Antagonisms Unearthed

The Zedillo government’s launch of a joint operation with U.S. drug law enforcement and forensic experts to exhume the bodies of presumed victims of a powerful drug cartel based in the border city of Ciudad Juarez has raised alarms in the Mexican press. Columnists are bemoaning the erosion of domestic security, coupled with irritation at perceived U.S. indifference to Mexico’s national sovereignty.

Historian and commenta-tor Lorenzo Meyer, writing in the independent Reforma of Mexico City (Dec. 16), cites a common theme: “Every time that the Mexican government—by incapacity, weakness, ineptitude, corruption, or a combination of these reasons—is unable or unwilling to control certain forces that operate outside the law and, from a U.S. perspective, seriously affect U.S. national interests, then Washington is tempted to take a direct hand in the matter.”

While Meyer notes that the U.S. team in the Ciudad Juarez operation intervened at the invitation of Mexico’s attorney general, he adds, “one cannot escape the sense that American authorities are assuming tasks on Mexican territory that, in principle, are the exclusive domain of Mexican nationals.”

The centrist Excélsior of Mexico City (Dec. 4) urges the federal government to redouble efforts to crack down on drug-trafficking cartels whose widening activity in Mexico “constitutes a threat to national security as the power of the mafias continues to grow, like ripples from a stone in the water, until they rival the power of the state itself.” Yet while Excélsior sees no alternative to joint U.S.-Mexican cooperation in combating the drug cartels, the paper contends that “an anti-Mexican clique in the United States is eager to take advantage of these situations to attack our national prestige,” in part to wage “a covert economic war against Mexico” and undermine the North American Free Trade Agreement. “Respect for our national sovereignty cannot be forgotten, either in this cooperative process or in the increased vigilance in border regions.”