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Seventh Annual U.S.-Mexico Security Conference: New Government, Old Challenges in Mexico's Security Landscape

The Wilson Center's Mexico Institute invites you to its seventh annual Mexican security review.

Date & Time

Feb. 12, 2019
8:30am – 1:00pm ET


6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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In this seventh annual Mexican security review, the forum examined the pressing security challenges Mexico faces and how it plans to respond, including the rising importance of the fentanyl trade for organized crime. Two new research papers on fentanyl were presented. The conference also featured leading policy analysts discussing major security trends in 2019, efforts to professionalize the police, the proposed National Guard, efforts to prevent crime and reduce violence, as well as the future of U.S.-Mexico security cooperation under a new Mexican president. 

Selected Quotes

Edna Jaime

“AMLO is playing to be sorcerer’s apprentice, and he is changing the nature of civil-military relationships-- one of the pillars of Mexico’s relative political stability during the last eight decades.” 

“So, I ask you: Who will end having the upper hand? The president and the National Guard or the old structure of the military? I think it is a high stakes bet, and I am afraid that none of the answer is good for the future of liberal democracy in Mexico.” 

“A failed governance structure for security issues is behind the problem, but AMLO sees the centralization of power as the answer.”

“The president and his party, I think, are now promoters of penal populism. They want to be perceived as tough on crime, and particularly tough on corruption. To do that, they use the argument that says that ‘tougher sanctions equals less crime’. But as you know, this is not the case. Penal populism isn’t effective to stop crime, it is actually a potential source of other problems like an overrun justice system, criminalization of poverty, more impunity, and human rights’ violations.”

Enrique Betancourt

“Besides being a very stubborn problem it is also- we have to admit- this is also a symptom of other very deep causes and malfunctions in Mexico.”

“I think that the particular case of Morelia very recently is really a source of hope, to show that even without the proper conditions there are things that can be done. I think that other countries have shown that even without having the strongest institutions, homicide reduction can be achieved.”

“We either go very naive in terms of promoting the idea of better jobs and education to end the problem that has been there for many years, or think that the prevention is retroactive, and we know that’s not the case, or we just go tough on crime. I think we don’t have the luxury of choosing between these two, I think we really need to bridge them together.” 

“There is no way we will have success unless we incorporate the street level view that mayors and community members and local NGOs have on the ground.” 

Earl Anthony Wayne

“I don’t come to it optimistically or pessimistically, I come to it from the fact that each country faces really serious problems and it’s in the interest of both countries to find a way to work together.”

“This is just one example of a place where bilateral cooperation could be very fruitful because a lot of that money, even money if it’s stolen in Mexico- or maybe a lot of money stolen in Mexico- ends up somehow touching the United States. An area that’s only going to work, however, if you deal with another one of the big problems: That you actually can trust each other, and that you actually have confidence in each other.” 

“The key is really, however at this point I think, sitting down and working through and getting a shared vision of where we can cooperate.” 

Jaime López-Aranda

“This is a major economic game changer, the fact that fentanyl can be so easily produced in such large quantities-- it can almost be produced on demand as we have seen in China-- signals a fundamental shift in the traditional economics of narcotics.” 

“It’s not only about the amount of fentanyl that is making its way into the United States, it’s also about the amount of people involved. Any moving market creates opportunities for new comers—they create opportunities for new comers, and opportunities for new comers tend to bring about violence.”

“No one can really control these ports. They are too big, the traffic is too much, there are too many opportunities.”

Steven Dudley

“Fentanyl is potent so it can be moved in smaller quantities, it’s relatively easy to manufacture, so there are very low barriers of entry in that regard… Nothing that a wall would be able to stop, unfortunately.”

“You’re not going to eliminate the problem when you ‘eliminate’ the Sinaloa cartel.”

More quotes to come...

Opening Remarks
Duncan Wood
Director, Mexico Institute, Wilson Center

Panel 1: Identifying Mexico's Security Challenges in the Year Ahead
Edna Jaime
Director General, México Evalúa

David Shirk
Professor, University of San Diego
Director, Justice in Mexico Project

Earl Anthony Wayne
Public Policy Fellow, Mexico Institute, Wilson Center
Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico

Enrique Betancourt
Director, Latin America and Caribbean, Chemonics

Moderator:Eric L. Olson
Global Fellow, Mexico Institute, Wilson Center
Director, Central America-D.C. Platform, Seattle International Foundation

Panel 2: The Fentanyl Trade and its Manifestations in Mexico
Steven Dudley
Co-Director, InSight Crime

Jaime López-Aranda
Security Analyst, Mexico

Nathaniel Morris
Research Fellow, University College, London

Romain Le Cour Grandmaison
Researcher, Sorbonne University, Paris

Moderator:Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera
Global Fellow, Wilson Center
Associate Professor, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University

Closing Remarks
Eric L. Olson
Global Fellow, Mexico Institute, Wilson Center
Director, Central America-D.C. Platform, Seattle International Foundation

Hosted By

Mexico Institute

The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute.   Read more

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