Redefining Mexican "Security": Society, State & Region under NAFTA

By James F. Rochlin | Go to book overview

4

The Illicit Economy and Security:
The Discourse on Narcotrafficking

Chapter 2 focused on various security themes related to the legitimate economy. What about the illicit economy of drugs, which may be the biggest transnational business in the hemisphere? 1 Narcotrafficking has emerged as a centerpiece for Mexican national security during the NAFTA years. 2 The War Against Drugs can be linked to a number of significant phenomena, including neoliberal restructuring, economic depression, and the general militarization of Mexican society to repress escalating chaos and ungovernability. The first section of this chapter briefly addresses the Andean situation, which provides a useful historical backdrop from which to consider the Mexican case. Cocaine and opiates produced in the Andes have been distributed through Mexico to the United States and other markets. The next part of the chapter discusses the historical evolution of Mexican narcotrafficking. The final section relates this to wider conceptions of Mexican national and regional security, and discusses future options.

A preliminary point is that data regarding narcotrafficking are difficult to verify empirically. Actual figures for the trade are unknown, and general information on the subject is sometimes based on hearsay. Further, statistics that are available may reflect the self-interests of those who disseminate them. The following analysis notes the variety of numerical projections regarding inter-American narcotrafficking, and generally relies on conservative or middle-ground figures. Also by way of introduction, the illicit drugs that overwhelmingly dominate the inter-American trade are cocaine and opiates. 3


THE ANDES

The emergence of the Andean Drug War in 1989-1990 represented an important watershed for inter-American security during the post—Cold War era. With the abrupt disappearance of Soviet Communism as Wash

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