The expected win of the PRI’s candidate: Enrique Peña Nieto on Sunday’s election does not signify the end of the Mexican Drug War contrary to armchair pundits. What many columnists have neglected to include in their analysis or have conveniently ignored is that the Mexican Drug War is not a unique phenomenon, it is in fact an evolution of the international drug trafficking mafias and the outcome has historically been predetermined. There will be changes in how the war is executed, primarily because war is fluid especially in a narco-driven pseudo insurgency. But more importantly the United States is now disengaging from its war footings in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention that tensions with Iran continue to diminish giving the United States the opportunity to focus more on the drug cartels.
Add to this geopolitical scenario the continued financial stresses on the world stage and the conclusion of the American and Mexican election cycles makes concluding the war on the Mexican cartels the primary missions of both governments. In order to understand the next step with the Mexican Drug War it is important to remember that the capitulation of the current cartels is the same as what happened in Columbia with the defeat of Pablo Escobar’s Medellín cartel and the Cali cartel. This latest manifestation of attacking the drug trafficking organizations is a continuing policy of containing the trafficking organizations and not an outright annihilation of them.
The Mexican Drug War is about controlling the threat to the Mexican state posed by the power wielded by the traffickers, creating a larger buffer between the United States and the traffickers and breaking up the stronger mafias into smaller, less organized and easier to control cartels.
As readers will remember, Columbia launched an assault against the Medellín cartel and to a lesser extent the Cali cartel when the United States was mired in the first Gulf War ejecting Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Although the United States encouraged and facilitated equipment and resources, much like it is doing with Mexico today, it wasn’t until near the conclusion of the first Gulf War that the United States focused on the Columbian cartels which lead to Pablo Escobar’s Medellín and the Cali cartels eventual submission to the will of the Columbian state and by extension, America’s as well. This did not end the trafficking of drugs into the United States; it just made it more manageable and under new names.
This also does not mean that US troops will be directly deployed against the Mexican cartels, although US law enforcement and specialized US military units will continue to participate in support units because, unlike Columbia, there is no stated doctrine of the eradication of the threat of Soviet expansion or operationally organized political guerrillas in Mexico currently. Because of this direct US troop participation will not be engaged on Mexican soil.
Regardless of which party wins the elections on Sunday night, although the PRI is expected to win, the government will begin to disengage the Mexican military and allow the new federal security forces to become more visible. This has been the strategy from the onset and will continue to be so. Likewise the resolution to the Mexican Drug war will not end drug trafficking rather the cartels will be weakened politically and their visibility diminished with their operational strong holes moved away from Mexico to other less visible countries. The mega-cartels will be splintered in order to render them easier to control and less likely to threaten Mexican sovereignty.
Likewise, the outcome of the American elections will also not shift American foreign policy in regards to the Mexican drug traffickers. The United States’ foreign policy is and will continue to be to fight foreign threats outside of the US homeland. This is also the reason why the Mexican Drug War is about repositioning the threat of the drug mafias further south to allow for a greater buffer zone between them and America. This is not to say that the American homeland doesn’t face security concerns within its own borders by the drug mafias as evidenced by an increase in marijuana cultivation intra-country and a rise in violence in certain drug fueled cities. This is nothing more than a repositioning of criminal gangs in response to a more secured border reality and continued pressure in Mexico. These also will be diminished and forced to reposition their activities.
That has been and will continue to be the strategy until a worldwide consensus is established by consumer and producer countries to eradicate drug trafficking around the world. Unfortunately this is very unlikely because the money in the drug trade is just too tempting for political shenanigans that it is not in the interest of various nations to end it. In the case of Mexico, the end of the Mexican Drug War will be the symbolic dismantling of Chapo Guzman’s drug trafficking organization by forceful relocation outside of Mexico or a return to invisibility of the organization by substantially weakening its operational capability.