people.

Yet, according to Associated Press writer Alexandra Olson, "Mexico City's homicide rate today is about on par with Los Angeles and is less than a third of that for Washington, D.C."45 In the past 10 years, Mexico's murder rate actually decreased. In fact, the murder rate per 100,000 citizens of Mexico is one third of other Latin American countries like Guatemala or Venezuela and only half that of Colombia. In the most recent global statistics, Mexico had 2.4 percent of total crime in the world while the United States accounted for 18.6 percent. In terms of murder, Mexico ranks sixth in the world after India, Russia, Colombia, South Africa, and the United States.46 Luis de la Barreda of the Citizen's Institute for Insecurity states, "We are like those women who aren't overweight, but when they look in the mirror, they think they're fat. We are an unsafe country, but we think we are much more unsafe that we really are."47

Economical infrastructure. Mexico is number 105 of 1 77 on the Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace 2009 Failed State Index, rating better than nations such as Russia, Venezuela, China, Egypt, or Israel. (Using this index, the lower number a country rates, the more likely it is to become a failed state.)48 When looking at the sub-areas studied within this index, Mexico appears in the best 33 percent of all measured nations regardless of the category, to include economic health, state legitimacy, public services, and the nation's security apparatus. Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace recognizes some improvement in Mexico in the past three years.49

Mexico has the 12th largest world economy in terms of gross domestic product and purchasing power parity - just ahead of Spain, South Korea, and Canada - and is the second largest trade partner - just ahead of China and just behind Canada to the United States.50 The World Bank ranks Mexico as the second largest economy in Latin America, after Brazil.51 With $1.4 trillion in gross domestic product, Mexico's economy falls just shy of California in purchasing power. These figures only account for the licit economic measures within the country. These indicators also support the argument that Mexico enjoys relative stability macro-economically. The Mexican economy demonstrates durability, diversity, and resiliency as the second largest trading partner to the United States. Largely due to the ongoing efforts at globalization and in no small part due to previous free-trade status with the United States, the Mexican economy will achieve growth on pace or ahead of the United States. Wealth distribution inequities in Mexican society continue to produce internal tensions, but do not represent a threat to national economic progress.

Concerning the delivery of other political goods and essential services, Mexico has improved in public education enrollment and overall health services. To address U.S. concerns about the strength and status of Mexico, the Mexican ambassador presented U.S. government officials a briefing entitled "Mexico and the Fight Against Drug- Trafficking and Organized Crime: Setting the Record Straight" in March of 2009 to illustrate Mexico's continued success in providing essential services to its people (see Figure 1 ).52 The left side of the figure indicates the increased school enrollment of Mexican youth, while the graph on the right compares the life expectancy increase trend to the decreasing infant mortality rate.

Reformed politics. The Mexican political system reformed in 1989 at the end of what Huntington refers to as the "Third Wave of Democratization."53 The evolution of Mexican politics from a singleparty system stemmed from electoral reforms that started in 1988 and involved the transparent financing of political parties.54 In October of 1 990, Mexico created the Federal Electoral Institute.55 Theoretically, this oversight organization created the freeness and fairness necessary to achieve democratization. The institute is "in charge of organizing federal elections, that is, the election of President of the United Mexican States and Lower and Upper Chamber members that constitute the Union Congress."56

The recent responsiveness of politicians in Mexico to the influences within the political environment, notably the electoral reformations, oversight institutions, emergence of national political parties, and social/religious actors, represents Mexican political adaptability. This adaptability reflects an evolution toward "political modernization."57 Fair elections are the most obvious advancement in the democratization process. Political leaders answerable to the population are the driving power behind President Calderón 's fight against the drug cartels.

Opportunities for the Future

Mexico currently lacks the ability to prevent border infiltration, struggles to neutralize or eliminate the domestic criminal threat to its social structure, and cannot prevent violent crimes that endanger the security of many Mexicans. However, Mexican citizens can access the judicial system without threat of government reprisal. The Mexican judicial system enables citizens to resolve their differences without retribution or intimidation. Consistent with Rotberg's concept of "predictable, recognizable, systematized methods of adjudicating disputes," and enhanced by extradition to the U.S. judiciary, the Mexican judicial system continues to enforce a rule of law as an embodiment of the values of the people.58

Drug cartels permeate Mexican society with expanded international networks. The cartels operate among the Mexican people, but the people still regard the cartels negatively and try to rid society of opportunistic criminals. The violence associated with drug crime in Mexico does not reflect an insurgency movement.

