Why isn’t Mexico’s security strategy working?


Key Points:

  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto must recognize that security is not a distraction from his economic agenda and that confronting criminal enterprises is indispensable to the nation’s stability and prosperity.
  • Peña Nieto has not implemented an effective security strategy, and his response to drug violence is uncalibrated and improvised.
  • Mexico should respond more effectively to innovative, globalized cartels and be more receptive to US collaboration so that it can counter criminality fueled by US demand for illicit drugs.

President Enrique Peña Nieto came to power in Mexico 18 months ago promising to reform Mexico’s economy to make it more competitive and prosperous. He also stressed the need to change the controversial antidrug strategy pursued by his predecessor, Felipe Calderón.

Although Peña Nieto has made considerable progress on an ambitious economic agenda thus far, he has been slow to articulate, let alone implement, an alternative strategy for dealing with the organized crime that continues to threaten Mexico’s security and prosperity. Peña Nieto pledged to adapt more quickly to criminal threats; however, today, federal authorities are struggling to keep pace with aggressive and innovative criminal enterprises.[1]

Unrestricted organized crime will doom Peña Nieto’s efforts to reform and modernize the Mexican economy. He must work to develop an integrated, flexible antidrug strategy that can pursue the evolving illegal economy. Moreover, unless the United States does much more to help remedy a problem caused by domestic demand for illegal drugs, it risks forfeiting a critical partner in Mexico that is unable to tackle this threat on its own.

Mexico: War-Weary, but Still on the Front Lines

Mexico’s location in the “transit zone” between the largest producers and consumers of illicit drugs in the world has generated problems for decades. Weak criminal justice institutions, high levels of corruption, inequality, substandard education, and poorly trained police forces present a favorable environment for organized crime by hindering the state’s capacity to mount coordinated and effective law enforcement operations in Mexico.

In the 1980s and ’90s, several Mexican drug trafficking organizations divided turf along the US-Mexican border. These organizations collected drugs South American cartels smuggled into Mexico and transshipped the contraband northward through ports of entry and unpatrolled areas along the border.[2] When Colombia launched a national offensive against cocaine production and trafficking in the late 1990s, it disrupted the operational capacity of its homegrown syndicates. At the same time, looking to reap bigger profits, Mexican traffickers began to demand a bigger role in transporting cocaine within Mexico and also began the industrial production of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine.[3]

As Mexican cartels have expanded their international operations, their wealth, geographic footprint, and impact on society has grown. As local drug kingpins became international “drug lords,” the vulnerability of local authorities and institutions to corruption and coercion increased dramatically. As a result, just when a coordinated law enforcement effort is needed most, cooperation among authorities at all levels has become harder to achieve. Indeed, in many areas of Mexico, local authorities reached de facto truces with traffickers, who were allowed to operate with impunity if they minimized the mayhem and bloodshed in communities.[4]

In the mid-2000s, Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN), campaigned for the presidency denouncing this lawlessness, which he identified as a grave threat to Mexico’s national security, institutions, public health, and future. Within 10 days of taking office in December 2006, Calderón deployed more than 5,000 members of Mexico’s armed forces and federal police to confront rampant drug-related violence in his home state of Michoacán. Six years later, more than 60,000 lives had been lost in what was criticized as “Calderón’s war on drugs.”[5] Although most of the casualties were the result of criminal infighting, many innocent Mexicans were caught in the crossfire, and the nation was shocked by the bloody confrontation.

In recent Mexican history, no president has attempted such an aggressive and frontal approach to fighting organized crime. Calderón committed his government to a wholesale restructuring of its antidrug policy-committing every tool, notably the armed forces, to eradicate a problem that jeopardized the country’s governability.

As Calderón moved against organized crime in one state, however, the drug-trafficking organizations adapted their operations to stay ahead of law enforcement measures. In many cases, they expanded their involvement in kidnapping, extortion, trafficking in arms and people, racketeering, and murder.

As these syndicates splintered due to enforcement efforts and turf wars, the government managed to dismantle some of the smaller groups. However, by the end of Calderón’s six-year offensive, Mexico went from a total of six major drug cartels to nine.

Although drug seizures and the capture and killing of kingpins (more than 20 in six years) were important to undercutting the power of the cartels, the resulting splinter groups were more difficult to combat and just as violent and pernicious as the bigger organizations. The resulting violence increased the number of homicides in many states.

