Mexico’s problems go beyond cartels

May 20, 2010 05:48

If “exporting” unemployed youth to the United States is no longer an option, where will they go? For the next decade, Mexico will still have a bulging population of youth. The traditional response, which has led an extraordinary 15 percent of the population to migrate to the United States, is no longer viable. The social and political impact on Mexico’s political system may boomerang into political radicalization and instability.


Security cooperation is certainly at the top of the agenda for Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s visit with President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday and his address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday.

It should be. Mexico’s drug cartels are terrifying. As a threat to people on both sides of the border, and to the Mexican state itself, they must be quickly defeated.

But Mexico is not likely to become a failed state because of these drug cartels. Indeed, as Mexican Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez-Mont pointed out in Washington on May 4, violence in Ciudad Juarez, the epicenter of the cartels’ power struggle, seems to be on a declining curve. And this is before the $1.4 billion in U.S. support for the Merida Initiative has really kicked in.

Frightening as the cartels may be, Mexico faces far more formidable challenges. On the current trajectory, these troubles could very likely make our neighbor dysfunctional within less than a decade. The following challenges would exist even if there were no drug problems:


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