Organized crime in Mexico is present in many activities, including trafficking drugs, arms and humans. To continue these operations in the face of the Mexican government’s security pushback, the criminal groups have grown in sophistication, improving their armament, training, and tactics. Compounding the spread of crime is a sense of impunity, which empowers perpetrators to continue their actions without fear of prosecution. Given the rampant insecurity in Mexico, Canada must do more to help its fellow NAFTA partner. A prosperous and stable Mexico would simply be a better partner for Canada and the US.

Mexico is a significant aspect of Canada’s foreign affairs and trade file. Since NAFTA was established, Mexico has grown to be our third largest trade partner. Canada has become one of Mexico’s largest sources of foreign direct investment, with more than 2,500 Canadian companies having operations in Mexico. Most importantly, operations in Mexico often serve as launch pads to reach further markets in Central and South America, having a multiplier effect on Canada’s economy.

As significant as Mexico is at the moment for Canada, its future potential cannot be understated. Mexico is expected to have the 9th largest economy by 2030, and the 6th largest twenty years later. By 2050, Mexico’s economy will be larger than that of Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, and France. As one of the world’s largest emerging market economies, Mexico has plenty to offer Canada in terms of trade.

Although Mexico’s future economy seems very bright from the outset, PricewaterhouseCoopers has noted that Mexico’s corruption, lack of rule of law and trust are some of the barriers preventing its economy from growing to its full capacity. As these barriers are all raised by deteriorating security, Canada must offer its assistance to Mexico if it wishes to tap further into this emerging market.

There are ample cases of businesses being negatively affected by Mexico’s insecurity. For example, Coca-Cola recently closed some of its operations after hundreds of its trucks were attacked or stolen in Guerrero State alone. Similar worries were expressed by a Heineken-owned beer operator and by Pepsi, the latter having had one of its executives recently murdered in Mexico.

If large corporations, typically the most successful in ensuring their own security, have to reconsider their businesses in Mexico, then more typical-sized companies have less of a chance at being successful. Many financial analysts now consider security to be Mexico’s number one problem.

In this insecure environment, Canada has great potential for contribution. As Open Canada has noted, we have the tools to be a stabilizing force in world security. The Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP) is Canada’s primary channel for providing security support to Mexico. This program provides up to $15 million a year to governmental and non-governmental agencies to prevent and respond to criminal activities throughout the Americas.

Though the ACCBP is a welcomed move to ameliorate conditions in the Americas, it spreads our resources thinly across 35 sovereign states, where not all countries hold the same potential promise for Canada as Mexico does.

With adequate prioritizing and funding towards Mexico, security cooperation can take the form of expanded assistance in technical capacity, intelligence gathering and professionalization. One way to expand such assistance could be by including Mexico in the RCMP’s International Peace Operations. Under this program, Canada would directly deploy its police officers abroad, working alongside Mexican counterparts to develop best practices and assist in strengthening Mexican police services.

Canada could also include a security component into the Canada-Mexico Partnership, a mechanism for bilateral cooperation that allows government, private companies, and non-governmental partners to pursue common goals. The Partnership has many sectors represented in its Working Groups, yet representation from security groups is notably absent. Although Canadian and Mexican security agencies meet regularly in other settings, representation in the

Partnership would allow for implementation of large-scale strategies, as well as cooperation with other sectors.

Canada should also make sure that Mexico’s responses to security threats are done according to international law and human rights expectations. Human Rights Watch has exposed Mexico’s widespread and generalized human rights abuses, such as uses of torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions.  Canada, with experience in promoting human rights, transparency, and establishing democratic institutions, can help in this regard.

Security can also be ameliorated by promoting the currently limited interaction between Mexico’s government and civil society. Increased interaction is beneficial because it offers policymakers new solutions to security threats beyond the typical responses by security agencies. Canada, which has experience in promoting dialogue between government and citizens, can help Mexico establish links with its civil society.

As is clear, Canada has many avenues through which to help Mexico, not limited to the ones listed in this piece. To manage such wide array of approaches, Canada’s Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START) can provide ‘whole-of-government’ coordination.

A historic example in which Canada benefitted from improving world security is through Lester Pearson’s establishment of peacekeepers during the Suez Crisis. Though peacekeeping is now often labelled as an idealist, romanticized way of contributing to world affairs, one must remember that peacekeeping allowed Pearson to overcome Suez’s impediment to Canada’s trade relations with our most important partners – USA, Britain and France. In a similar sense, improvement for Mexico’s security should not be viewed simply as a selfless effort to help our North American neighbour. Canada should consider closer cooperation in order to protect our broad interests.


Mauricio Blanco is an M.A. student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, concentrating in Intelligence and National Security.  He completed his undergraduate degree in Law & Society and Political Science at York University.

Image courtesy of Flickr

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