By Moravia de la O
International Team - Mexico
Witness for Peace
On Saturday evening, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the resignation of the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual. Responding to negative statements from President Felipe Calderon and tension generated by cables published by Wikileaks, Carlos Pascual decided to step down in order “to ensure the strong relationship between our two countries.” But the ambassador wasn’t the only reason for tense relations between the U.S. and Mexico. Beyond a personnel change, what’s needed is for the U.S. to also rethink its failed drug war strategy in Mexico.
Ambassador Pascual’s fall from grace is largely due to the publishing of diplomatic cables critical of the handling of the drug war by Mexican officials and agencies. In one particularly damaging cable, he describes the army as “risk averse.” However, candid as his cables may have been, they largely gloss over the negative effects of the drug war in Mexico.
For example, very little attention is paid to the escalating number of human rights complaints levied against the Mexican army since 2006. In the last four years, the Mexican National Human Rights Commission has received over 5,000 reports of human rights abuses by the army.
Another source of the Mexican political elite’s dissatisfaction with Ambassador Pascual is the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)’s Operation Fast and Furious, which allowed 1,700 guns to cross the border into Mexico. After news spread about the failure of the operation to effectively track these thousands of guns, the Mexican public was outraged. And it certainly didn’t help that one of those guns was used to kill U.S. customs agent Jaime Zapata on a Mexican highway.
However, weapons flow from the U.S. to Mexico is not a new phenomenon. Almost 90% of weapons used in Mexico can be traced to the U.S. For example, in recent weeks, the mayor and police chief of Colombus, NM were arrested in connection with a gun smuggling ring.
The U.S. would do well to not just appoint a new ambassador to Mexico, but also to dramatically alter the militarized model of anti-drug cooperation between the two countries.