Military historian A.A. Nofi, who has written on the historical impact of the Mexican Revolution, said that the concern is legitimate. "An important reason for the PRI victory was Pena's pledge to revamp the drug war," Nofi told me after the election. "But the current bloodletting is rooted in the 71 years of PRI control. The PRI mired the country in corruption. Systemic corruption helped fuel the rise of the drug cartels. If the PRI has managed to clean up its act, then progress in the drug war may be possible. If not, Mexico is in for more violence, at some point in the future."
Mexico has changed since 1994, the last year a PRI candidate won the presidency. First Fox, then Calderon raised citizens' expectations regarding what Mexico's government should do and could do.
In late 2006, when Calderon launched the Cartel War, the drug lords were operating criminal fiefdoms and infiltrating legitimate businesses and social institutions. The drug lords acted with impunity; Calderon decided to show them they were not above the law.
Those who claim that Calderon failed to make any progress ignore the scores of senior drug lords either killed or imprisoned. They also ignore Calderon's attempts to systemically reform Mexico, politically, economically and institutionally. Corruption in the security forces and judiciary, a PRI legacy, created "dirty space" for crime, from drug trafficking to embezzlement by government officials.
Calderon attacked the "dirty space," with the aim of creating a modern and just Mexican society. President Pena will have to demonstrate that a new PRI has emerged, one capable of continuing to attack and reform the corrupt system the old PRI bequeathed.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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