Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Mexico's Insecurity in North America

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Mexico's Insecurity in North America

Article excerpt

Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey

October 18, 2007


This paper will argue first that Mexico's incapacity to develop a coherent national and regional security framework has paralleled Mexico's inability to undergo a reformation of the Mexican State, and with it, of national security reform. Second, rather than true democratic change, authoritarian legacies have been more robust and abundant in Mexico since the arrival of the right wing, the National Action Party (PAN), in the year 2000. Third, the controversial result of the 2006 presidential election in Mexico has exacerbated the polarization between the right and the left to construct consensus and platforms for local and national security regarding terrorism, natural disasters, and drug trafficking due to the lack of "legitimacy" in the new government. 1 These circumstances encapsulate the current Mexican framework and highlight the exacerbation of threats and vulnerabilities Mexico faces in order to address the changing regional and international security environment and the prospect of creating a "new" security perimeter in North America.


In the 1990s several academics argued that a Mexican transition to democracy was the only way to develop a coherent national security doctrine for the country because the corrupt nature of the Mexican political system created sources of instability and distrust in Mexico and abroad after decades of a single party in power. For example, in 1996 Guadalupe Gonzaléz stated that democracy could "give the country enduring stability and internal peace. Genuine democratization requires not just clean and fair elections but also effective administration of justice and decentralization of power." 2 Today, Mexico's transition to democracy is in question after the 2006 presidential election. Despite the political opening in 2000, the Fox administration did not manage to develop a coherent national security doctrine, structure, organization. or a solid legal framework. Unfortunately, the new government of Felipe Calderón has not delineated the bases of a global and integral plan of state reform on national security especially in terms of Mexico's deepening integration with its North American neighbors of Canada and the United States. Within its current political, institutional, and conceptual vacuum, Mexico is much more vulnerable and unsafe than a decade ago and unable to effectively defend its national interests. Were the assumptions of the 1990s wrong? Or is the lack of a national security doctrine in Mexico today the outcome of intense and deep divisions among the political elites? What are the consequences for North American regional security initiatives?


In 2000, the Mexican transition to democracy equipped Vicente Fox with unprecedented legitimacy, not only for the government, but for the viability of the Mexican State. The "democratic bond" given to the new government through the ballot boxes was a historical opportunity to (1) redirect the relationship with the United States and (2) carry out the reform of the state and the national security apparatus.

Some of the first successes of Mexican foreign policy were the suspension of the decertification policy by the U.S. Congress, the recognition of a North American Community, initial negotiations of migratory reform, and the public acceptance by the Bush administration that Mexico was "the most important nation for U.S. foreign policy." 3 For President Fox and his then minister of foreign relations, Jorge G. Castañeda, their proactive initiatives represented an important departure from the defensive nature of Mexican foreign policy in their first months of power. Within the new government ? the Commission of Order and Respect led by Adolfo Aguilar Zinser ? the national security advisor had the responsibility to coordinate a long-term perspective on national security, national sovereignty, preservation of the rule of law, democratic governability, public security, administration of justice, and honest government in coordination with cabinet members including: 4

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