Leaked Cable: Mexican Government Fears Losing Drug War, Public Support

Mexican Officials Were Desperate to Produce a “Tangible Success” in Narcotics Fight and Save President Felipe Calderón's Political Legacy

Citing the “pervasive, debilitating fear” that has griped Mexico due to increasing violence with the drug war, high-ranking officials in the Felipe Calderón administration urged the United States in September 2009 to help them target drug trafficking groups in border cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana in order to save the political legacy of President Felipe Calderón, according to a confidential memo sent from the US Embassy-Mexico City and obtained by WikiLeaks.

Nearly four years after Calderón declared war on Mexico's drug trafficking groups, Mexico's Undersecretary for Governance Gerónimo Gutiérrez told officials with the US Justice Department and the State Department in a Mexico City meeting that he feared losing the drug war if a “tangible success” could not be shown to the Mexican people in the next 18 months leading up to the country's presidential elections.

“We have 18 months," Gutiérrez is quoted as saying in the cable. "And if we do not produce a tangible success that is recognizable to the Mexican people, it will be difficult to sustain the confrontation into the next administration."
The State Department memo, written by US Ambassador Carlos Pascual (pictured right), summarizes  words from Gutiérrez and National Security Coordinator Jorge Tello Peón, saying “If we could turnaround Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, and one other city such as Culiacan, it would solve 60 percent of the violence, and send a signal to the Mexican people that the war can be won.”

Pascual then comments on the desire to preserve Calderón's political reputation amid the dramatic increase in drug war related violence that has killed more than 28,000 people since the head of state's inauguration. “Politically, [Tello Peón] and Gutierrez said, Mexico must succeed in Juarez because Calderon has staked so much of his reputation there, with a major show of force that, to date, has not panned out.”

Gutierrez noted in the meeting that “not enough strategic thought” went into Plan Mexico (also known as the Mérida Initiative), a 2008 $1.4 billion security pact in which the United States provided training and equipment to Mexican law enforcement and the armed forces to wage the drug war. “[Gutierrez] now realizes there is not even time for the institution building to take hold in the remaining years of the Calderón administration. ”

While Gutierrez noted that the violence in Mexico is “is damaging Mexico's international reputation, hurting foreign investment, and leading to a sense of government impotence,” Tello Peón discussed the need to “mobilize the societal support necessary for success...A clearly articulated and strong doctrine
will help get people behind the strategy.”

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Erin Rosa is a writer from Denver, Colorado based in the Western Hemisphere.