Is Mexico the Next Colombia?

Despite recent improvements in the overall security situation in Colombia, the Bush administration remains worried about that country.  Washington’s nightmare scenario is the emergence of a narcotrafficking state allied with extremist political elements and terrorist organizations.  U.S. leaders are sufficiently concerned about that possibility that they are ready to continue America’s extensive antinarcotics aid to Bogotá for several more years.

The fears about Colombia are not unfounded, but U.S. policymakers have a serious problem brewing much closer to home—in Mexico.  The drug trade in Mexico has mushroomed in recent years.  Five years ago, Thomas Constantine, then head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, told Congress that the power of Mexican drug traffickers had grown “virtually geometrically” over the previous five years and that corruption throughout the country was “unparalleled.”  Matters have grown substantially worse since his testimony.

Mexico is now a major source of heroin for the U.S. market as well as the principal transit and distribution point for cocaine coming in from South America.  People both inside and outside Mexico have begun to worry that the country may descend into the maelstrom of corruption and violence that has long plagued Colombia, the chief drug-source nation in the Western Hemisphere.  Indeed,...

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