Vanda Felbab-Brown joined Diane Rehm to discuss increased violence in the ongoing Mexican drug war, and how it is a national security threat to the United States.
Diane Rehm, host: Vanda Felbab-Brown – aberrational, what does that mean?
Vanda Felbab-Brown: Well, illegal markets and drug markets always entail some level of violence. That’s naturally a function of the fact that they are illegal, and that standard dispute resolution procedures – such as law and judicial procedures – are not available. Moreover, distrust very much plagues the markets. Distrust among customers and traffickers, and distrust within trafficking organizations. However, there are rarely as markets as violent as they are today in Mexico. One reason why the violence escalated this level is that after many years of tacit acceptance, if not cooperation, between Mexican authorities and the drug cartels – in the mid 1990s and more so in the 2000s – the Mexican government took very strong actions against several of the cartels.
Felbab-Brown: To a large extent, this was the evolution of U.S.-Mexican relations. And U.S. pressure to take action against the cartels, as well as the fact that Mexico has become a democracy where accountability concerned with crime have become key. And president Vicente Fox, president Calderon, but even prior to that since the late 1980s, Mexican authorities have become more concerned with crime. And finally, they took big action in the 1990s that already gave a preview to some of the violence, although nothing on the scale we have seen today.
President-elect Bolsonaro has embraced tough-on-crime measures that egregiously violate basic human rights and eviscerate the rule of law. Responding to Brazil’s 63,880 homicides in 2017, Bolsonaro calls for increasing protection for police officers who kill alleged criminals and arming citizens. He calls for further militarizing urban policing, reducing the age of criminal liability from 18 to 16, reinstating the death penalty, authorizing torture in interrogations and imprisoning more people... Brazil’s police are already notorious for being one of the world’s deadliest in the use of force. In many favelas, Brazil’s retired and current police officers operate illegal militias that extort and control local communities, murdering those who oppose them and engaging in warfare with Brazil’s highly-violent gangs and in social cleansing. Bolsonaro is simply threatening to turn the rest of the police into state-sanctioned thugs.