The election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador to the presidency of Mexico has signaled a change in policy toward combatting drug cartels. The policy of the last decade has been to approach the problem through the use of military force. President Obrador has called to remove the military from such duties through a gradual reduction of forces from the mission (mexiconewsdaily.com/).
For the last decade, the Mexican government has approached the drug cartels operating in the country as largely a military threat and have attempted to destroy their influence through military force. Statistics show the federal government deployed 52,807 soldiers to fight Mexico’s notorious drug cartels last year ─ the highest number in the 12-year war on drugs. The record deployment was spread across several states in various regions of the country. Former president Felipe Calderón launched the military-based crime-fighting strategy shortly after he took office in December 2006 by sending 6,500 troops into his home state of Michoacán. During 2007, his first full year in office, 45,000 soldiers were deployed across the country. The size of the deployment was increased to 48,650 in 2009 as the number of soldiers, Marines, and Federal Police losing their lives in confrontations with organized crime continued to grow.
With more than 29,000 homicides, 2017 was also the most violent year in at least two decades while more than 200,000 people have been murdered in the 12 years since the crackdown on cartels began, leading many observers to conclude that the war on drugs strategy has failed. The violence of the cartels has turned several states within the country into virtual war zones.
One of the main targets of these expeditions has been the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) (mexiconewsdaily.com/).It is known for its aggressive use of violence, and its public relations campaigns. This criminal group moved drug shipments and managed finances for the Sinaloa Cartel operating primarily in the states of Jalisco and Colima and later extending into Michoacán and Mexico City. The group has been associated with the use of extreme violence. In the period following the emergence of the CJNG, homicides spiked in Jalisco. The cartel also made it one of its early missions to battle the Zetas drug trafficking organization in Veracruz state, under the name “Matazetas,” or “Zetas Killers,” which, depending on the source, is described as either another name for the CJNG or a special cell of the group responsible for assassinations. The group claimed responsibility for a 2011 massacre of 35 people in Veracruz and a month later security forces recovered the corpses of another 30-plus apparent victims of the group.
In April 2015, the CJNG killed 15 Mexican police officers during an ambush in Jalisco state, one of the single deadliest attacks on security forces in recent Mexican history. The group was also blamed for an attack in March 2015 that killed five federal police. Additionally, Mexican officials have previously indicated that the group possesses highly sophisticated armaments. Machine guns and grenade launchers were used to conduct the March 2015 attack. In May 2015, the group continued its deadly streak, shooting down a military helicopter on May 1, and launching a wave of violence across Jalisco.
The CJNG has also been known to appeal to the Mexican citizenry with idealistic propaganda, invoking solidarity and promising to rid its areas of operation of other crime syndicates, such as the Zetas and the Knights Templar another sworn enemy. The CJNG operates in at least in 22 states: Aguascalientes, Baja California Sur, Baja California, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán, Guanajuato, Morelos, Nayarit, Guerrero, and Veracruz, plus Mexico City and the State of Mexico. The cartel also allegedly has contacts in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Central America, and the United States and uses these connections to traffic marijuana, cocaine, and synthetic drugs. Recent arrests suggest that the Cuinis, the alleged money laundering arm of the CJNG, may have established operations in Brazil and Uruguay. The CJNG’s assets are thought to be worth over $20 billion (insightcrime.org/).
In May of this year, the cartel was suspected for an attack on the former attorney general of Jalisco that was followed by gunfire and narco-blockades on the streets of Guadalajara. An estimated 12 armed civilians opened fire on Labor Secretary Luis Carlos Nájera, who was attorney general between 2013 and 2015. No one was killed in the exchange of gunfire but several people were wounded. Among them were two young girls selling candy outside the restaurant, Nájera, who was struck by a bullet in the hand, and three agents from the state prosecutor’s office, one of whom was reported in serious condition (mexiconewsdaily.com/news/).
In March, three film students in Jalisco were tortured and murdered by a drug cartel before their bodies were dissolved in acid. Javier Salomón Aceves Gastélum, Marcos Francisco García Ávalos, and Jesús Daniel Díaz García were kidnapped by armed men in Tonalá, near Guadalajara, on March 19. The three students — all of whom attended the Audiovisual Media University (CAAV) in Guadalajara — were working on a project in the home of one of the student’s aunts on the day they were kidnapped. CJNG members were watching the house because a rival criminal known as El Cholo, the leader of the Nueva Plaza criminal group, was expected to arrive there. Posing as security authorities, the armed men took the students to a ranch where one died from the beating he received while being interrogated. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity (mexiconewsdaily.com/). But, the cartels are not the only violent factions threatening the stability of several Mexican states.
