Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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How Mexico Can Win Drug War, Colombia’s Way

by Shannon K. O'Neil
June 17, 2011

A girl stands in front of a mural as she waits for Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia for the inauguration of a public library in a suburb of Medellin (Jose Gomez/Courtesy Reuters).

A girl stands in front of a mural as she waits for Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia for the inauguration of a public library in a suburb of Medellin (Jose Gomez/Courtesy Reuters).

I wrote this op-ed for Bloomberg Views on the lessons for Mexico from Colombia’s wealth tax.

In 2002, strife-torn Colombia took a bold step that paved the way for vastly improved public safety. Now Mexico is struggling to subdue drug wars that have killed almost 40,000 people during President Felipe Calderon’s tenure. It’s time to try the Colombian remedy.

Part of Colombia’s success can be traced to Plan Colombia, the multibillion-dollar U.S. assistance package. That plan concentrated on beefing up military capacity, professionalizing the police and reforming Colombia’s judicial system. The desperately needed money and strategy helped pull Colombia back from the brink of chaos.

Just as important — and much less heralded — is a transformation within Colombia. The country’s privileged rallied together, not just to demand better security but also to shoulder responsibility. In 2002, newly inaugurated President Alvaro Uribe and Colombia’s elites negotiated a wealth tax. In the decade since, the tax has raised nearly a billion dollars annually for security. It also changed the nature of the fight, throwing the establishment’s weight behind the government in the battle for public safety. More than foreign security aid, this is what Mexico needs today: an investment by Mexico’s elites in the safety and well-being of all its citizens.

Click here for the full story.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Daniel Ver

    Based on existing military/law enforcement the Colombia way looks fine. However, knowing that the U.S. deficit is still growing on top on high unemployment and persistent recession, this multibillion-dollar assistance is wrong, both short and long term. Beefing up the military and professionalizing the police is not the answer either. I have discussed this lengthily on my websites, and (family oriented advance defense system). Military and law enforcement is not the “productive way” particularly in this type of economic downturn.

  • Posted by Matt

    Plan Colombia was a failure, were do you think the oversupply of cocaine that fuels the Mexican insurgency comes from Mars. If Plan Colombia was a success Mexico would not look like it does, the problem just shifted into Mexico and Central America.

    The oversupply is due to the insurgency, LEA interdiction that allows the cartels to meet the demand of the North American market in spite of insurgency and interdiction. It has also allowed new supply of logistics to access the North American market while still fueling the insurgency and using traditional supply of logistics.

    So even if Mexico settles down it will not affect supply and demand. And that was what it was originally all about. Not an insurgency.

    And narco sectarian killings is something new to me I have never seen that before. Unless you believe that everyone that is killed is in the drug trade. That has nothing to with narcotics but is to destabilize the government and create chaos.

    To turn Mexico into a Vietnam was an old KGB doctrine from the cold war, a insurgency on the border that the US cannot run away from, like Vietnam or in the modern era Afghanistan. To bleed the US dry in money and blood and cause a collapse and break the US up.

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