Fast and Furious: Gun Control Gone Wrong
Cartels and organized crime have infiltrated and intimidated Mexico’s government and police forces with violent crime and illegal activities including drug, human and arms trafficking. Mexican prosperity is held back by its continuing battle to regulate trafficking into the United States. Organized crime and cartels have been held primarily responsible for violence in Mexico that began in 2005 and became worse in 2008 when drug-related murders reached 6,290, twice the amount recorded in 2007 according to research from RAND.
“Mexico faces growing challenges in areas of legitimacy, governance, provision of service and positive regard for security forces in the areas contested or occupied by violent drug-trafficking organizations” (Clarke, Paul and Schaefer). Although the Mexican government has focused on drug trafficking there is no structure in place that links efforts to other internal security issues or the country’s development (Bahney, Schaefer 2009).
To aid Mexico and combat U.S. issues of illegal immigration, human trafficking, insurgencies and terror the U.S focused much of its attention on curbing drug cartels that were waging attacks across Mexico. “Organized crime poses the primary security threat to the United States from Mexico” (RAND 2009). The U.S. implemented Operation Fast and Furious to attack narcotic related crimes and create stability in the region.
The operation was supposed to aid the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to track the head of drug cartels by following weapons from gun stores to cartel leaders by compromising with the middle man who purchased weapons. Significant flaws in tracking methods and corruption in the ATF led to 2,000 untraceable weapons in the hands of cartels (Gerstein 2011). Lack of gun control and intimidation from cartels led to massacres in Mexico and the murder of U.S. Border Control Patrol Agent, Brian Terry in 2010 (Lucas 2011).
The corruption of U.S. and Mexican officials “undermines defense sector reform, efforts to combat VDTOs and legitimacy and support offered to the government and security forces by Mexico’s citizens” (Clarke, Paul and Schaefer). Although focus on halting narcotics was a way to approach multiple problems for the U.S. and Mexico, it created more problems for Mexico’s economic and urban development.
As long as cartels are able to maintain power over government officials and police efforts, Mexico will continue to struggle to develop. Government is held back by poor communication with the U.S. over border control and trafficking. Mexico’s potentially powerful policing effort is diluted by overbearing duplications in border agencies and rules that do not clearly designate responsibility and jurisdiction (RAND 2009).
Oscar Arias, former president of Costa Rica spoke about international policy in Latin American. “The militarism of the regions’ culture is a regressive and destructive force” (Arias 6). Defense efforts by the U.S. are focused on military actions that have been historically flawed in Latin America. Establishing trust and transparency is vital in improving relations between the U.S. and Mexico. “Latin Americans are among the most distrustful people in the world” (Arias 4). The U.S. and Mexico should lead by example to move beyond political sclerosis, become more responsive to citizens’ demands and generating economic resources (Arias 5).
The U.S. needs to take a different approach to defense and aid in Mexico. “The increased presence of soldiers in our towns and cities promotes a combative attitude that does not favor development,” said Arias. “It teaches that conquests are attained with weapons, shouts and threats, as opposed to words, respect and tolerance (Arias 6).