As this month’s massacre of nine members of an American Mormon family exposed, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s “hugs, not bullets” security approach has failed to reduce violence in Mexico. In response to the awful violence, President Trump offered Mexico support in “waging war against the cartels,” the traditional way the United States has pursued its “war on drugs” over the past century.
While López Obrador has agreed to collaborate in the murder investigation, he continues to defend his decision to not “fight fire with fire.” Rather than taking on the cartels directly like his predecessors did, the president has focused on reducing violence and organized crime by tackling the socioeconomic roots of insecurity. He is one of many politicians worldwide who have denounced the war on drugs in favor of alternatives to militarized drug and crime policing.
But abruptly terminating drug-war-related policies, at least in the near term, is not the answer to López Obrador’s security dilemma. The long and violent history of “fighting” drugs and crime in Mexico runs too deep. Hurried demilitarization risks worsening an already-precarious public security situation and ceding additional control to powerful criminal organizations.