Fear of cartel-driven violence at home and especially along the border – in the form of “spillover violence” – has bolstered U.S. public and policymaker support of the Merida Initiative, Mexico’s drug war, and increased border security (as well as for immigration enforcement).
There is little question that increased drug trafficking in Mexico has been associated with a dramatic rise in violent crime, especially since 2006. But there is little evidence showing that increases of Mexico-sourced or Mexico-transited drugs into the United States have led to an increase in violent or felony crime in this country.
Since 1992 serious crime in the United States has steadily declined, even as the population has increased and levels of consumption have remained steady or increased. Murder rates are at an all-time low -- lower today than they were in the 1960s when crime rates began to soar.
Neither the Merida Initiative nor measures taken over the past five years to “secure” the southwestern border can explain this decline in crime rates since the trend early in the previous decade.
Spillover violence as a threat to U.S. security and public safety is a myth. Crime rates along the border are among the lowest in the nation – illustrated by the status of El Paso as the country’s safest city – even though it sits directly across the Rio Grande from Juárez, the so-called murder capital of the world.
The pervasive presence of federal law enforcement along the border likely contributes to the U.S. border region’s low crime rate.
There is no evidence that intensifying inter-cartel violence in Mexico has spilled over the border in the form of increased drug-related violence whether among the U.S. drug networks or into the general community.
This cast doubts on assertions by some U.S. politicians, state government officials, and other border security hawks, as well as by border security initiatives such as the Alliance to Combat Transnational Crime, that the Mexican DTOs are transnational organizations whose command structure and enforcers pervade U.S. drug distribution networks.
In summary, in the past four years there is little doubt that the Merida Initiative and the Mexico drug war have resulted in dramatically diminished security and public safety in Mexico and Central America.
At the same time, there is little reason to believe that the Mexican DTOs threaten U.S. national security – just as there every reason to question the 1986 directive stating that foreign counternarcotics operations are necessary to protect U.S. security.
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