In response to the violence, several self-defense vigilante groups have emerged in the last few years to combat the cartel groups that have dominated the regions. These vigilantes are organized and financed largely by the local businessmen. They are comprised of a wide assortment of people from business leaders, to migrant workers, to family members of victims from cartel violence and mercenaries. Equipped with full tactical attire and armed with state of the art weaponry, these vigilantes have engaged the cartels in open pitched battle on the streets of towns and cities where the government security forces have either been overwhelmed or have actively colluded with the local cartels.
These groups have been successful in uprooting entrenched criminal organizations in many regions of the country where the government security forces have failed. However, in doing so they have created another destabilizing presence. The corruption of the security forces has led the vigilantes to be suspicious of the government and ill-inclined to relinquish control of liberated territory to official authorities. Nor have they complied with a police order to disband or disarm.
In an attempt to bring some control over the vigilantes, the Mexican military has sought to legitimize them as augmentation forces and have given them official capacity. This avenue has met with minimal success as the vigilantes remain skeptical of the police and military, choosing to maintain their independence. In regions they control, vigilante groups have been known to stop even police convoys and prisoner transports to search them for cartel leaders using police cover to escape.
The vigilante movement has elicited other negative results. In the aftermath of removing cartels from their power over their stronghold regions, the vigilantes have taken to rigorous pursuit of escaping cartel members that have often resulted in virtual witch hunts that involve severe beatings administered to suspected cartel members and rounding up people based on little more than hearsay evidence. All of which has led to negative backlashes from the general public (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmnMgDEp_R0).
Nor, does the vigilante movement operate free from its own criminal indulgences. Since 2013, government officials have claimed on various occasions that the CJNG provided arms to the self-defense forces that purportedly emerged to combat the Knights Templar in the southwest, pacific state of Michoacán — a strategic operating point for criminal groups home to a wealth of minerals and a major seaport (insightcrime.org/). The militaries own involvement in the conflict has left it with a tarnished reputation.
There are strong indications that federal security forces were responsible for the disappearance of 23 people, including at least five minors, in Tamaulipas over the past four months. The United Nations (UN) said that people were reportedly detained by uniformed personnel as they walked or drove along public roads adding that several burnt out and bullet-ridden vehicles [have been] found by the roadside. Many of these people are reported to have been arbitrarily detained and disappeared while going about their daily lives. It is particularly horrific that at least five of the victims are minors, with three of them as young as 14. These crimes, perpetrated over four months in a single municipality, are outrageous. Allegations have also been raised regarding the enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions carried out by public officials (mexiconewsdaily.com/). The last decade of violence has led to calls for a new means of combatting the criminal lawlessness.
The new strategy proposed by the Obrador administration known as #SeguridadSinGuerra (Security without War) promises to create a National Guard and to keep the Internal Security Law (LSI) which formally authorizes the use of the military in domestic law enforcement. A key part of the strategy would be to put an end to the vicious circle of corruption that brings about more corruption as well as impunity and insecurity. The strategy further builds on the concepts of training police and improving their socio-economic conditions which will initiate a comprehensive pacification project that will include analyzing the possibility of an amnesty for some criminals (mexiconewsdaily.com/).
It is too early in the new administration. There has not been enough time to implement any parts of the new strategy. So, its effectiveness has yet to be tested. The concern is that with all the lawlessness going on, the measures may be too late to have any serious effect. With entire regions outside of the government's control and held by well-financed cartels or vigilante groups, the government’s main problem will be reasserting control and establishing its legitimacy. The cartels don’t want to relinquish power and through their enterprises have billions of dollars to use and have found ways to circumvent the security forces and the vigilante groups. The vigilante groups don’t trust the government security forces or the legal system and retain armies. These two groups, holding their own well equipped and trained armies, present a severe challenge of power for the government. The polices in and of themselves are vaguely defined and focus on pacification strategies in dealing with the criminal organizations of the cartels.
It is too early to know if the new policies will have any real impact. While they might have marginal success at some level, it is unlikely they will have much effect on a larger scale. The cartels are not rebel organizations, they’re businesses that can only be subverted by cutting off their financial resources and revenue base. That means stronger cooperation from neighboring countries, such as the United States and Canada, who are the prime sources of this revenue. If the cartels cannot be subdued, then the vigilante groups will continue to gain in power as citizens start to see them as the only viable response to the criminality. The history of the government trying to clean up corruption in the police and military has proven to be short-lived at best. Inevitably, the criminality in Mexico is going to continue because too much money is involved, and their power too well entrenched. The fear is that the violence will become wider spread in the country diminishing control of the government and giving more to the cartels and vigilantes.
Brazil continued to be the top destination of exports, with $316 mm, followed by Mexico ($153 mm), Venezuela ($74 mm), Colombia ($71 mm), Peru ($62 mm), Chile ($60 mm), Argentina ($44 mm), Guatemala ($31 mm), Dominican Republic ($27 mm) and Ecuador ($24m). In these days of austerity and budget cuts in the region, affordable Indian generic medicines are preferred by Latin American consumers as well as their governments. In recent years, Mexico has become the chief beneficiary of relations with India.
