Kidnappings, torture and beheadings – the so-called war on drugs has ravaged Mexico for years. With 60,000 dead, and counting, some say that America’s southern neighbour is on the verge of becoming a failed state.
But as record foreign direct investment pours into the country and the economy keeps growing, there is also another side to Mexico.
In this country, headlines about the world’s richest man, becoming a top ten global economy and being the seventh largest oil producer compete with grisly news of journalists killed or dead bodies dumped from Ciudad Juarez to Acapulco.
The drug cartels have become so powerful that they kill with impunity and corrupt the government that is trying to fight them, laying bare the limits of the state’s power. Meanwhile, half of the population lives below the poverty line, many of them in fear of their lives. The US-sponsored ‘war on drugs’ has been declared in many quarters a total failure.
As a new Mexican president gets ready to take office, which version of this country will prevail?
Will the new government end the killings and steer a democratic path to prosperity? How will the US react to increasing violence along its southern border? And will Mexico take its place at the top table of nations?
Joining us in The Café in Mexico City are guests:
♦Dr Arnulfo Valdivia, the foreign affairs coordinator for president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto. He maintains that his party, the PRI, which is preparing to take power in December, is no longer the authoritarian force it once was.
♦Senator-elect Manuel Camacho Solis, a former mayor of Mexico City and a former foreign minister. He was one of the founders of the PRD, the left wing alliance that is now the main opposition, and is a critic of the ‘war on drugs’.
♦Ana Maria Salazar, a well-known security expert, Mexican columnist and TV host. She was an advisor to the White House on the drugs war, and believes it is imperative that Mexico carries on its fight against the cartels.
♦Julian Lebaron, a farmer from Northern Mexico who turned activist after his brother and several members of his family were murdered by drug traffickers. He is one of the main figures of the movement for peace. Julian believes that the government will not be able to stop the violence until individual Mexicans step forward and take responsibility.
♦Jaime López-Aranda, the head of the National Information Centre of the outgoing PAN government. His agency is at the centre of all Mexican government branches involved in fighting crime and drug-trafficking. He believes that the war on drugs has made Mexico a safer place.
♦Leticia Floresmeyer, an outspoken university student, critic of the president-elect and one of the main organisers of the new youth movement that has rocked the country, “I am 132”.
♦Elena Poniatowska, an author, activist and Mexican icon. She has been writing on social issues and women rights since the 1950s, and was tipped to become minister of culture had the left won this year’s elections.
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