12069 - The Merida Initiative and Competitive State-Making in Mexico

The government of Felipe Calderon (2006-2012) joined with the United States government in the Mérida Initiative in 2007 in order to repress criminal organizations that had gone beyond evasion and corruption to directly confront the Mexican state. A useful way to view the resulting dynamic is “competitive state-making,” in which the state’s security, law-enforcement, and social development agencies compete with criminal organizations as a subset of “real powers” (poderes fácticos) to shape the forms of democratic governance that are emerging in the wake of the 70-year hegemonic rule of the PRI. Power politics, with an extraordinary toll in human life, is the main arena. But at a normative level the Mexican government promotes the state’s law in competition with alternative ethical codes promoted by criminal organizations. The criminal groups pose novel challenges to both the Mexican and US governments, and the Mérida Initiative contains some new elements such as “shared responsibility” and commitments to strengthen justice administration and the protection of human rights, as well as social welfare and development. At the bureaucratic- programmatic level, the two governments are struggling to implement simultaneously short-term control measures along with longer-term strengthening of state capacity. At a political level, democracy promotes reform, as popular demands motivate government responses. But Mexico’s nascent democracy also impedes reform: competing parties typically put winning power above coalition-building to create a state policy (política de estado). The political dynamic in the United States revolves around how to define the problem of high-impact crime (narco-terrorism, criminal insurgency), which will shape the selection of tools and measures to be promoted. Lacking comparable precedents to draw on, US policy-makers turn to their long experience in counter-insurgency. While the experience promotes human rights and rule of law, most of the tools and measures are military in nature. The outcome of the struggle is indeterminate. Even if the levels of violence recede in the future, Mexico’s new democracy will confront a lower equilibrium of criminality and corruption.

Palabras claves: competitive state-making, high-impact crime, Mérida Initiative, criminal insurgency

Autores: Bailey, John (Georgetown University, 6 ICC, Ud States of Am / USA)


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