Violence will likely increase as a reformist president stirs up proverbial hornets nests in certain regions of Mexico. Calderón's "clearhold-build" strategy continues to achieve results on both sides of the U. S. -Mexican border, both in terms of captured or eliminated cartel members and in increased and successful prosecutions of narco-criminals, especially in the United States. Metrics of Calderón's success or failure do not include the number of those killed in drug related crime. Rather, more appropriately, President Calderón's measurement of success centers on his ability to convince both the Mexican people and the international community that his aggressive efforts will achieve a stable and secure environment within a highly competitive new media information environment rife with countermessaging of instability, violence, and potential state failure.

Calderón's close election demonstrated the cartels' political strength as they strove to re-acquire positions of power within government. Calderón exerted even more pressure on the cartels after the election. This pressure caused cartels to react with both increased number and ferocity of attacks on citizens, police, soldiers, judges, and politicians.

Even though U.S. media, especially those from the border regions, used the spectacular nature of the deaths to agitate the U.S. citizenry to the point of contemplating Mexico as a failed state, Mexico exhibits all the necessary traits of a young and struggling democracy. However, without significant support, it could easily fall back into semi-authoritarian practices that would embolden and further enable cartels to operate beyond the influence of the Mexican government. However, a return to a semi-authoritarian or even an authoritarian government does not mean the state will fail.

Over 400 cases of corruption within U.S. agencies have originated from the southwest border.59 These officials, possibly beholden to Mexican cartels, stand accountable for their own actions. Likewise, the market for illegal drugs stems from a prevalent U.S. hunger for illegal substances. Most of the weapons used in narcoviolence originate from the United States. Still, American citizens living in Washington, D. C, statistically and proportionately, are more likely to die from murder than a Mexican citizen.

The ongoing drug-related violence in the northern regions of Mexico and the southwest border regions of the United States indicate Mexican state weakness in the area of security, but falls well short of indicating that Mexico will fail. The violence epitomizes the will of the people carried out by a democratically elected government against the cartels. As the government continues to conduct aggressive counterdrug operations on behalf of the Mexican people, this violence will also continue. Rather than representing a fragile or failing state, the current security conditions in Mexico are an opportunity for Mexico to become a strong democracy, a strategic regional partner, and an important economic ally to the United States. The amount of violence only indicates the amount of neglect and disregard for cartel proliferation during previous Mexican administrations.

Returning to Rotberg's criteria for determining the strengths of states based upon their ability to provide political goods, we can say that while Mexico struggles to provide security in large areas of the country, it does apply the rule of law, enables its citizens to participate in free and fair elections, and provides essential services to the population. It faces significant economic challenges, an ongoing struggle with transnational organized criminal organizations, and increasing voter apathy, but Mexico will not fail. To believe otherwise is to be myopic or biased, or fail to understand the real Mexico.


1. Alex Newman, "U.S. Military Warns of Mexico's Collapse," The New American, <> (16 March 2010).

2. United States Joint Forces Command, Joint Operational Environment 2008, November 2008.

3. United States Congressional Research Service, Southwest Border Violence: Issues in identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence, 10 February 2010.

4. Gabriel Marcella, American Grand Strategy for Latin America in the Age of Resentment (Carlisle; Strategic Studies Institute, 2007).

5. Julian Cardona, "Mexico Gunman Kill American Consulate Staff," Reuters, <> (5 April 2010).

6. For more information about the resiliency of the Mexican internal structural conditions and the effect of democratization on Mexico as they pertain to powerful drug cartels and U.S. policy recommendations for resolution to these problems, see Shannon O'Neil's Foreign Affairs article entitled, "The Real War in Mexico," dated July/ August 2009. Shannon O'Neil is a Douglas Dillon Fellow for Latin American Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

7. For more information about the history of the relationship between Latin America and the United States with details about past conflicts, invasions, and the current relationship between nations, see Kyle Longley, In the Eagle's Shadow (Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson Inc., 2002). To provide context about the current degraded relationship between the United States and Latin America in general, see Gabriel Marcella, American Grand Strategy in the Age of Resentment (Carlisle: Strategic Studies Institute, 2007). Finally, to examine the troubled nature of the relationship today, see Jorge Domínguez and Rafael Fernandez de Castro, The United States and Mexico: Between Partnership and Conflict, Second Edition. (New York; Rutledge, 2009).

