f_0016382_14180 - Mexico and the United States: Fighting a...

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Spring 2009 The Ambassadors REVIEW 13 Mexico and the United States: Fighting a Common Enemy Arturo Sarukhán Ambassador of Mexico to the United States o two countries are as important to each other’s well-being and security as Mexico and the United States. The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 marked the beginning of a strategic partnership between our two nations, and over the past 15 years the relationship has become deeper and wider. However, the atmosphere today is anything but festive, as Mexico is being portrayed by a small but vocal group as a threat to the security of the United States. A key factor that is fueling this perspective is the recent increase in drug-related violence. Over the past two years, financially powerful and well-armed drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) have sought to fight back against the government of President Felipe Calderón through the use of violence and corruption. Their tactics have become more brutal, as the systematic and sustained campaign of law enforcement launched by the Mexican government has seriously dented their illegal operations. The Government of Mexico does not deny the seriousness of the threat posed by organized crime, but this challenge needs to be analyzed in a broader context, as Mexico has not so much experienced an increase in the levels of violence, as it has witnessed a change in the nature of this violence. In spite of the recent spike in drug-related murders, the general murder rate in Mexico has been on a downward trend for several years now, and remains significantly below regional levels. Thus, the current rate of violent deaths in Mexico per 100,000 inhabitants is 25 percent lower than it was in 1990, while it remains 60 percent lower than in Brazil, 72 percent lower than in Colombia, and just above the rate in the United States (five per 100,000 inhabitants vs. ten per 100,000 inhabitants). Moreover, drug-related deaths are overwhelmingly concentrated in five states—Chihuahua; Sinaloa; Baja California; Guerrero; and Michoacán—which together account for only 15 percent of the
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f_0016382_14180 - Mexico and the United States: Fighting a...

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