Mexico’s President Says The War On Drugs Is Over. Not All Mexicans Agree. – The Nation

On February 17, some 300 people from the Mexican state of Guerrero set up camp outside of Mexico City’s National Palace to pressure the government to address their forced displacement by drug gangs from their homes in the Sierra Madre. Two weeks earlier, president Andres Manuel López Obrador had announced that Mexico’s war against narcotrafficking was over. “There is no war. We want peace, we’re going to get peace,” he’d told reporters in his daily morning press conference. For communities like the displaced from Guerrero, Mexico’s war on drugs is alive and well. The hand-lettered posters around their tent encampment detailed their complaints: “In Guerrero there is no guarantee of anything. It’s a narco state.”

Since former president Felipe Calderon first announced Mexico’s war against drugs in 2006, military deployment in states with a strong cartel presence has dramatically altered the life of Mexicans. In Guerrero, home to many of the country’s opium fields, hundreds of people have been displaced as a result of turf wars and corruption, as gangs and traffickers have colluded with security forces and government officials.

Manuel Olivares, the director of a Mexican human rights center that has been providing support to the displaced people from Guerrero, says the situation is the result of the drug war’s deployment of the military in the streets: over 600,000 troops have been deployed across Mexico to fight narcos. In some areas, Olivares says, state police and the army actively collaborate with gangs to manage gang territory.

“When the military was deployed, they hit some cartels in some states very hard,” he explains. As a result, cartels fragmented into smaller gangs who began to fight increasingly bloody turf wars, resulting in entire communities being forced from their homes at gunpoint; over 200,000 people have been killed in the process, and around 40,000 people have been forcibly disappeared.

During his presidential campaign, López Obrador insisted he’d take a new approach to the drug war. Instead of the militarization that characterized his predecessors, López Obrador has largely advocated for peace-building and transitional justice, even speaking about the possibility of amnesty for narcotraffickers during his presidential campaign. In November, López Obrador presented his National Peace and Security Plan that plans to “reformulate the combat of drugs” through changing structures of penalization of drugs, address impunity of state actors, reorient national security strategies and seek justice for victims of drug war-related violence. In presenting the plan, the president discussed the need to “begin a peace process with organized crime organizations and adopt models of transitional justice that guarantee the rights of victims.”