The Organization of the Disorganized

Until now, organized crime has been more organized than the governments. The producers, distributors, sellers and financial brains of drug cartels work like a well-oiled machine to ensure that the product doesn’t stop reaching the consumer. Among themselves, they give each other advice and share information about the suitable routes to introduce their merchandise, about countries, banks and institutions where they can falsify money in an easy and profitable way. Among themselves, they pass along intelligence data regarding the officials they’ve already bought for their cause, about the movements and strategies of the armed forces.

For them, the existence of borders and different legal regimens is an advantage, not an obstacle. They know which countries are more agile in the extradition process, and which have a more amicable legislation to the introduction of chemical precursors or which have more loopholes to produce synthetic drugs. As any transnational corporation, they choose the most beneficial territory and country for their business and move their operations there.

Meanwhile, the governments by nature are reluctant to share intelligence information (so that it doesn’t fall into the drug lords’ hands), and reluctant to carry out joint operations that imply the entrance of officials from one country to another official’s territory. They are not in favor of sharing the confiscated products; therefore, if they are able to carry out a task by themselves, they prefer it that way. There are constant doubts between them about the trust and honesty of the officials from one country to another.

While the organized criminals seem synchronized and united with the purpose of maximizing their profits, governments haven’t been able to unite toward forming a common front against transnational crime.

After five years of intense feuds in Mexican territory and increasing desperation in Central America, facing violence and a period that has noted a significant increase in narcotics production, it is time to conclude that no country in our continent, by its own means, is able to destroy organized crime. Not even the U.S., despite its power and great resources.

Proof that the United States can’t win the battle alone is that every year it contributes big amounts of money and equipment so that Mexicans, Colombians, Peruvians or Dominicans can take the front lines in part of a phenomenon of transnational nature. For instance, there is Plan Colombia, which eradicated big stretches of coca leaf crops in the Andes, or the program designed for Mexico, the Mérida Initiative, which gives equipment and military cooperation to our country, to see if we can stop drug flow toward the United States.

Without truly fluid coordination and an authentic continental system against organized crime, any effort that Mexico, any of the Central American countries, any of the Andean countries, or even the United States is able to accomplish on its own will lack a perceptible effect on the betterment of security in the hemisphere.

Attending to a necessity that seemed obvious, in the recent summit in Cartagena all the countries in the continent adopted a decision to build an operative authority that brings together the efforts and hemispheric capacities against organized crime. It’s about time. Without yet defining specific details about the functioning and organization of this mechanism, America is on the verge of relying on an outline to share intelligence information, follow gangs that operate in more than one country, decrease arms flow, secure bank accounts and international transfers, detect mafias from other continents that operate in our territory, stop ships and planes that cross the seas and the aerial space of many airports, know and interrupt the routes that criminals use, inform others about corrupt officials within their governments, extradite detainees in a quick manner, intercept communications and alert any country about loopholes that make them specifically vulnerable to this kind of crime.

Within the big discussion that has occurred in Mexico, and especially during this time of campaigning, the international aspect is fundamental to what needs to be done in the next six years regarding the matter of security. Getting past the criticism and frustration, we must begin to recognize that this country, just as any other nation in the continent, can’t win the battle by itself.

The author is President of the Mexican Counsel of International Affairs.

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