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Progress Pains

by Duncan Currie

The Mexican political reforms we applaud have helped cause the Mexican drug violence we deplore

How bad is the violence in Mexico? According to a Time report, “Frustration with the government’s inability to protect the citizenry against crime long ago reached the boiling point.”

Actually, that report was published in the fall of 1996, several months before Mexican drug czar Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo was arrested for having links to the Juárez cartel. The mid-1990s were a harrowing period for our southern neighbor — a period in which it experienced an armed rebellion among rural Indians, a disastrous currency meltdown, its worst recession since World War II, high-profile political assassinations, an explosion of drug-related brutality, and major corruption scandals. Since then, the country has liberalized its economy, bolstered its financial system, strengthened its democratic institutions, and seen its murder rate drop considerably. “Mexico has made tons of progress,” says Howard Campbell, an anthropologist at the University of Texas, El Paso, and author of Drug War Zone.

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