Small Wars Journal

Is Mexico a Failing State?

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 1:20pm

Is Mexico a Failing State? By Alexander Grinberg - The Strategy Bridge

Mexico is a fragile state, and without action, faces the risk of becoming a failing, or worse, a failed state. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development defines a fragile state as one that is “unable or unwilling to perform the functions necessary for poverty reduction, the promotion of development, protection of the population and the observance of human rights.” In 2009, U.S. Joint Forces Command released a statement expressing concerns over Mexico, highlighting the potential even then for a total collapse. At the time, then-President Felipe Calderón responded to the report, stating it was entirely false; allegedly, he even wanted President Obama to release a statement to that effect.


In August 2018, the State Department released a do-not-travel warning for five of the thirty-two Mexican states. Many other states are still considered dangerous, and the U.S. State Department has advised American tourists caution if not total reconsideration. The warning indicates a lack of stability and control on the government’s part in the region. The Mexican government is in a prolonged state of civil war with various cartels, and the state is losing. Rampant corruption from the local to federal level breaks down the fundamental principal-agent relationship between the government and its population, encouraging locals to turn to militias for protection. The militias are, in part, a result of widespread corruption as well as the Mexican military’s deterioration. Mexico’s military faces large numbers of desertions, while measures to provide security for its population continue to fail. The United States should continue to treat Mexico as a welcome economic partner but accept that Mexico is a fragile state, and thus a serious security risk…

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