The states of Baja California, Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Durango, and Sinaloa saw their murder rates more than triple from 2007 to 2009.[6]Although the initial operations in Michoacán at the beginning of the Calderón administration did reduce levels of violence, other states did not fare as well, as some state and local governments did not fully buy into the federal government’s strategy. Without a sufficient local commitment, the federal enforcement efforts provoked a backlash and none of the gains that a more unified effort might have realized.

On paper, Calderón’s strategy contemplated an integrated approach, including coordinated operations with local governments, reform of the legal and institutional framework of the country, a crime prevention strategy, and greater international cooperation (particularly with the United States and Colombia).[7] Although it might be tempting to blame federal authorities for poor coordination, in some cases local authorities refused to cooperate because of their complicity with criminal groups or because they did not agree with the federal government’s intervention.

Calderón’s strategy did produce results in terms of arrests and seizures of contraband. For example, from 2006 to 2012, 50,967 individuals were detained, 10,429 metric tons of marijuana and 37 metric tons of cocaine were seized, and 125,990 weapons and 53,520 vehicles were confiscated.[8] The Calderón administration also constructed a professionalized Federal Police, which grew from less than 5,000 members to 40,000. He also created Plataforma Mexico, a national database of information on arrests, operations, and strategies among Mexico’s states, which improved interagency cooperation against organized crime.

A Stubborn Threat

Despite some achievements, according to a November 2011 poll taken as Calderón’s term drew to a close, 86 percent of Mexicans regarded the drug war as “lost.”[9] Indeed, it is not clear that his policies produced permanent gains. Mexico is still a transshipment point for 95 percent of the cocaine entering the United States, the largest foreign supplier of marijuana and methamphetamine, and a major money-laundering center.[10] From 2008 to 2009, Mexico’s opium poppy crop increased by 31 percent, and its marijuana crop jumped by 45 percent. In addition, internal consumption of illicit drugs has doubled in the last decade.[11]

In Mexico, nine drug-trafficking organizations (in addition to associated armed groups) currently threaten the country’s national security: Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, Los Zetas, the Sinaloa Federation, Gulf Cartel, Knights Templar/La Familia Michoacana, remnants of the Beltran Leyva Organization, Nuevo Cartel de Juárez, Los Rojos, and the recently created La Tercera Hermandad.[12]

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, these cartels control an estimated $14-45 billion in illegal drug sales.[13]

In addition to these vast financial resources, these groups count on a supply of automatic weapons and other arms, mostly from the United States. Recently, the United States acknowledged that two-thirds of the more than 100,000 guns recovered in Mexico over the past five years have been manufactured in the US, representing the cartels’ main source of weapons.[14]

Furthermore, these Mexican groups collaborate with Colombian criminal organizations, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, that continue to play an indispensable role in the hemispheric drug trade. Also, Mexican gangs receive military tactics and explosives training from rogue elements of the Guatemalan Kaibiles “special forces” and collaborate in money laundering schemes with Hezbollah operatives.[15]

Clearly, the impact of international trafficking on Mexico is immense and growing. Mexican authorities minimize the problem at their own peril. However, an international response is required to confront a problem that is not of Mexico’s making and that any one country cannot deal with effectively.

Peña Nieto’s Improvised Approach

Mexico’s presidential election of 2012 became a referendum on President Calderón’s antidrug war. Even with the economy growing at 3.8 percent, unemployment steady at 5 percent, and inflation below 5 percent, the nominee of Calderón’s party finished a distant third in the balloting.[16] Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) tapped into the nation’s war-weariness by promising a new approach to security. Although the campaign did not offer many specifics, a fresh face promising to end the drug war was enough to return the PRI to power after a 12-year hiatus.

Peña Nieto said his government would target threats to “personal security,” such as kidnappings, extortion, and murder, as opposed to concentrating on a frontal campaign against organized crime and kingpins. He explained that the government should attack the root causes of crime, rather than combat the symptoms.[17] In his first speech as president, Peña Nieto stated that “crime is not only fought through force,” and he pledged to emphasize crime prevention.[18]

His stated strategy features three very broad objectives: “reduction of violence, fighting against high impact crimes and reestablishing peace throughout the country.”[19] Yet Peña Nieto has failed to follow through with clearly defined policies. Thus far, anticrime statistics are dismal on his watch. His administration has merely put out fires as they have flared up around the country.

