Strategic Insights: Mexico—New Directions, Continuity, and Obstacles in the Fight Against Transnational Organized Crime

  • March 31, 2016
  • Dr R Evan Ellis

From February 15-23, 2016, I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico to conduct interviews with Mexican security experts about the evolution of transnational organized crime in the country and the work of Mexico's current government to combat it. My trip to Mexico coincided with the February 12-17 visit to Mexico by Pope Francis. The Pope also focused on issues related to organized crime during stops in Michoacán2 and Ciudad Juarez.3 This focus briefly highlighted to the world the gravity of Mexico’s struggle, and the importance of prevailing for the future of the country and the region. While I did not have the good fortune to see Pope Francis, the following are some of my preliminary insights regarding Mexico’s struggle against organized crime, based on my interviews and supporting research. In comparing the perspectives of Mexican government officials, the Armed Forces and police to those of academics, journalists, teachers and taxi drivers, the range of perceptions regarding what is happening in the country is stunning. At the popular level, cynicism is profound regarding President Enrique Peña Nieto and his government, the principal political parties, and security and justice institutions at the national, state, and local levels. In the tradition of surreal drama reflected in Mexico’s television art form, the telenovela, allegations abound of criminal connections involving President Peña Nieto, senior government, Army, and intelligence figures, and even the media outlet Televisa, and senior Mexican Clergy.