8. Robert Rotberg, When States Fail: Causes and Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 3.

9. Ibid.

10. Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), 34.

11. Marina Ottaway describes the election, communication, and political characteristics of supposed democratic societies who have authoritarian propensities in Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi-Authoritarianism (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2003).

12. Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), 48.

13. Ibid., 6. For additional information about the democratization of Mexico, see Julia Preston and Sam Dillon's Opening Mexico: The Making of a Democracy (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2004). Preston and Dillon are New York Times correspondents responsible for Mexico in the close of the 1 990s. Their work discusses the emergence of the PAN resulting in Fox's eventual election.

14. U.S. Department of State. Factsheet: Merida Initiative, < gov/p/inl/rls/fs/122397.htm>, 2009 (1 December 2009).

15. Amnesty International, Annual Report: Mexico, 2009.

16. For detailed information about the 2006 Mexican election, statistics, and campaign issues see Debra Sabia and Vincent Köhler, "The 2006 Mexican Presidential Election: Democratic Development or Democratic Debacle?" Journal of Third World Studies 25, no. 1 (Spring 2008). Debra Sabia is a professor of political science with a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina. Vincent Köhler is a professor of American studies with a Ph. D, from the University of Iowa. Both currently teach at Georgia Southern University and were visiting professors at the Universidad Veracruzana in Xalapa, Mexico, during the 2006 presidential election.

17. Jorge Castañeda, "Mexico's War of Choice," Project Syndicate, 1 8 December 2009 <> (17 March 2010).

18. Stephen Meiners and Fred Burton, "The Role of the Mexican Military in the Cartel War," STRATFOR, July 2009, < role_mexican_military_cartel_war> (17 March 2010).

19. Center for Latin American and Border Studies, "The Mexican Military's Role in Crime Ridden Border Areas" (Las Cruces: New Mexico State University, 2009).

20. Rotberg, 3.

21. Ibid.

22. Hal Brands, "Mexico's Narco-lnsurgency and U.S. Counterdrug Policy" (Monograph, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2009).

23. Office of National Drug Control Policy, "Drug Policy Information Clearing House: Fact Sheet," March 2003.

24. The most comprehensive collection of information concerning the powerful and influential drug organizations in Mexico appear in George Grayson's Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State? (New Brunswick, Transaction Publishers: 2009). Grayson presents detailed charts that compare and describe the organizations, their fragmentation, and their self-organizing emergent properties.

25. Ibid., 179-97.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. For more information about the Kaibiles, see the STRATFOR article entitled, "Kaibiles: The New Lethal Force in the Mexican Drug Wars," 2006.

29. Sam Logan, "The Evolution of 'Los Zetas,' A Mexican Crime Organization," The international Relations and Security Network, 11 March 2009.

30. Nikos Passas, "Cross border crime and the interface between legal and illegal actors," Upper World and Under World in Cross-Border Crime (Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers, 2002), 13.

31 . Bruce Schneier, "The Psychology of Security," <!> (2 March 2010).

32. Gallup, "Opinion Briefing: Mexico's War on Drug Traffickers," Gallup Consulting, 18 February 2009, <> (16 March 2010).

33. Dan Lund, "Moving toward 2009 without leaving 2006," Opinion and Policy Report, Series 8 (Mexico City: MUND Americas, 2009).

34. Grayson, 35-7.

35. Max Manwaring provides a detailed description of the use and emergence of third generation gangs in A Contemporary Challenge to State Sovereignty: Gangs and Other Illicit Transnational Criminal Organizations in Central America, El Salvador, Mexico, Jamaica, and Brazil (monograph, Strategic Studies Institute: U.S. Army War College: 2007), 5-7.

36. Peter Andreas, Border Games: Policing the U. S. -Mexico Divide (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000), 7.