In 2013, Peña Nieto’s first year as president, drug-related arrests dropped by 27.5 percent, marijuana seizures went down by 33.9 percent, and weapon seizures decreased by 52.6 percent.[20] Furthermore, kidnappings and extortion increased by 27 percent in the in the first six months of Peña Nieto’s term.[21] That these “high impact crimes” are the focus of his new emphasis on “personal security” raises serious questions about the effectiveness of his strategy.

Peña Nieto’s administration has explained that the surge in reported kidnappings and extortion is directly related to the government’s strategy to encourage citizens to denounce these crimes. A government spokesperson stated, “We believe that this [campaign] has achieved its objective, which is to increase the complaints [and thus the numbers reported].”[22]

Ironically, the one area of success is the arrest of drug kingpins-which candidate Peña Nieto said would no longer be a priority. The arrest of Mexico’s “most-wanted man,” Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, drew international attention.[23] Other notable kingpins either arrested or killed include Galindo Mellado Cruz (one of the founders of Los Zetas),[24] Miguel Treviño Morales (leader of Los Zetas),[25] Mario Armando Ramírez Treviño (leader of the Gulf Cartel),[26] Rubén Oseguera González (second in command of Jalisco Nueva Generación),[27] Dionisio Loya Plancarte (leader of the Knights Templar),[28] and Serafín Zambada (son of Sinaloa Cartel leader Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada).[29]

To be sure, Peña Nieto’s first year in office was dominated by an ambitious agenda of domestic reforms, including retooling education, taxes, and oil production. That meant he certainly delivered on his promise to deemphasize the war on drugs.

Unfortunately, while his attention was focused elsewhere, new security crises were allowed to fester with troubling consequences. The rise of vigilante self-defense groups in Michoacán and elsewhere presents a serious test for the central government.

The Michoacán Phenomenon

Michoacán, a state 100 miles due west of Mexico City, has been the epicenter for violence, turf wars, and political corruption for many years. It is no surprise that it has posed the greatest security crisis since Peña Nieto took power, prompting federal intervention in January.

Michoacán is home turf to a number of criminal organizations-the Knights Templar/Familia Michoacana, Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, and La Tercera Hermandad-that use violence to claim territory for their illicit operations. In the past year, armed civilian “self-defense groups” have emerged to push back against the cartels. When these groups began to occupy towns in internationally publicized operations early this year, federal authorities were forced to deploy security personnel and assume control of the state government.

Political corruption also plays a role in the spread of crime and instability in Michoacán. Even during Calderón’s first antidrug offensive in December 2006, corrupt local authorities failed to support federal law enforcement efforts. Governor Leonel Godoy (2008-12), of the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) faced numerous accusations of corruption; his brother and former Congressman Julio Cesar Godoy has alleged links with the Familia Michoacana and is a fugitive from justice.

Godoy was succeeded in 2012 by Fausto Vallejo, candidate of the PRI; Vallejo’s incapacitation because of illness created a dangerous power vacuum. During Vallejo’s six-month medical leave, his deputy, Jesus Reyna Garcia, served as interim governor. When Vallejo resumed his duties, Reyna Garcia continued as his second in command. On April 5, 2014, the federal police detained Reyna Garcia for his alleged connections with the Knights Templar, exposing continued corruption at the highest levels in Michoacán.[30]

On January 15, 2014, as a result of this governance crisis and escalating confrontations among the several drug cartels and the self-defense groups, federal authorities appointed Alfredo Castillo, head of the Federal Attorney’s Office of Consumer Issues and one of Peña Nieto’s closest friends, as security and development commissioner for Michoacán to “improve the coordination of state and local authorities.”[31] In addition, federal police were deployed to help impose order. Castillo continues as the de facto replacement of Vallejo. Since Castillo’s appointment, violence has been reduced in Michoacán, but self-defense groups have not given up their weapons and the government has not yet developed a policy response to the vigilante phenomenon.[32]

During its first 12 months in power, the Peña Nieto administration failed to react to the spiral of violence in Michoacán, perhaps for fear of exposing the ineffectiveness of its passive antidrug strategy.[33] Today, it is impossible for federal authorities to downplay the escalating crisis in Michoacán, which has joined the states of Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Jalisco, and Estado de México as one of the most violent in the country.

