On paper, Mexico is a democracy. “Mexico offers students a fascinating case study of three challenges to a young democracy that are of particular interest to political scientists: the need for the state to establish political order, the need to implement the most effective and fair strategy for economic development, and the need to establish political transparency and the rule of law” (O’Neill 559). From Porfirio Diaz’s authoritarian regime in the 1860’s and the violent Mexican revolution in 1910, to the 1920’s when the first consistent elections were held, to 2000 when Mexico established their first democratic regime, the nation has undergone an immensely long strand of political changes and forms of government rule. Since Mexico first established a democracy, government hostility towards cartels has increased dramatically. In O’Neill’s words: the violence has traumatized Mexican society, raised serious questions about the capacity and autonomy of the Mexican state, and led some domestic and foreign observers to wonder whether Mexico could become a failed state” (O’Neill 559).
In addition to Mexican citizens, the international community shows great concern regarding cartel influence in Mexico. “In 2006, after a close and contentious election, PAN’s (National Action Party) Felipe Calderón assumed the presidency amid a lingering security crisis. During Fox’s term in office, violent competition among drug-trafficking organizations (so-called cartels) had been provoking more than a thousand homicides per year, and the number was rising” (Schedler 5). “Between January 2008 and November 2012, more than 2,500 police officers and more than 200 military personnel were murdered by criminal organizations” (Schedler 7). Calderón made his main objective in office to “defeat” drug cartels. This declaration only made conditions worse in Mexico as military resources were wasted and it became evdident to the public that the government has diverted their main focus from the people to warring with the cartels.
From a structural and procedural standpoint, Mexico is indeed a democracy. It is the presence of the cartels that violates the nation’s legitimacy of democracy. “The generals and privates in this criminal war do not design electoral institutions, rig the vote, bribe electoral authorities, or shave voting rolls. They have neither the means nor the intention to shape formal democratic institutions of electoral governance. But the practical effects of the criminal violence that they wield can be just as damaging to the democratic integrity of elections as the political violence that openly antidemocratic ideologues might employ” (Schedler 10). Between 2006 and 2011 Mexico attributed 35,000 murders to drug cartels” (Schedler 11). Free speech is an issue as countless journalists are killed in Mexico every year, which poses the question: why are they dying? Who is killing them? During today’s elections, there is frequent suspicion and cases that Cartels have been influencing political polls. These criminal organizations use scare tactics including threats, and murder to push voters towards the runner of their choice.
Despite Mexico’s historically poor handling of the cartel’s, president Peña Nieto has taken a new stance on the drug war. “Even before he was elected, Peña Nieto had signaled to Mexico’s voters that surrender wasn’t an option, that legalizing drugs wasn’t on the table, and that the fight against the cartels would continue — with different methods and objectives. The new plan was to continue to confiscate the traffickers’ money and drugs while not driving up the body count. Peña Nieto was supposed to focus less on capturing drug lords and more on curtailing violence and protecting the Mexican people” (Navarrette Jr. CNN). President Peña Nieto’s new approach has led to a swift capture of Miguel Morales, a feared Cartel heavyweight in addition to restoring some sense of hope among the people of Mexico. It is too early to tell whether or not democracy is consolidated in Mexico but the young democratic nation has taken big steps towards becoming so.
Cases in Comparative Politics (O’Neil)