November 8, 2010

Advisor to U.N. Details Steps To Eradicate Mexican Crime

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Dr. Edgardo Buscaglia, director of the International Law and Economic Development Center and senior advisor to the United Nations, spoke at Cornell on Monday, detailing the many problems organized crime creates for Mexican society and the steps that the government and influential business leaders must take in order to stamp it out.With about 40 people in attendance, Buscaglia argued that the political parties must work together to break the political disorganization that had existed since the 2000 elections. But they will only work together when the business elite is “very close to the abyss of disappearing” due to the influence large businesses exert over many national politicians, he said.Buscaglia used Colombia as an example of a country that made significant strides in reducing crime, after a car bomb related to organized crime exposed a heavily-guarded business retreat in Bogotá, Colombia’s capital. From that point on, elites realized that their interests were being seriously threatened.“Only when the elite in Colombia foresee that their lives, net worth, collectively speaking, were subject to disappearing, only when they saw that face-to-face, did they stop being the problem and start to become a part of the solution,” Buscaglia said.According to Buscaglia’s research, there are four major factors that correlate with the decrease of organized crime: accountable judicial decision-making systems, higher frequencies of criminal asset confiscation from judicial convictions, active prosecution against high-level government corruption, and increasing governmental and non-governmental social preventative measures.Buscaglia spent much of the lecture detailing how initiatives to address each area have decreased organized crime in Colombia and Italy, and he suggested how the Mexican government could address these issues as well.“Social prevention is something that I find extremely interesting … because it promotes the long term sustainability [of controlling organized crime],” Buscaglia said. “You can have the best prosecutors, the best police, the best of everything, but if you don’t have a social preventative framework to address unemployment, poverty, drug addiction, access to schools … you will never address the core of organized crime in the long term.”He also highlighted the importance of cooperation between government and civil society groups on these preventative initiatives; although there are lot of aid programs in Mexico, very few work with government and have major prolonged impacts.“The Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Public Health [and] the Ministry of Social Development … should be working with civil society groups … to address key issues taking place in some of the most marginalized, isolated areas of Mexico,” Buscaglia said.“You have nicely-dressed civil society groups speaking often at the Sheraton Hotel in Mexico, but you don’t have many civil society groups working with the state, hand-in-hand, coordinating their efforts, addressing the issues,” he added.Eduardo Carrillo-Rubio, a graduate student who hails from Mexico, said that Buscaglia’s assessment is “most accurate and unbiased prospective of what’s going on in Mexico,” both politically and socially.“Five years ago, [Buscaglia] said this and that was going to happen [with regards to reducing organized crime] in Colombia and Italy, and everything he said that would happen has happened,” Carrillo-Rubio said. “I just wish that [Mexican] officials would hear what he has to say and try to follow some of his suggestions.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the country Colombia.

Original Author: Andrew Hu