Jose Bladimir Antuna, a Mexican reporter who often reported on violent drug crime, was found dead in the Northern Mexican state of Durango yesterday, shortly after he was kidnapped. Antuna’s strangled body was discovered alongside a note claiming he had been killed for giving information to the Mexican military, according to the Associated Press.
This news illustrated the urgency of the drug problem in Latin America and Mexico, a topic addressed last night in a lecture by Dr. Gustavo Flores-Macias, a postdoctoral associate in development sociology who earned his Bachelor’s degree from Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico. 
The widespread drug-related violence that has plagued Mexico for years and has recently escalated alongside militarized governmental intervention in the country, Flores-Macias told about 50 students in Robert Purcell Community Center.
In a country infamous for its organized narcotics crime, the violent conflict between Mexican drug cartels and federal law enforcement has recently gone from bad to worse, according to Flores-Macias. Since December 2006, when newly elected President Felipe Calderon deployed 6,500 federal troops to the beleaguered state of Michoacan, there have been over 10,000 drug-related deaths in Mexico.
“These numbers are staggering,” Flores-Macias said, “and they don’t disaggregate the good guys from the bad guys. What we’re seeing is the militarization of both the Mexican government and the cartels. [Cartels] are no longer using assault rifles; they’re using bazookas, machine guns and submarines. … If you want to invest in a growing industry, try armored cars and private security in Latin America.”
Unfortunately, some Americans may be also profiting from the escalation in violence. According to Flores-Macias, one of the major culprits for supplying advanced arms to the Mexican Drug War is the U.S. itself.
“The border is extremely porous,” Flores-Macias explained. “Now you can blame NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], blame globalization, pick your culprit. But there is a real sense that the U.S. is helping to fuel violence in Mexico by providing the guns.”
The U.S. Congress estimates that profits from Mexico’s illicit drug trade with the U.S. could be anywhere from $13 to 50 billion annually. At this level of commerce, Flores-Macias noted, Mexico’s drug trade does not discriminate amongst its victims.
“How does violence affect [Mexican] civilians? People are less trusting. Drug money seeps into legitimate businesses, it seduces teenagers into becoming involved in crime. A crime will be committed and a police officer will not show his face for days. People resort to vigilantism.”
And areas like Upstate New York are not immune to the affects of this surge in foreign narcotics violence.
“[At Cornell] we’re far from the border but what happens well-beyond the border affects us here, from ‘where will I spend my spring break’ to an increase in emigration from Mexico to the U.S.,” Flores-Macias said. “I would argue that this is a transnational problem that needs a transnational solution.”
For Sam Worby ’12, an attendee, this notion had personal resonance. Worby, who recently interned in Northern Mexico to study the history of indigenous populations there, said that while he did not witness any violence, he observed its effects.
“Although I wasn’t directly affected [by the conflict], American tourism in the area has been greatly reduced and that’s true of the entire nation,” Worby said.
Holly Mouton ’11, a member of the lecture’s sponsor organization, the Cornell International Affairs Review, also felt a proximity to the issue.
“With the Obama administration taking more public opinion into account [than the Bush administration], it’s important for us to voice ourselves and make a difference by having these kinds of events.”
Regarding what can be done to improve conditions in Mexico and stem the flow of illicit narcotics across the Mexican-American border, Flores-Macias was hesitantly optimistic. He explained that long-held Mexican governmental animosity towards the U.S. could prevent bilateral cooperation between the two countries and inhibit progress at a critical moment in their mutual history.
“Things will get worse before they get better unless this problem is tackled bi-nationally, and unless Mexico forgets — to a certain extent — its nationalism,” Flores-Macias said. “Here in the U.S., we need to start emphasizing prevention as well as punishment. We’ve seen progress in Colombia; we haven’t seen that yet in Mexico.”
In answer to the question, “how will we win the war on drugs?” Flores-Macias laughed and said: “Has any war on drugs ever been won? I don’t think so.”