Crime and Violence

International Crisis Group: “Mexico faces a herculean challenge”

* Due to technical difficulties, the publication of this article was delayed from its original postdate of April 5, 2013.

icg_104/05/13 – (by tianacarriedo) The non-governmental organization International Crisis Group (ICG) released its first ever report on Mexico on March 19, 2013. The 52-page report, titled “Peña Nieto’s Challenge: Criminal Cartels and Rule of Law in Mexico,” provides a wide-ranging analysis of Mexico’s drug trade and increasingly violent security environment. The report details the history and organization of drug trade organizations (DTOs) in Mexico, successes and failures of the Mexican government in combating the DTOs, the social and human suffering caused by the recent wave of violence—which began in earnest with the launch in 2006 of President Felipe Calderon’s (2006 – 2012) multi-pronged attack on the cartels—and potential tools to prevent and resolve the deadly conflict.

The publication of the report is telling: ICG analyzes and prognosticates only on countries that are wracked by internal crises and civil war, high levels of criminal impunity, and terrorism, among other issues. According to ICG, that Mexico is now included in this category of conflict-prone and fragile states reflects the extent to which the drug cartels are perceived to have weakened both the rule of law in Mexico and the government’s monopoly on the use of force.

According to the report, for current president Enrique Peña Nieto (2012 – 2018), the challenges to peace and justice are immense. In an interview discussing the report, Javier Ciurlizza, ICG’s Latin America Program Director, highlights four key obstacles facing the administration. These obstacles are a weak police force and a security sector under attack for human rights abuses; a high criminal impunity rate; political corruption; and social exclusion and poverty in vulnerable populations. Despite these challenges, Ciurlizza believes that several factors—including an increasingly vibrant civil society and a consensus across the political spectrum on a broad set of policies—suggest that improvement in security and rule of law in Mexico is a real possibility. As well, ICG expressed that any progress Mexico makes in securing its society and reducing violence will serve as a model for other conflicted nations worldwide. “The international community has much to learn from the efforts of the Mexican government and society to overcoming these challenges,” the organization stated.

The report is based on field research in Mexico, intelligence reports, and existing literature on Mexico’s war on drugs, including the Trans-Border Institute reports “Judicial Reform in Mexico” (May 2010) and “Armed with Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses in Mexico” (July 2012). According to the report’s authors, future publications on Mexico by ICG will provide specific policy recommendations.


Carreño Figueras, José. “Estudio señala al narco como reto de Enrique Peña Nieto”. Excelsior. March 20, 2013.

“Los cárteles criminales, el desafío de Enrique Peña Nieto”. Univision. March 20, 2013

Ciurlizza, Javier. Podcast 1.52. International Crisis Group. March 21, 2013.

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