37. "Mexico's Economy: A Different Kind of Recession," The Economist (November 2009), Mexico City.

38. United States Central Intelligence Agency, "The World Factbook: Mexico," < html?countryName=Mexico&countryCode=mx&regionCode=na&rank=12#mx> (16 March 2010).

39. Rotberg, 3.

40. Grayson further provides an elaborate play-by-play of political conditions to support his portrayal of Mexico as a fragile state. The final two chapters, "Chapter 10: Prospect for Mexico's Becoming a Failed State," and "Conclusion: Failed State?" attack the issue both from a sub-national and national perspective, 251-78.

41 . Huntington outlines very descriptively the process of transformation and the characteristics of democratization. His points capture the importance of multiple views including those of hard liners and moderates in The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, 109-207.

42. Dan Lund, "Elecciones en Mexico, 201 0 luchas tímidas por el centro politico," Reporte de Opinión y Politica (Mexico City: MUND Americas, 2010). Lund provides detailed comparative analysis of the electoral conditions and election results within the province of Zacatecas as a microcosm of the propensity of modern Mexican politicians towards centrist ideas. This analysis supports Huntington's participation concepts of democratization in The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, 109-207, and Rotberg's essential political goods thesis in When States Fail: Causes and Consequences, 5.

43. For details and information about the Mexican military, constitutional origins and usage authorizations, and for details about the organizational structure, see Jordi Diez and Ian Nicholls, The Mexican Armed Forces in Transition (Carlisle: Strategic Studies Institute, 2006), 4.

44. Office of National Drug Control Policy, National Southwest Border Countemarcotics Strategy, June 2009, 2. The NSWBCS contains the comprehensive U.S. strategy to counter the drug threat along the U.S. Southwest border. The strategy includes a wide range of strategic objectives focused on the physical and psychological realms with emphasis on the ongoing cooperation and collaboration with the Mexican government. Chapter 9 specifically details the strategic interaction with the Mexican government across the four instruments of national power.

45. Alexandra Olson, "Amid Drug War, Mexico Less Deadly Than Decade Ago," The El Paso Times, <>, 7 February 2010 (13 March 2010).

46. NationMaster, "Crime Statistics,", 2008, <http://www.> (27 March 2010).

47. Olson.

48. Foreign Policy, "Failed States Index 2009," < articles/2009/06/22/2009_failed_states_indexjnteractive_map_and_rankings> (16 March 2010).

49. The Fund for Peace, "Country Profiles: Mexico," < web/index. php?option=com_content&task=view&id:=442&ltemid=889>, last updated 26 January 2010 (16 March 2010).

50. Central Intelligence Agency, "The World Factbook: Mexico."

51 . The World Bank, "Country Brief: Mexico," < EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/LACEXT/MEXICOEXTN/0,,contentMDK:22252113~pageP K:1497618~piPK:217854~theSitePK:338397,0O.html> (16 March 2010).

52. Mexican Embassy to the United States, "Mexico and the Fight Against DrugTrafficking and Organized Crime: Setting the Record Straight," Mexican Foreign Ministry, March 2009, <http://portal.sre.gob,mx/eua/pdf/SettingTheRecordStraightFinal. pdf> (16 March 2010).

53. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, 40.

54. Alonso Lujambío, "Funding and Fiscal Control of Parties in Mexico," Fedora! Electoral Instituto, Mexico City, < funding_fiscal,htrnl> (11 April 2010).

55. Federal Electoral Instituto. "IFE: Nature and Attributions," Federa/ Electoral Instituto, <http://www.ife. org. mx/portal/site/ifev2/IFE_Nature_and_Attributions/#1> (11 April 2010).

56. Ibid.

57. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, 32-92.

58. Rotberg, 3.

59. Senate Subcommittee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, The Statement of Kevin L. Perkins, "The New Border War: Corruption of US Officials by Drug Cartels," on 11 March 2010, to the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration, 1.

Author affiliation:

Major Juan P. Nava, U.S. Army

Author affiliation:

Major Juan P. Nava is a military police officer currently serving in the Commander's Action Group of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/ Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. He received a BA. in English from Texas A&M University, an MA. from Webster University, and a MMAS from the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, KS.

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