ROBERT SMITH, host:
Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Smith. A brutal wave of drug violence is ravaging cities near the U.S.-Mexico border. This week, governments of the two countries pointed fingers at each other over who's to blame. More than 6,000 people were killed south of the border last year. 1,000 have died so far this year, and a new State Department report says violence is now spilling back over the U.S. border.
NPR's Jason Beaubien is tracking the narco violence, and he's here with us now from Mexico City. Good afternoon, Jason.
JASON BEAUBIEN: Hi, Robert.
SMITH: So several U.S. government agencies, including the CIA, have said that this drug war is so out of control that it might even lead to the collapse of the Mexican state. I mean, how probable is that?
BEAUBIEN: Mexico right now is not a failed state. But that said, this drug war is challenging the state and, at times, beating it mercilessly. In Juarez, the police chief quit last week when the drug lords told him that if he didn't, they were going to kill an officer every 48 hours.
Mind you, his second in command had just been gunned down along with three of his bodyguards and more than a dozen officers have been killed in Juarez just this year alone by the cartels.
SMITH: But is this limited to just a few regions of Mexico?
BEAUBIEN: The cartels in certain parts of Mexico have shown that they're more powerful than the state and can call the shots, but this really is in a few hotspots. In most of Mexico, the government functions the way it has for years. There's corruption, but the taxes get collected, roads get repaired.
The thing is that drugs have sort of permeated Mexico. And now you're getting major shootout spread all across the country. President Felipe Calderon has found himself on the defensive over this failed state accusation, and he gave an interview with AP Television this week basically saying that Mexico is not Colombia at the height of their drug war in the 1980s.
SMITH: Well, here's what I don't understand. I mean, President Calderon has known about this since he came into office. He's just deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police, and it's been going on since 2006, and it's not working.
BEAUBIEN: Some people would argue it's not working. Calderon would argue that he actually is stirring up a hornets' nest here. He's cutting off the heads of the cartels, he's disrupting their operations, and in Juarez, what he's going to do is he's going to send in another 5,000 troops to basically take over from the municipal police because the municipal police have just given up on trying to fight the drug cartels.
The problem in Juarez is that you've got two of the most powerful cartels in the country fighting for control of the smuggling route into El Paso, and that's what's leading to that huge spike in violence there.
SMITH: Well, people's nerves are clearly frayed, and not just in these cities but in the governments, too. I mean, as we heard on Friday, the U.S. government basically said that they blamed corruption in Mexican government for the slowness of dealing with this problem. And then, President Calderon came back and complained that the U.S. hasn't been doing enough to curb demand for drugs and stem the flow of weapons south of the border. So does that criticism hold up?
BEAUBIEN: I think there's plenty of blame to go around on both sides here. Clearly, the U.S. is demanding the drugs and providing billions of dollars in revenue to the drug cartels. At the same time, the State Department itself, in that report that came out yesterday, said that 95 percent of the weapons used in drug-related killings in Mexico come from the U.S. And so, there is a lot of blame here on the U.S. that they're not doing enough.
You know at the same time, the Department of Justice this week made a major sweep against the Sinaloan Cartel inside the U.S., seized tons of drugs, arrested hundreds of people, seized $60 million in cash. So there are some signs that despite this bickering, the U.S. and Mexico are sort of joining together to try to crack down on the operations of these cartels.
SMITH: NPR's Jason Beaubien from Mexico City. Thanks, Jason.
BEAUBIEN: You're welcome, Robert.
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