On March 31, 2014, responding to increasing violence in Estado de México and the local government’s inability to control it, the federal government announced a strategic plan in which the number of police forces would be doubled, along with a significant increase in the number of armed forces that are present in the state.[34] Likewise, on May 13, 2014, Peña Nieto ordered Secretary of Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong to implement a new security strategy in Tamaulipas, which would entail “dividing the state into four zones to fight criminality.”[35] The zones are: the Border (Reynosa, Rio Bravo Valle Hermosa and Matamoros), Coast (Altamira, Tampico and Madero), Center (Victoria), and South (Antigua Morelos, Nuevo Morelos and El Mante). These regions will be under the supervision of four security commissioners that, like Castillo in Michoacán, will be responsible for making sure that local authorities fall in line.[36]

Likewise, in Michoacán, federal authorities have vacillated between disarming civilian “self-defense” groups or accepting them as a local militia against the cartels. These armed groups are part of a phenomenon that appears to have spread to at least 10 more states.[37]

Some say that authorities in Mexico City have tolerated vigilante groups because they have appeared to check the spread of narcocriminality. The danger is that some of these self-defense forces seem to be aligned with drug-trafficking organizations, thus compounding the threat to the rule of law and governability. For example, in recent weeks, a new organization called La Tercera Hermandad, which started as a vigilante group from the communities of La Huacana and Buenavista-Tomatlán in the state of Michoacán, joined the battle for control of drug trafficking in the state.[38]

Michoacán, Estado de México, and Tamaulipas seem to be the tip of the iceberg. States like Morelos, Guerrero, and Jalisco may soon see similar operations deployed by a government that is scrambling to contain these waves of violence and lawlessness.

New Strategy Is Needed

Mexico and its Latin American neighbors have the potential to be one of the most prosperous regions in the world-if they are able to effectively reduce insecurity and corruption and improve antiquated and dysfunctional judicial systems. Politicians like Peña Nieto tend to see a focus on security as a distraction from their economic agenda. Instead, they should recognize that dismantling the operations of innovative and globalized criminal enterprises is indispensable to their nations’ stability and prosperity.

Beginning in the late 1990s, “Plan Colombia”-advanced by Colombian presidents Andrés Pastrana Arango and Álvaro Uribe Vélez and backed by a sustained US aid package-proved to be a decisive strategy against the Colombian guerrillas and their partners in the cocaine-trafficking business.[39] Although it is usually associated with a “militarized” approach to the insecurity facing Colombia, its primary components included increased development resources, the permanent presence of competent and accountable authorities of the state, close collaboration with members of the impacted communities, and effective training and deployment of security forces.[40] The most important element proved to be Uribe’s commitment to confronting lawlessness with a sustained “whole-of-government” approach and his ability to mobilize national resources and popular support. At present, Mexico appears to lack such a comprehensive strategy and presidential commitment.

Fresh thinking and new tactics are required to constrict the ability of cartels to access and operate in a globalized, illicit market. According to Juan Carlos Garzón, global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, “Politicians, analysts, and academics unaware of the true dimensions of organized crime are treating this situation as a matter of “cops and robbers.”[41] Garzón explains that criminal organizations are expanding, modernizing, and adapting their operations to a globalized economy. Furthermore, he states that organized crime’s links to the global economy have grown deeper, their involvement with “legal” actors has increased, and the replacement of capos(kingpins) with “brokers” is becoming the norm.[42]

Garzón recommends that the effectiveness of antidrug strategies should be measured not by crime statistics, but by their impact on a cartel’s ability to operate in numerous territories. A key component of this is constricting the ability of drug dealers to establish local markets, influence elections, launder illicit profits, and engage in legal commerce. Moreover, these strategies should be formulated against illegal economic activity in general-beyond drug trafficking. Increasing the effectiveness of and public confidence in state institutions is, therefore, crucial.

Criminal organizations are adapting, and authorities and societies as a whole must respond accordingly. Of course, no government is capable of containing this threat without engaging a strong popular commitment, including the private sector and civil society. And all countries threatened by international criminal organizations are better off cooperating with one another to confront this transnational threat.

Shared Responsibility

The demand for illegal drugs in the United States is the proximate cause of mayhem in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and beyond. Although material assistance and law enforcement cooperation from the United States under the Merida Initiative has been helpful, it remains insufficient.[43]Moreover, the inability of authorities in both countries to stop the illegal flow of automatic weapons into Mexico also has made the task of combating organized crime more dangerous.

