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The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Cartel Crisis and What the U.S. Should Do About It

Recorded on February 13, 2009

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

President Calderon and the Mexican people are engaged in a relentless conflict with Mexico's drug cartels.  In 2008 the number of casualties resulting from the complex fight climbed into the thousands and has shaken Mexican public confidence.  Under President Calderon's leadership, Mexico's military and law enforcement bodies are heavily engaged in the battle while undergoing a process of reform and modernization.  The cross-border implications of the fight against the cartels are impacting trade, investment climate, and border security.  Owing to the illicit drug trade out of Mexico, the Office of National Drug Control Policy recently concluded "Mexican drug trafficking organizations represent the greatest organized crime threat to the U.S."  At the same time arms, bulk cash, and precursor chemicals flow southward into Mexico.  The Merida Initiative, launched by the Bush Administration, is providing $1.5 billion in counter-drug assistance to Mexico, Central America, and parts of the Caribbean.  With the arrival of the Obama Administration, however, uncertain agendas, competing strategies, and potential policy rifts in Washington could alter or weaken the U.S. counter-drug and law enforcement response and open a dangerous divide with Mexico.