On July 2nd, Mexico will elect a new President. The race between the two front runners, Francisco Labastida, of the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and Vicente Fox, of the conservative Partido de Accion National (PAN), is expected to be one of the closest in Mexican history. The campaign issue that receives most of the attention in the United States is drug trafficking, since Mexico is the distribution point for an estimated 60% of the cocaine that enters this country.
Writing in The New York Review of Books, Michael Massing says that because drug trafficking is a major concern North of the border, U.S. officials and journalists inflate both its impact on Mexico’s economy, and the corrosive influence it has on the citizenry. Of much greater concern to Mexicans is the economic crisis and the problems resulting from it. A recent poll by the newspaper Reforma, which periodically asks Mexicans to name the most important problem facing the country, found that drug trafficking was cited by only one percent. “Coming in first, with 21 percent, was inseguridad públicaóordinary crimeófollowed by the economic crisis (17 percent), poverty (11 percent), and government corruption (9 percent). Corruption, of course, is tied to drug trafficking, but it is part of a much broader Mexican pattern that includes the government’s links with organized crime, including drug traffickers, and its routine plundering of public resources.”
Massing quotes a Mexican journalist who writes about drugs for Reforma: “Drugs are a priority because the government wants to show the U. S. that it is working hard in that area. Of course, drugs are a national security concern, but it’s very clear that in a country like Mexico, there are many other priorities.