For decades, those on the front lines of the struggle against cross-border crime have sought greater bilateral cooperation. However, that cooperation has been episodic, at best-undermined by historic suspicions of US law enforcement officials and Mexican sensitivities to deeper cooperation with the US government. Although US-Mexico law enforcement cooperation flourished under Calderón, Peña Nieto’s team moved quickly to circumscribe such collaboration.[44]

The only way to dispel mutual suspicions and build confidence between US and Mexican law enforcement and intelligence agencies is through sustained cooperation and shared success. New restrictions on bilateral cooperation, which make both nations more vulnerable to criminal activities, may reinforce the perception that Mexican authorities are more committed to protecting their country’s sovereignty than to fighting crime.

More cooperation by Mexican policymakers, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and so forth with their US counterparts would serve the national security interests of both countries. Far from intervening in Mexico’s internal affairs, the United States would be accepting its substantial share of the responsibility for meeting the organized crime threat.

The Road Ahead   

No one nation can shoulder the burden of transnational organized crime that has undermined the rule of law and democracy in many countries for decades. No one government has the capacity to confront these global criminal syndicates by itself. An effective antidrug strategy requires a comprehensive approach that attacks every link in the drug-trafficking chain (particularly consumption, which is the root of the problem), strengthens institutions that apply the law and fortifies societies that respect the law.

Peña Nieto took power promising to implement a new antidrug strategy that would focus on mitigating violence rather than confronting criminal organizations and capturing kingpins. His assurances won praise from some policy mavens in Washington who never approved of Calderón’s law-and-order strategy. But now, the effectiveness of Peña Nieto’s policies must be measured.

Having neglected security challenges while tending to his economic agenda, Peña Nieto now seems to be improvising, reacting to emerging crises rather than moving to prevent them. Thus far, Michoacán, Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Morelos, and his native Estado de México have experienced serious increases in homicide, kidnapping, extortion, and other violent crime since his election. Although the improvised response to the crisis in Michoacán does not necessarily presage a more proactive strategy to get ahead of the curve in other states, perhaps Peña Nieto’s team has learned that the narco threat will only intensify if it is not confronted.[45]

Looking back on Mexico’s decades-long struggle to deal with the mayhem sown by powerful and violent criminal organizations, it is clear that a president’s personal political will, although important, is no substitute for a genuine national commitment to confronting this threat. Unless Mexicans adopt a more comprehensive, attentive and flexible antidrug strategy, the threat of organized crime will continue to grow-with implications for the security and well-being of Mexico and its neighbors.

Roger F. Noriega (rnoriega@aei.org), a former senior US Department of State official, is a visiting fellow at AEI and managing director of Vision Americas LLC. Felipe Trigos (ft@visionamericas.com) is a research analyst at Vision Americas LLC.


1. Enrique Peña Nieto, Recuperar la paz y libertad de los mexicanos [Restoring the Peace and Freedom of Mexicans], El Universal, May 14, 2012, www.eluniversal.com.mx/notas/847036.html.

2. From the 1970s until the early 1990s, Mexico’s drug trade was controlled mainly by six organizations: the Tijuana Cartel, Arellano-Felix Organization, Guadalajara Cartel, Gulf Cartel, Juarez Cartel, and the Sinaloa Cartel.

3. “Narcos se convierten en productores en México y Centroamérica” [Narcos Become Producers in Mexico and Central America], Univisión Noticias, February 2, 2012,http://noticias.univision.com/article/871160/2012-02-02/narcotrafico/noticias/narcotraficantes-se-convierten-en-productores.

4. Bruno Gonzalez, “U.S. Role at a Crossroads in Mexico’s Intelligence War on the Cartels,” Washington Post, April 27, 2013, www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-role-at-a-crossroads-in-mexicos-intelligence-war-on-the-cartels/2013/04/27/b578b3ba-a3b3-11e2-be47-b44febada3a8_story_1.html.

5. Human Rights Watch, Mexico’s Disappeared, February 20, 2013, www.hrw.org/fr/node/113706.

6. Eduardo Guerrero Gutierrez, “La estrategia fallida” [The Failed Strategy], Nexos, December 1, 2012.

7. Ibid.

8. Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional, Informe de decomisos del Combate al Narcotráfico [Report on Seizures from the Strategy against Narcotrafficking], 2014, www.sedena.gob.mx/actividades/ver-informacion-detallada.

9. “86% de mexicanos cree perdida la ‘guerra contra el narco,’ según encuesta” [86 Percent of Mexicans Believe That the "War on Drugs" Is Lost, According to a Poll], CNN Mexico, November 23, 2011,http://mexico.cnn.com/nacional/2011/11/23/86-de-mexicanos-cree-perdida-la-guerra-contra-el-narco-segun-encuesta.

