In a Mexico City cable from late last year, Mexican Undersecratary of Governance Geronimo Gutierrez Fernandez gives a visiting U.S. Justice Department deleagation a bleak take on the joint U.S.-Mexican cooperation in fighting drug cartels:
Gutierrez Fernandez then turned to the Merida Initiative, saying that in retrospect he and other GOM officials realize that not enough strategic thought went into Merida in the early phase. There was too much emphasis in the initial planning on equipment, which they now know is slow to arrive and even slower to be of direct utility in the fight against the DTOs. Of more immediate importance is building institutions that can effectively use the equipment. He was careful to point out that all the equipment is needed and will be put to good use, but wishes that there had been a more direct focus on institution building, and supported the current shift in Merida focus to capacity building and creating more effective institutions.
Gutierrez Fernandez suggests that the Mexican government is planning a new strategy, focused on restoring control to a few specific cities such as Ciudad Juarez, because "[President Felipe] Calderon has staked so much of his reputation there." But he aknowledges that they are likely running out of time.
Gutierrez went on to say, however, that he now realizes there is not even time for the institution building to take hold in the remaining years of the Calderon administration. "We have 18 months," he said, "and if we do not produce a tangible success that is recognizable to the Mexican people, it will be difficult to sustain the confrontation into the next administration." He lamented the pervasive, debilitating fear that is so much a part of contemporary Mexican society, where even people in the Yucatan, with "European levels of security" are afraid because of the instability in a few distant cities. He expressed a real concern with "losing" certain regions. It is damaging Mexico's international reputation, hurting foreign investment, and leading to a sense of government impotence, Gutierrez said.
That was 14 months ago. 352 people were killed in Juarez in October alone, the bloodiest month since Calderon's anti-drug campaign began.