US-Mexico ‘Action Plan’ Thinks Big, but Impact May Be Small

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The United States and Mexico have announced plans for renewed cooperation on combating Mexico-based drug trafficking groups. But although the proposed strategy sounds promising on paper, it may be difficult to implement.

US and Mexican officials unveiled the “action plan” on August 15 in Chicago, one of the most important US markets for drug distribution.

The promised measures are somewhat vague, including typical refrains like boosting “international investigations of high value Mexican Cartel targets” and increasing “judicialized operations relative to law enforcement investigations.”

But the plan does include some fresh proposals, like creating “a new enforcement group focusing strictly on significant Mexican-based targets.”

The announcement also highlighted the importance of disrupting crime groups’ financial operations.

A DEA report last year said Mexican drug trafficking groups supply “the vast majority of illegal drugs” in Chicago, and blamed the drug trade for escalated levels of violence in both the United States and Mexico.

InSight Crime Analysis

Experts told InSight Crime that the new proposals are a positive sign of continued willingness to confront a serious problem. However, the plan’s lack of detail raised doubts about the feasibility of the approach.

Eric Olson, a senior advisor to the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center think thank, cited the example of the promise to go after cartels’ money.

“It’s good they are discussing ways to attack illicit financing, but it is not clear what these specific new measures would be,” Olson said. “A lot has already been tried in this area with limited effect.”

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Security analyst Jaime López said the announcement appeared to represent a change in rhetoric rather than an actual policy shift.

“More than a change in strategy, it’s a change in emphasis at the level of discourse — a way of responding to criticism that the strategy is centered on the use of force,” López said.

Olson added that the enforcement-centric nature of the new plan doesn’t address some key drivers of violence and crime.

“Law enforcement has a role to play in counternarcotics efforts but it is not the only weapon,” he said. “That has been the strategy in the past and to continue along this path is not likely to result in new success.”

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