10. Central Intelligence Agency, “Illicit Drugs (Mexico),” The World Factbook, 2013.

11. “Se duplica el uso de drogas en menos de una década” [Drug Consumption Doubles in Less Than a Decade], Excelsior, June 6, 2013, www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/2013/06/26/906025.

12. Andrés Becerril, “Autodefensas dan origen a otro cártel; nace en Michoacán La Tercera Hermandad o H3″ [Self-Defense Groups Create Another Cartel; In Michoacán La Tercera Hermandad Is Born], Excelsior, May 6, 2013, www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/2014/05/06/957619.

13. International Narcotics Control Board, Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2010, March 2, 2011, www.incb.org/documents/Publications/AnnualReports/AR2010/AR_2010_English.pdf.

14. Chris McGreal, “US ‘Losing Battle’ to Stem Flow of Illegal Guns into Mexico-Attorney General,”Guardian, November 8, 2011, www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/08/us-losing-battle-guns-mexico.

15. James Bargent, “US Report Shows Zeta Corruption of Guatemala’s Special Forces,” InSight Crime, November 8, 2013, www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/us-report-shows-zetas-corruption-of-guatemalas-special-forces; and Jason Ryan, “Lebanese Drug Lord Charged in US: Links to Zetas and Hezbollah,” ABC News, December 13, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/12/lebanese-drug-lord-charged-in-us-links-to-zetas-and-hezbollah/.

16. “Mexico: Economic Indicators,” Trading Economics, www.tradingeconomics.com/mexico/indicators. Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI obtained 38 percent of the vote against Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the PRD, who got 31 percent, and Josefina Vázquez Mota of the PAN, who got 25 percent.

17. “Peña Nieto pide más prevención contra el crimen” [Peña Nieto Requests More Crime Prevention], El Universal, February 12, 2013, www.eluniversal.com.mx/notas/902744.html.

18. Luis Prados, “Peña Nieto promete transformar México” [Peña Nieto Promises to Transform Mexico], El Pais, December 1, 2012,http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2012/12/01/mexico/1354383595_336094.html.

19. Mexico, Presidencia de la Republica, “Politica Publica de Seguridad y Procuracion de Justicia” [Public Policy for Security and Law Enforcement], www.presidencia.gob.mx/politicadeseguridad/.

20. Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional, Informe de decomisos del Combate al Narcotráfico [Report on Seizures from the Strategy against Narco Trafficking], 2014, www.sedena.gob.mx/actividades/ver-informacion-detallada.

21. Rafael Cabrera, “Aumentan 27% secuestro y extorsión en México” [Kidnappings and Extortion Increase by 27 Percent in Mexico], Animal Politico, September 10, 2013,www.animalpolitico.com/2013/09/aumentan-secuestro-y-extorsion-con-pena-nieto/#axzz31ATqhYnB.

22. Ibid.

23. Catherine E. Shoichet. Evan Perez, and Brian Todd, “‘El Chapo’ Guzman: How the World’s Most Wanted Drug Lord Was Finally Busted,” CNN World, February 24, 2014,www.cnn.com/2014/02/23/world/americas/el-chapo-capture/.

24. “Mexican Troops ‘Kill Zetas Cartel Founder Mellado,’” BBC News, May 12, 2014,www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-27370457.

25. “Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, Captured Mexico Drug Lord, Seeks Protection from Torture,” Agence France Presse, July 18, 2013, www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/18/miguel-angel-trevino-morales-protection-from-torture_n_3614739.html.

26. “Gulf Cartel Boss Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino Arrested in Mexico,” Guardian, August 19, 2013,www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/18/mexico-arrests-gulf-cartel-boss.

27. “Mexico Arrests Jalisco New Generation Drug Lord El Menchito,” BBC News, January 31, 2014,www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-25972790.

28. “Mexico Nabs Cartel Leader Dionicio Loya Plancarte,” USA Today, January 27, 2014,www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/01/27/mexico-cartel-leader/4950403/.

29. “Son of Mexican Drug Lord Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada Arrested in Arizona,” Daily News (New York), November 22, 2013, www.nydailynews.com/news/world/son-infamous-mexican-drug-lord-arrested-arizona-article-1.1526319.

