U.S. worried that Mexico may be on verge of collapse

Published 24 January 2009

With drug-related killings doubling in 2008 over 2007, and with drug lords becoming more brazen in their attacks on the state, the U.S. Joint Forces Command warns of the potential for “rapid and sudden collapse” of the Mexican government

A report released by the U.S. Joint Forces Command warns of the potential for “rapid and sudden collapse” of the Mexican government due to the corrupting influence of criminal gangs and drug cartels. The Joint Operating Environment 2008 document (pdf) also lists Pakistan as the other of two large and important states that “bear consideration,” explaining that these would be “worst-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world.”

The Mexican possibility may seem less likely [than the possibility that Pakistan’s government collapsing], but the [Mexican] government, its politicians, police, and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels,” the report explains. “How that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state.”

New American reports that Michael Hayden, the retiring head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), also expressed concern over the situation in Mexico, telling reporters that it could rank alongside Iran, and possibly be even worse than Iraq, in terms of the problems to be dealt with by incoming President Barack Obama.

The U.S. Justice Department pointed to Mexican gangs as the “biggest organized crime threat to the United States,” with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley saying that the increasing violence south of the border threatens Mexico’s “very democracy.” Former U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey also warned that “Mexico is on the edge of the abyss - it could become a narco-state in the coming decade.” He added: “Mexican law enforcement and soldiers face heavily armed drug gangs with high-powered military automatic weapons” and noted that he believed the United States should do more to help the beleaguered government.

DHS secretary Michael Chertoff has also announced plans for a “surge” on the border region, along with Mexico’s 45,000 soldiers already working to combat the escalating violence. Last year there were more than 5,000 murders related to the drug cartels, more than double the number from 2007, with some estimates placing the figure even higher. The gangs are also becoming increasingly brazen, routinely murdering members of the police and military, and even decapitating soldiers in some cases. Most of the violence is concentrated in Mexico’s northern states and cities, but it is indeed a nationwide problem.

The U.S. Joint Forces Command report noted: “Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone.” It also said: “In particular, the growing assault by the drug cartels and their thugs on the Mexican government over the past several years reminds one that an unstable Mexico could represent a homeland security problem of immense proportions to the United States.” The document was a broad outline of various predictions regarding future global threats to America, and it also included speculation relating to American demographics.  It forecasted that by 2030, the U.S. population will grow by more than 50 million people, many of whom will come from continued immigration from Mexico. According to the report, “at least 15% of the population of every state will be Hispanic in origin, in some states reaching upward of 50%.” The report said that how well these immigrants assimilate will play a major role in America’s prospects.

Mexico’s government has so far dismissed the U.S. concerns, with Secretary of the Interior Fernando Gomez-Mont saying: “It seems inappropriate to me that you would call Mexico a security risk. There are problems in Mexico that are being dealt with, that we can continue to deal with, and that’s what we are doing.” Mexican president Felipe Calderon recently met with Obama, and the incoming American president agreed to help stop guns from flowing into Mexico from the United States. He also pledged to cooperate in helping Mexico’s government further, even though it recently received $400 million to help fight drugs already.