At times, the fight against drug trafficking in Mexico seems hopeless. The body count grows steadily, each massacre seemingly more gruesome than the one before. The flow of drugs to America and Europe continues virtually unabated. The Times asked experts and public figures in the U.S., Mexico and other parts of Latin America for their views on the problem and what should be done about it. The comments, compiled by Mexico City Bureau Chief Tracy Wilkinson, have been edited for space or clarity.

Fernando Rospigliosi

Former interior minister of Peru

The U.S. approach to fighting drugs is, I think, the only program that works. The problem, however, is that the United States is pulling back.

How can we have success in this fight? Within the National Police of Peru, I know there are specialized people. They could begin capturing entire bands of traffickers. You must attack on all fronts. It is police work, judicial work; you have to be well equipped and, unfortunately, we aren't.

The narco-trafficking problem in Peru has gotten worse in all aspects: the production of cocaine, violence and the corruption that comes from that. One of the aggravating factors was the launching of the [U.S.-financed] Plan Colombia, which started to work in the last decade and that has unleashed greater demand for Peruvian coca and cocaine. In addition, you have the increasingly strong entrance of Mexican cartels into Peru, and they have brought a kind of violence never before seen here.

The state attaches very little importance to this fight. There was no political will in the previous government nor in the current one, for various reasons, including fear and the scourge of corruption that reaches the highest levels. What does the state do? Small arrests, small seizures, but there is no defined, broad policy for confronting the problem.

-- From an interview with special correspondent Adriana Leon


Sergio Fajardo

Former mayor of Medellin, Colombia, a onetime drug- trafficking hub where violence has been reduced significantly

Colombia's experience is that you get rid of some narcos and others come in and take their place. Their weapons are destruction, death and the ability to corrupt many facets of the state. You can't leave the slightest space in our cities or legitimate society for them to occupy. That's very important.

The doors into the drug world are very wide for the unemployed and the youth living in the poor barrios. You have to close or reduce the size of that doorway. How do you do that? With opportunities, creating jobs in those barrios with education and by establishing the state's presence in each community. We learned that many who entered criminality because they had no opportunity will return to society if they can go to work.

From a distance, it seems to me that Mexico will pass through a painful stage. There is much ground left for them to cover. My advice is that the government should not wait until they win the war to look at what they can do in the communities that produce these people. They should be thinking about the poor boy standing on a street corner, looking at that narco doorway and thinking about entering.

-- From an interview with Times staff writer Chris Kraul


Maria Elena Morera

President of Mexico United Against Crime. Her husband survived a kidnapping, but his captors severed three of his fingers to pressure the family for ransom.

We have been stripped of our freedom to live without fear, stripped by the criminal action of lawbreakers and by the omissions of the authorities. The moment has arrived to cry out: Enough already! Our demands can be summed up in one phrase: to have good laws and make those laws obeyed by reconstructing our institutions: