Because of the vicious, unending drug war within its borders, Mexico teeters between becoming a fully developed country and sliding into failed-state status. With a growing economy, more jobs and a once-out-of-control birthrate now brought to a First World level, Mexico has huge potential. But a nation with a government that cannot protect its citizens, defeat criminal gangs or root out corruption is a nation without control of its destiny.
On Aug. 17, the bodies of nine men were found by the army near the border between the states of Michoacan and Jalisco where vigilante groups have been battling the Knights Templar drug cartel. There is nothing remarkable about this. Only the day before, eight other bodies were found near Michoacan’s border with Guerrero while eight other dead people were found elsewhere in a mass grave.
These are just some of the latest statistics to be added to the thousands of Mexicans who have died, disappeared or had their lives uprooted in recent years. The dead include gang members killed in disputes between rival cartels. They also include soldiers, politicians, policemen, journalists and innocent bystanders who got caught in the violence. Many rural villages stand empty as people have fled from areas controlled by cartels. Hundreds have been kidnapped. More than 26,000 people have disappeared.
Occasionally, the government is able to capture a drug kingpin. In July, cartel boss Teodoro “El Teo” Garcia Simental was captured. He had turned the popular tourist area of Baja California into a dangerous region. But for every kingpin in custody, there seem to be a dozen other vicious thugs ready to take his place. The enormously lucrative business of shipping drugs to customers in the United States is simply too attractive and, for too many, it has become a way of life.
Sometimes, it looks as if there may be progress in defeating the cartels, but it is a war that is far from won. Until it is, Mexico cannot become the thriving country it could be.