Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

Federal police officers hold their weapons while patrolling the city of Monterrey, Mexico (Photo: Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

Federal police officers hold their weapons while patrolling the city of Monterrey, Mexico. (Photo: Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

Is Mexico The Most Dangerous Country On Earth?

"Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States."

Belén Fernández

 by Al-Jazeera English

In 2006, Mexico launched a war on drugs with the fervent backing of its ever-helpful neighbour to the north, the United States of America.

Now a bit more than a decade later, some 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed thus far as a result, with an additional 30,000 or more disappeared and a continuous discovery of unmarked mass graves.

Recent reports suggest that 2017 was, in fact, Mexico's most violent year, in terms of homicides, since the Mexican government began publicising crime data in 1997. More than 29,000 murders were recorded last year alone. 

And what do you know: Drugs continue to flow into the US, where the proscription of mind-altering substances that are in sky-high demand is precisely what has rendered the drug business in Mexico so lethally lucrative in the first place. 

Perverse symbiosis 

Arturo Cano, a journalist with the prominent Mexican newspaper La Jornada, once commented to me on the perverse symbiosis that has long characterised the US-Mexico relationship: "Mexico provides the cheap labour and the US provides the deportees. Mexico provides the dead and disappeared and the US the armies of drug users". 

Cano went on to invoke a lament attributed to former Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz, who died in 1915: "Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States". 

Indeed, thanks to acute geographical misfortune, Mexico has been an easy target for economic abuse by its northern neighbour - entailing magical forms of "free trade" in which the US is permitted to freely bombard the Mexican market with subsidised products while driving several million Mexican farmers out of business.

Unsurprisingly, destroying a whole lot of livelihoods is not the best way to deter people from pursuing options more conducive to financial survival - including, as it turns out, in the field of narco-activity.

Meanwhile, the US handily offsets its considerable contributions to the forging of the Mexican narco-state by donating billions of dollars to the drug war effort.

This arrangement effectively amounts to throwing more money into a landscape of impunity in which notoriously corrupt security forces are implicated in extrajudicial massacres and deadly collaboration with drug cartels. 

Not that a country where police regularly kill unarmed black people should be regarded as the standard bearer for ethical behaviour.

Perpetuating war 

Amnesty International has noted that, as a result of Mexico's drug war, reports of torture and other ill-treatment by Mexican police and military officials grew by 600 percent between 2003 and 2013. 

And according to a 2016 Amnesty International document, Mexican security forces "routinely torture and ill-treat women" who they detain in group arrests in order to "to boost figures and show society that the government's security efforts are yielding results".

When it comes to keeping the old casus belli alive, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is in the very same boat on the other side of the border; after all, if you actually win a war on drugs, there'll be no more incoming funds to fight that war forever and ever.

As Carmen Boullosa and Mike Wallace observe in their book A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the 'Mexican Drug War', the DEA would "be hard-pressed to justify its annual budget of roughly $2.5bn if the legal ground shifted beneath it" towards drug decriminalisation.

In 2006, as Ginger Thompson ably narrates in a New Yorker piece titled "Trafficking in Terror", the DEA hoisted itself onto the ever-profitable war on terror bandwagon with the help of the scary new crime of "narco-terrorism". 

But just as the US is unqualified to fight a literal war on terror - engaging as it does in regular bouts of terror-inducing activity across the globe - the country's drug war credentials are somewhat less than impeccable, particularly when one considers New York Times headlines like "The CIA Drug Connection Is as Old as the Agency".

Dangers galore

It would require a document longer than Donald Trump's fetishised border wall to adequately delve into the US' history of complicity in the international drug trade - from Vietnam to Pakistan to Panama and Honduras.

In one especially memorable episode in the 1980s, an endearing US partnership with right-wing Nicaraguan Contras led to a certain crack cocaine epidemic in the US and the devastation of black communities in South Central Los Angeles. 

In more recent years, US shamelessness has included cooperation between the DEA and none other than Mexico's Sinaloa cartel.

Enter current US president and disseminator extraordinaire of fake news, who tweeted on January 18 with regard to his proposed border monstrosity: "We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world".

Never mind that Mexico's homicide rate is in fact lower than that of other regional US buddies - and preferred "drug war" partners - like Colombia.

In any case, Trumpian reality has now officially awarded the position of "number one most dangerous country in the world" to a place long victimised by the US - the very same US that, in cultivating a disproportionately trigger-happy culture at home, could very well stand to issue travel advisories for its own domestic classrooms, nightclubs, and playgrounds. 

Add to these truths the US habit of invading and traumatising other countries at will, and the country itself might - just might - start to seem like the most dangerous one on earth.


© 2021 Al-Jazeera English
Belén Fernández

Belén Fernández

Belén Fernández is the author of  "Exile: Rejecting America and Finding the World" and "The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work." She is a member of the Jacobin Magazine editorial board, and her articles have appeared in the London Review of Books blog, Al Akhbar English and many other publications.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Watch: Bernie Sanders Argues 'We Must End the Greed of Big Pharma'

The live address comes as the Senate Budget Committee chair continues to push for including Medicare expansion and drug pricing reforms in the Build Back Better package.

Common Dreams staff ·


Reconciliation Framework 'Not Enough' to Push Through Infrastructure Bill, Progressives Warn

"We need to have a vote ready for the Build Back Better plan, not a framework," insisted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "We want to have both of these votes together."

Brett Wilkins ·


McDonald's Workers Join 'Striketober' and Walk Out Over Sexual Harassment

One striker participated because "McDonald's still refuses to take responsibility for the countless women and teenagers who face harassment on the job at its stores across the globe."

Jessica Corbett ·


Breaking: FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine for Kids 5 to 11

With just one abstention, the advisory panel voted 17-0 to approve the vaccine for younger children which scientific review has deemed both safe and effective against the deadly virus.

Common Dreams staff ·


Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo