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News (Media Awareness Project) - US GA: Column: America's War Next Door
Title:US GA: Column: America's War Next Door
Published On:2012-01-30
Source:Savannah Morning News (GA)
Fetched On:2012-02-02 06:00:45

In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, President Obama
talked about the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, but didn't
say a word about a war that is taking place next door, and that is
killing more people than the others: the drug-related war in Mexico
and Central America.

Was it a careless omission? Or is Obama -- and, to be fair, his
Republican critics -- deliberately overlooking one of the world's
bloodiest wars because they don't have a clue what to do about it?

According to the Jan. 11 official report by Mexico's Attorney
General's Office, the death toll in Mexico's war against the drug
cartels over the past five years has risen to 47,515. That's slightly
more than the casualties in Iraq over the same period, and nearly
twice the number of victims in Afghanistan, according to human rights groups.

And that is without counting Central America. The drug war has turned
Honduras into the country with the world's highest homicide rate,
with 82 deaths per 100,000 residents a year, followed by El Salvador
with 66 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to United Nations figures.

By comparison, the U.S. annual homicide rate is fewer than five
deaths per 100,000 residents.

The morning after Obama's speech, I asked former Mexican Foreign
Minister Jorge Castaneda why he thinks Obama omitted the Mexico and
Central American drug wars. He offered three possible explanations.

First, it may be because Mexican President Felipe Calderon doesn't
want anybody to portray Mexico's fight against the drug cartels as a
"war," even if its death toll is higher than that of other world
conflicts, he said. The "W" word discourages foreign investments and
badly hurts Mexico's key tourism industry.

Second, Washington is not so enthusiastic about Calderon anymore,
Castaneda said. The Obama administration resents Calderon's
increasingly stronger statements about the lack of U.S. actions to
reduce U.S. drug consumption, and about the U.S. failure to curb the
flow of weapons to the drug cartels in Mexico and Central America, he said.

"They are fed up with him, because every time he gives an interview
in the United States he complains about why the United States doesn't
stop drug consumption and weapons smuggling, which everybody knows is
not going to happen," Castaneda said. "They want to support him, but
they don't want to be as expressive in their support as they used to be."

Third, while Washington is actively supporting Mexico's military
offensive against the drug cartels, there is growing concern about
possible human rights abuses, he said. A recent report by the Human
Rights Watch advocacy group says that "Mexico's military and police
have committed widespread human rights violations in efforts to
combat organized crime, virtually none of which are being adequately

My opinion: The United States is emerging from the wars of Iraq and
Afghanistan, and from a very deep recession, and Obama is trying to
create a sense of normalcy, in which -- as he stressed in his State
of the Union address -- "America is back."

But living in denial won't help solve the economic and trans-national
crime problems brought about by the Mexico and Central American drug
wars. Ignoring the war next door, and failing to come up with an
ambitious plan to increase U.S. economic ties with Mexico and the
rest of Latin America, will not help Obama's goal of creating more jobs at home.
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