Just a few years ago, you could not get people in this town to focus on the pockets of instability throughout the Western Hemisphere. It is not top-ranked news but, as of late, it has become the issue du jour in some wonk circles. Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan still dominate the headlines and think tank programs, but violence in the Americas has even found its way as a subject in some of the talking head shows.
The FARC, Zapatistas, the Mexican Gulf, Sinaloa, or, the Michoacán Cartels will likely never be household names in this country, but some of them are just as lethal as Hezbollah, Hamas, and in some cases, al-Qaeda. Last year in Mexico alone, more than 15,000 people were killed in drug cartel and criminal gang related violence that has included beheading. Yes, it is not just in the Middle East.
One can talk for hours about the root causes of the problem and, depending on which side of the issue you are on, find a happy answer. As most things in life, however, there are no easy answers to these matters. I tend to think you should start where these individuals and groups are located, but that is not what our “allies” in the region do. They look North, of course, and blame us for their problems.
In the case of the drug trade, you need consumers, but blaming addicts for your problem is a cop out. This has been one of Mexico’s chief complaints about its cartel problems, American drug addicts are the problem. Blaming addicts as a central piece of your foreign policy is a cop out. Fortunately, this approach has only been taken seriously by anti-American liberals, leftists, and the United Nations. Now, they are blaming guns coming from the U.S. and, regrettably, some in the Obama Administration agree.
Gun control as a crime-fighting tool is a policy position of the Obama Administration. And despite the fact that only a small number of U.S.-origin weapons are used in Mexico, they are now buying in to the Mexican argument and using it as an excuse to control arm sales in the United States to law-abiding citizens. The largest source of weapons in Mexico is, you guessed, the illegal black market where you can purchase Korean, Russian, Chinese, and, yes, European-made, weapons of all sorts including grenades, rocket launchers, and many other things you cannot purchase in a U.S. gun store or legal arms distributor.
To get to the root of terrorism and illegal activities in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, you need to tackle the issues locally. Endemic poverty decades in the making, wides-spread corruption, and a lack of rule of law, spawn criminal elements and fuel terrorist organizations. Anything else is just a political sideshow.