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Mexico, the Failed State Debate, and the Merida Fix

NCJ Number
Geographical Journal Volume: 182 Issue: (4) Dated: November 2015 Pages: 331-341
Date Published
November 2015
11 pages
This paper examines the discourse of shared responsibility that the governments of the United States and Mexico created through the 2008 Merida Initiative.

This discourse fixed the terms of an unruly debate that stood in the way of bilateral cooperation, i.e., are Mexico's drug cartels terrorists, and if so, is Mexico in danger of failing? Specifically, the discourse does three things. First, it clarifies the formal position of both governments that Mexico's drug cartels are criminals, not insurgents. Second, by using the term "transnational criminal organization" (TCO) to label the cartels, the United States accepts some responsibility for them. Finally, the discourse established a territorial notion of sharing so that U.S. participation inside Mexico is limited. Although "shared responsibility" has been characterized as a paradigm shift in how the two countries deal with one another (Benitez Manaut 2008, Revista Mexicana de Politico Exterior 87), this article argues that it reinforces a militarized status quo. By defining shared responsibility as an obligation between states, the two countries do not have to indicate a joint responsibility to Mexico's civilians, who bear the brunt of both the cartels and the bilateral fight against them. This framing also helps explain the U.S. government's muted response to abuses by the Mexican military since the agreement took effect. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: November 1, 2015