Is Mexico becoming a failed state?

An interesting topic of discussion from Mexican journalist Jose Carreño Figueras for you to bat around this evening. Most of the news we see regarding Mexico takes place on our side of the border, with a seemingly endless tide of people illegally crossing into the United States. But there have been other tales on the wire, mostly awful. Nearly four dozen students were kidnapped, allegedly by the police on order of the local government, and turned over to drug lords who murdered them. Frustrated residents revolted and set fire to some government buildings. Other stories of gang violence and government corruption abound. Figueras is wondering if our southern neighbor isn’t on the verge of collapse.

To use a cliche, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, a strong indication that Mexico’s people are no longer willing to tolerate the current state of affairs. Some have suggested that the government will fall, and others have said Mexico is a failed state.

The Mexican government does not appear ready to fall, not even close. But it seems to be in a defensive situation, maybe waiting for the tempest to wane so that it can regain the political initiative.

It is, in many ways, a crisis of confidence. It is as if all the problems that were not attended to through history were appearing together: the impunity allowed to wrongdoers, the politicization of justice, the corruption, the perceived interaction of different levels of authorities with organized crime, the inefficiency of the police… and on and on. In other words, the wrongdoers appear to get away with murder. Right or wrong, there is the feeling that the whole system is compromised.

These troubles have washed over to US business interests who invest in the region as well. Citigroup and Groupo Mexico were only two of the major interests who saw significant losses through corruption and internal collapse. The author notes that skepticism exists on both sides of the border as to both the ability and the willingness of the government in Mexico at all levels to keep things under control or prosecute those criminals who they do manage to catch. Being angry about the crime taking place is one thing, but when the integrity of the government institutions which supposedly should keep it at bay is called into question, there is a crisis.

Were Mexico to truly fail it would be a problem for the United States to be sure, but I’m not convinced that it’s going to “fail” much more than it already has. (At least not in the same way that we think of central African nations or places like Syria completely collapsing into lawless anarchy and war.) The main problem has been the cartels, but the government serves a purpose for them as much as it’s supposed to for the citizens. They need a functional government infrastructure (or a convincing semblance of one) and a fairly docile population to keep business running as usual. It’s not too difficult to imagine Mexico staying pretty much as it is. The question is, can it be fixed? And perhaps more to the point, what responsibility do we have to assist in fixing it?