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It is time to raise some serious questions about the “war on drugs” in Mexico. Considering that the human toll over the last five years now tops 50,000 fatalities, this futile struggle could more accurately be described as a civil war. According to historian Melvin Small and political scientist J David Singer in their 1982 book, Resort to Arms International Civil Wars 1816-1980, an internal conflict is classified as a civil war if the battle-related fatalities reach a threshold of 1,000 and the state military is responsible for a number of those fatalities. Under these criteria, Mexico’s current violent confrontation of death and destruction between narcotrafficking organizations and state forces can be classified as a civil war.
This conflict sheds light on the most serious crisis in Mexico since the revolution of 1910. The political parties, state institutions (including its police and military), and economic development model are all suffering from this violent civil war. Understanding this conflict as such allows us to better recognize the evolving grassroots movements seeking to confront the historical underpinnings of the violence. In Mexico, the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity (MPJD) has worked since 2011 to give a voice to the families of the victims of violence who have been killed, displaced, or disappeared since the War on Drugs began, raising awareness of the deadly ramifications of militarization. They seek profound socioeconomic and political change by drawing on the revolutionary past to move beyond the neoliberal fundamentalism that helped shape this moment of crisis.
It is no accident of history that Colombia’s new grassroots Patriotic March echoes the voice of the MPJD in Mexico, identifying peace and social justice as the only rational and reasonable approaches to settling its own civil war. Both movements recognize that the socioeconomic and political components of the conflicts are entangled with the political economy of narcotrafficking. Like those working for social justice in Colombia, the MPJD in Mexico identifies the drug war as having deep roots in the political and economic institutions. The Mexican people must demand the urgent change needed before another 50,000 die in this futile civil war.
For more from Nazih Richani's blog, Colombian Cuadernos, visit nacla.org/blog/cuadernos-colombianos, or see the NACLA Report July/August 2009, "Coercion Incorporated: Paramilitary Colombia." Subscribe to NACLA