Instead of issuing statements about the possibility of Mexico becoming a failed state, the U.S. government should clean up corruption in security institutions, because “the cartels require corrupt U.S., not Mexican, authorities to bring in the drugs,” said President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.
“I am fighting against corruption among Mexican authorities, and we are risking everything to clean house, but I believe that a good housecleaning is also needed on the other side of the border,” the president said yesterday in an AP interview.
The chief executive referred to “Operation Clean-Up," announced in the middle of 2008, which ended with the detention of 25 high officials accused of offering protection to drug cartels. Among those detained were Noé Ramírez Mandujano, former attorney for Special Investigations in Organized Crime; Ricardo Gutiérrez Vargas, former director of the Central National Bureau of Interpol in Mexico; and Arturo González Rodríguez, a Mexican army major attached to the presidential staff.
Recent reports from U.S. authorities have expressed concern over the increase in violence in Mexico, including one report asserting that their neighbor to the South, as well as Pakistan, runs the risk of becoming failed states, if the spiral of violence continues.
“When someone either at the State Department or in U.S. government intelligence says that Mexico lost control of part of its territory, first, it is not true and second, that attitude causes tremendous damage to Mexican authorities.”
He assured that, while authorities in Colombia have lost part of their territory to criminal or guerrilla groups, this has not occurred in Mexico, demonstrated by the fact that he is able to travel anywhere in the country.
The government protested the reports to U.S. authorities, and he confirmed receiving strong support from the new administration of President Barack Obama. “I am sure that he is receiving accurate information about what is happening in Mexico. And he clearly expressed to me his commitment to deal with this mutual problem, using a team approach,” he added.
However, Calderón admitted that his government has not been successful in communicating the country’s situation. “If one speaks of 6,500 crime-associated deaths last year, it seems that Mexicans are dying as victims of crime on the streets of Mexico City, and that isn’t so,” he said.
The president noted that, of the all the deaths, more than 90% were linked to organized crime. While acknowledging the problem of crime, he assured that 57% of the deaths were concentrated in three cities: Ciudad Juárez, Tijuana and Culiacán.
Later, while touring Saltillo and Coahuila, Calderón stated that he would not attempt to judge his predecessor, Vicente Fox, but said when he arrived at Los Pinos he understood the seriousness of organized crime: “He thought it was appendicitis, but in truth, it was invasive cancer.”
In a locally televised interview, the president was questioned as to whether omissions in combating crime included omissions made by Fox.
“I do not want to judge him, and I do respect and value him; I am only describing what I encountered. It was a very, very serious problem, and we are facing it,” he responded.
The president compared what happened in the beginning of his administration with a wrong diagnosis, saying that instead of an appendix problem, it was a metastasis covering a large area.
Calderón continued with the medical metaphor: “And this illness must be eradicated; and it will cost and hurt of course, but it must be done.”
He identified Ciudad Juárez as “the most violent place in the country,” because of disputes over trafficking and distribution.
He confided, however, that “there will be no master cartel; Mexico will be the master, and if we need to send in all the forces, the Army and the Navy, we will send them.”
He congratulated the government of Barack Obama on Wednesday’s operation, in which, Calderón remarked, PGR also participated.
“It is good that the U.S. is beginning to take this problem seriously,” he said, suggesting, “another aspect they must control is arms traffic to Mexico.”