30. A video released by authorities shows the leader of the Knights Templar, Servando Gómez Martínez, also known as “La Tuta,” with Reyna Garcia discussing political strategies in the state and the involvement of the Knights Templar in local government affairs. (See www.milenio.com/policia/La_Tuta-reunion_de_Jesus_Reyna_con_la_Tuta-caballeros_templarios-Martinez_Pasalagua-Michoacan-transportistas_0_286771394.html.) In another video, La Tuta is seen offering political backing to the former municipal president of the city of Lazaro Cárdenas, Arquímedes Oceguera.

31. “Nuevo comisionado de seguridad coordinará autoridades para ‘recuperar’ Michoacán” [New Security Commissioner Will Coordinate Authorities to ‘Recover' Michoacán], Animal Politico, January 15, 2014,www.animalpolitico.com/2014/01/alfredo-castillo-deja-la-profeco-es-el-nuevo-comisionado-de-seguridad-en-michoacan/#axzz32x6AkhF8.

32. “Autodefensas registran armas, no las entregan” [Self-Defense Groups Register Their Weapons but Do Not Give Them Up], Zocalo Saltillo, May 8, 2014, www.zocalo.com.mx/seccion/articulo/autodefensas-registran-armas-no-las-entregan-1399585340.

33. Roger Noriega, “Mexico’s New Drug Cartel Battle: Self-Defense Leagues,” Arizona Republic, January 24, 2014, www.azcentral.com/opinions/articles/20140126mexicos-narco-nightmare-noriega-viewpoints.html.

34. “Ante la violencia, el gobierno federal active ahora el ‘operativo Edomex’” [Because of Violence, the Federal Government Activates ‘Operation Edomex'], CNN Mexico, March 31, 2014,http://mexico.cnn.com/nacional/2014/03/31/ante-la-violencia-el-gobierno-federal-activa-ahora-el-operativo-edomex.

35. “Gobierno Federal presenta nueva estrategia de seguridad para Tamaulipas” [The Federal Government Presents a New Security Strategy for Tamaulipas], Excelsior, May 13, 2014.

36. “Los comisionados en Tamaulipas” [The Commissioners in Tamaulipas], Hoy Tamaulipas, May 19, 2014,www.hoytamaulipas.net/notas/131459/Los-comisionados-en-Tamaulipas.html.

37. “Autodefensas se expanden a 10 estados del país; solo en Guerrero hay al menos 20 grupos” [Self-Defense Groups Are Operating in 10 More States; Only in Guerrero the Presence of 20 Groups Has Been Reported], SinEmbargo.com.mx, June 5, 2014, www.sinembargo.mx/22-09-2013/758584.

38. Andrés Becerril, “Autodefensas dan origen a otro cártel; nace en Michoacán La Tercera Hermandad o H3″ [Self-Defense Group Establishes a New Cartel; The Third Brotherhood or H3 is Born in Michoacán], Milenio, May 6, 2014, www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/2014/05/06/957619.

39. Embassy of the United States, Bogotá, “Plan Colombia,” fact sheet,http://bogota.usembassy.gov/plancolombia.html.

40. In his piece “Seguridad Democratica” [Democratic Security] (Página Oficial Álvaro Uribe Vélez, August 2002, www.primerocolombia.com/es/content/seguridad-democratica), former president Alvaro Uribe introduced his security strategy, which encompassed strengthening democratic values for the success of the strategy, strengthening the rule of law, avoiding the polarization of the issue, and fighting terrorism with the cooperation of other democratic countries.

41. Juan Carlos Garzón, Mafia & Co. The Criminal Networks in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2008), 170.

42. Juan Carlos Garzón Vergara, “The Rebellion of Criminal Networks: Organized Crime in Latin America and the Dynamics of Change,” Woodrow Wilson Center, March 2012,www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/Garzon.Rebellion.ENG__1.pdf.

43. The Merida Initiative is a partnership between the United States and Mexico to fight organized crime and associated violence while furthering respect for human rights and the rule of law. The US Congress has appropriated $1.6 billion since the Merida Initiative began in fiscal year 2008, according to the State Department.

44. Dana Priest, “U.S. Role at a Crossroads in Mexico’s Intelligence War on the Cartels,” Washington Post, April 27, 2013, www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-role-at-a-crossroads-in-mexicos-intelligence-war-on-the-cartels/2013/04/27/b578b3ba-a3b3-11e2-be47-b44febada3a8_story.html.

45. Noriega, “Mexico’s New Drug Cartel Battle.”

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.