In 2016 Mexico became the top destination of India’s exports to Latin America and the leading destination in the world of India’s car exports. Exports to Mexico were $2.865 bn in 2015-16. Mexico, the second-largest economy in the region, has been growing and India’s exports to that country have also been steadily increasing. Mexico’s share of India’s vehicle exports was $1.03 bn out of the total Indian exports of $5.6 bn. Even more interesting is that vehicle exports to Mexico have shown an impressive 31% growth from 2014-15 (thewire.in/43577).
In June 2016 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Mexico City for a working visit at which time he agreed with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to raise the level of bilateral relations between the two countries from 'privileged' to 'strategic partnership'. The two leaders agreed to “Seek ways to deepen our cooperation in aerospace issues, in science and in technology as well. We will also launch concrete projects in areas such as agriculture, agricultural research, biotechnology and waste management, management of natural disasters and solar energy.” (sandiegouniontribune.com/). Bilateral trade has grown rapidly in recent years, at double-digit rates consistently.
A well-diversified basket, comprising, inter alia, chemicals & petrochemicals, engineering goods, automobiles & auto parts, pharmaceuticals, diamonds, textiles & garments, and gasoline round out the array of trading goods. Crude oil is still the major Mexican export to India, besides fertilizers, iron & steel, and engineering goods. The areas assessed to have maximum growth potential are mining (projects in Mexico), food processing and infrastructure (projects in India), automobiles & auto parts, textiles & garments, software and IT, pharmaceuticals, engineering, renewable energy, and biotechnology.
Indian investments in Mexico are estimated (to be) several hundred million dollars, and Mexico is now in a catching-up phase. Most major Indian IT companies, several pharmaceutical companies, and engineering companies in tires, packaging, and electrical equipment have a growing Indian presence in Mexico, whereas Mexican investments in India are in multiplexes, housing & infrastructure, auto parts, cement, and food processing. (Arcelor Mittal made one of its early major takeovers in Mexico).
Investments from India in Mexico are estimated significantly above US$ 1 billion. Most of the leading Indian companies in IT/software (TCS, Infosys, Wipro, NIIT, BirlaSoft, HCL, Aptech, Hexaware, Patni, Tech Mahindra etc.) and pharmaceutical (Claris Life Sciences, Wockhardt, Sun Pharma, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Torrent Pharmaceuticals, Lupin Pharma, Zydus Pharma etc.) sector have set up joint ventures in Mexico taking advantage of its strategic location, large market and investment-friendly policies. In 2008, JK Tyres of India bought Mexican tire company Tornel. Leading Mexican companies like Homex, Cinepolis Cemex, and Mexichem have likewise invested in India in recent times. Major investments in the steel and mining sector have also been made by the Arcelor Mittal Group.
Through Mexico’s own sizable market and investment-friendly policies, it is eminently placed to offer the strategic advantage of the world’s largest NAFTA market, already drawing large FDIs from the USA and elsewhere. Indian cinema Bollywood’s estimated the immense potential for Mexico and Latin America yet remains to be explored. Apex chambers from both sides have several cooperation MOUs, and Indian business delegations regularly participate in several major trade fairs in Mexico (indembassy.org/).
However, India's vibrant, growing diverse democratic culture has caught Mexico's fancy. Indian Government Programs such as 'Make in India', 'Digital India’, etc. are key initiatives to attract investment, and many Mexican companies are interested in sectors such as food processing, IT and telecom, auto components, Infrastructure (affordable housing) among others and are keen to take advantage of these programs. Mexico is India’s ninth supplier with around $1.8 billion in 2015. Overall, the value of Indian crude oil imports has gone down by an average -40% from all supplying countries, since 2011, when crude oil purchases were valued at $122.1 billion. But, Mexico is one of the countries that upped the value of their crude oil supplies to Indian importers by 31%.
The ‘MakeinIndia’ programme is of interest to the Mexican companies. Over the last several decades, Mexico had a similar program “Made in Mexico”, that evolved from a simple low-tech, high-volume, low-mix assembly-based manufacturing model into an emerging industrial powerhouse with in-country capabilities to produce a gamut of sophisticated items, ranging from high-tolerance, precision machine components that are incorporated into modern jetliners to delicate and highly calibrated devices that are used in life saving medical procedures.
The “Made in Mexico” program has come to embody quality, as well as to represent one of the world’s most competitive total landed cost manufacturing locations. This program has translated to low or exempted MFN import tariffs for more than 70% of the 12,119 tariff codes. This has positioned the country among the most open in the world (Free Trade Agreements with more than 45 countries) and has generated a trade-to-GDP ratio of more than 61% (more than United States, Brazil, and even China), etc. (thedollarbusiness.com/).
