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Calderon’s Quagmire

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Mexico has turned a corner. And down below is a deep abyss. Mexican President Felipe Calderon admitted his country was in crisis Monday when he told a group of business people that the criminal groups terrorizing his country have no “limits or moral scruples.”

Instead of targeting other criminals in the drug syndicates, they are targeting government officials and the media. In the past month, there’s a been a car bombing in Juarez, the assassination of a gubernatorial candidate in Tamaulipas and it appears narcos in the north of Mexico are controlling the media.

Calderon has been fighting this war against the drug cartels since 2006. This year is shaping up to be the deadliest as the violence reaches from the north into the southern states of Mexico, even into the insular Mexico City.

A Catholic Bishop from Ciudad Victoria summed it up succinctly in an NPR story yesterday. “The people feel, and I think with good reason, that when the government says they’re going to overcome the violence, it’s a lie, no?”

The question is what does Calderon and Mexico do now? “We are at a stage of having more resources and not having better results,” Ernesto Lopez Portillo, director of the Institute for Security and Democracy, told the Associated Press.

Essentially, what he’s saying is Plan Merida is not working. If the United States doesn’t want to see its neighbor slip into further chaos, it’s going to have to reinvent its policies quickly or there will be even more terrible consequences to come.

It’s unclear, however, whether the United States will ever acknowledge Calderon’s war is coming unraveled. Even as its refugees are seeking asylum in the United States.

Something El Paso Congressman Silvestre Reyes said in a great story this month by Nate Blakeslee keeps resonating with me. Blakeslee asked Reyes, a former Border Patrol chief, about an estimated 30,000 people from Juarez already seeking refuge in El Paso.

Reyes said he couldn’t substantiate that number. “We have to separate fact from supposition,” he said. As long as the Mexican government was working to solve the problem, he said, we had to let them handle it themselves. When would we know, then, that the situation in Mexico had reached a crisis?

“We will know it when it happens,” he said. “If it happens.”

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.