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The Drug War Unmasked: Mexico’s Love Triangle

by Laura Krasovitzky

“The war on drugs has in fact been a strategy to disguise social control and political repression, which serves to prevent and dislocate social unrest produced by displacement.”

The quote above is one of many infuriating, yet unsurprising, statements included in the 6th Report on Human Rights Violations. Defending Human Rights in Mexico: Extrajudicial executions as the State’s response recently published by Mexican human rights organizations Comité Cerezo México, Urgent Action for Human Rights Defenders (ACUDDEH) and the National Campaign Against Enforced Disappearances.

Unlike the vast reporting on the bloody consequences of Mexico’s U.S.-financed and deceptively named “war against drug trafficking,“ which has murdered 200,000 people and disappeared over 30,000 more, not enough has been said about human rights violations against human rights defenders (HRDs) themselves.

As the 6th Report lays out, between June 1, 2016 and May 31, 2017:

1442 human rights violations (four per day) were committed against HRDs579 HRDs were assaulted, attacked, threatened, harassed, illegally surveilled and/or followed795 HRDs were arbitrarily detained 57 HRDs were murdered through extrajudicial executions11 HRDs were forcefully disappeared

Who’s responsible? “Contrary to what is said and repeated in speeches by government officials, it is not the narco, it is not organized crime… in the majority of cases we have documented, it is the government and government agents who are clearly identified as the ones perpetrating human rights violations.” (6th Report, 20)

Why? “The people who have been victims of the grave human rights violations we report here have committed the “grave crime” of obstructing profits for the neoliberal market.” (6th Report, 23)

Let’s break it down.

Mexico’s upsurge of violence and repression is not accidental, but rather follows a distinct systemic pattern involving a series of international and national actors, an elusive transnational money trail and carefully curated marketing strategies to legitimize abuse of power.

As Naomi Klein writes in No is Not Enough, the term “shock doctrine“ can be used to explain “the brutal tactic of using the public’s disorientation following a collective shock – wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes or natural disasters – to push through radical pro-corporate measures, often called “shock therapy”.“ In Mexico’s case, the financial and institutional implementation of the U.S.’s “War on Drugs“ provided the perfect framework to legalize displacement and human rights violations through a series of neoliberal national structural reforms designed to give easier and greater entry to transnational corporations.

We may visualize this grand scheme as a love triangle.


At the core of the so-called drug war lies the backbone of neoliberalism: unhindered resource extraction, privatization of public services and goods and normalized rampant militarization through arms proliferation. Encircled by a vast financial net of U.S. funding, including $2.5 billion allocated to the Merida Initiative since 2008, the Mexican government collaborates with both transnational corporations — through foreign investment, Special Economic Zones and current NAFTA renegotiations — and organized crime — with less than 1% of crimes committed facing prosecution, earning Mexico the worst impunity score in Latin America according to the 2017 Global Impunity Index.

Inserting this love triangle into Klein’s shock doctrine, the step-by-step process looks something like this:


As the 6th Report states, “Social decomposition is a state policy — militarizing the country’s territory and social life as social control — that creates a perfect scenario to commit human rights violations.“

So what do we want?

Witness for Peace has demanded and continues to demand an end to the Merida Initiative, transparency of U.S. Department of Defense funds allocated to Mexico (and other Latin American countries) and a replacement of NAFTA that entails a transparent and participatory process: including environmental standards, labor rights for workers and an end to NAFTA tribunals (ISDS). We support autonomous decisions around food, cultural and political sovereignty and reject U.S. policies that do not support people’s livelihoods, foster healthy communities and protect the environment.

What can you do?

Contact your representative* and demand a review of U.S. assistance and investigation of human rights abuses in Mexico, which U.S. security aid has played a major role in. Ask your representative to support Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer, who has been circulating a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, along with Reps Raúl Grijalva and Mark Pocan, asking for a full review of U.S. assistance to Mexico.Share our most recent video on NAFTA through the eyes of Mexico (available in English and Spanish). For more information visit: Support our partners from Comité Cerezo by sharing their report on human rights violations in Mexico.

*Please use this directory to find your representative (if needed) by Zip Code, or by name, and use the Member Search function to find your representative by their last name (directory URL: In the entry for your representative in this directory, you’ll find their contact information to call them, in the “Contact” tab, as well as the name of their Foreign Policy LA (Legislative Aide), under the “Staff” tab (or you can just ask to speak to the representative’s Foreign Policy Legislative Aide).


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