India’s involvement in South America goes back to the early 21st century with Brazil. In the 21st century, Brazil focused on the idea of reciprocal multilateralism, i.e. the rules of multilateral orders should benefit all nations, and not merely be dictated by the superpowers for their benefit. The President maintained the tradition of formulating and programming foreign policy as a state policy. Lula, in his entire tenure, is stated to have visited around 80 countries. India, too, shared similar views on reciprocal multilateralism like Brazil. The essence of this idea was rightly projected when both the countries led the developing world during the trade negotiations over agricultural subsidies in 2003 in Cancun. The unified stance of resistance marked the beginning of a new era in international relations and hinted at non-accommodation of North-South relations.
The two countries pursued their stance of negotiating on their terms--not just by what is prescribed by the major powers—and came together again to form the G4 group.
Along with Germany and Japan, the two emerging nations supported each other in order to bid for a permanent seat in United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Brazilian investments in India comprise sectors like automobiles, IT, mining, energy, biofuels, and footwear. On the other hand, Indian companies have invested in areas of IT, pharmaceuticals, energy, agri-business, mining and engineering/auto sectors. The Indian companies that have marked their presence in Brazil are Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Wipro, Infosys, Cadilla, Mahindra, L&T, Renuka Sugars, United Phosphorus, and Polaris are present in Brazil.
Indian pharmaceutical laboratories, such as Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories and Ranbaxy, which are big exporters of generic medicines, have formed joint ventures and installed factories in Brazil as well. The Brazilian companies gaining a foothold in India include Marco Polo (automobiles), Vale (biggest mining company), Stefanini (IT), Gerdau (Steel) (idsa.in/backgrounder/). Much of the recent push toward India is due in part to the current political climate emanating from the United States.
The tactics employed by U.S. President Trump toward Latin American countries have been seen as bullying and remarks seen as racist. Specifically, in the case of Mexico, the situation between the U.S. has been greatly jeopardized. Current U.S. policies have cornered Mexicans and jeopardized their economy. Mexico depends on the U.S. for 81% of its exports and nearly 50% of its imports. Statistics show that U.S. and Mexico trade is at least 1.5 billion a day. The recent H-1B announcements by President Donald Trump have prompted Ambassador Madam Melba Pria to invite Indian professionals to Mexico.
India is a part of SAARC, ASEAN, and other organizations just as Mexico is part of NAFTA and TPP amongst others. Indian companies are doing business on the entire American continent taking advantage of the regional collaboration agreements Mexico holds with its neighbors. A couple of examples; through NAFTA, India has access to the entire North American region and through the Pacific Alliance, they can do business as any other Mexican company in South American countries such as Chile, Colombia and Peru (thedollarbusiness.com/).
At a time when the developing world is experiencing frustrations with the traditional major power partners and are suspicious of their overall motives, India is taking advantage of this situation and offering itself up as an alternative to the major powers. Several possibilities have the potential to arise from this. If trends continue as they are, in the next ten years India’s position as an economic trading partner will grow considerably; to the point of overtaking the U.S, E.U. and China as the chief economic power in the Latin American region.
This presents several considerations for how it will impact the geopolitical landscape. As countries such as Mexico develop greater economic ties to India, they will become less dependent on North American business to sustain their economy. In the long run, this will greatly erode the power of U.S. influence in the region. At the same time, this situation is also working to erode the growing influence of China, who has likewise been using its economic prowess to strengthen its power in the region. This development is likely to heighten hostilities between India and China who, as this reporting site has discussed in previous reports, are in the developing stages of a modern-day global cold-war.
What must be understood by the nations of the developed world is that India presents a new sphere of influence.
Where many nations in the developing world have come to see traditional global powers such as the E.U, North America, and China as domineering and racist in their dealings, India is a country that still is recognized as part of the developing world and has endured similar discrimination from the same institutions. This has made it easier for India to be seen as a comrade state rather than as a potential exploiter. India is capitalizing on this strategy as a means to build global relations with trading partners. So far, in the years that India has been involved in Latin America, it has shown little interest in pursuing much beyond the means of economic interests. Nor is it a real possibility that India would do so in the immediate future. However, if circumstances should change, India could viably become another means Latin American countries can turn to for military support and possibly more.
The U.S. needs to understand that in the coming years India will be a serious power in the Western Hemisphere, one that will have interest in the direction of the region and serious influence to impact what happens. In response, the U.S. needs to begin developing a strategy for how it intends to address this issue in the future. India will be a powerful ally in several matters. It could also be a powerful means to marginalize the U.S. power base and thereby present a new balance of power that Latin American countries will be able to turn to as an alternative if they do not wish to be reliant or succumb to U.S. pressures.