"If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."
So said Nelson Mandela. What if the Mexican government were to follow this line of thinking with the narcos? Imagine the scenario: the drug business becomes legal. It is taxed. (The narcos, like most Mexicans, would probably refuse to pay their taxes, but all that laundered money would still re-enter the Mexican economy, giving it a nice boost. Perhaps a financial arrangement by which narcos give a percentage of their profits to the public works/hospitals/education etc could also be hammered out.) Disputes are settled in special drug courts.
Violence drops. Some semblance of law and order are restored. The United States throws a political tantrum; the DEA leaves the country. The Mexican military effectively stands down, and goes to work in the sierras as a peacekeeping force – making sure guns aren't drawn, ensuring turf wars don't break out.
Legitimize what in the past has been illegitimate. I'm not a policymaker, but I thought I'd throw this one out there. Officials keep telling me about the need to rethink the drug war, and I think this might be one way to do it. If Mexico wants to move forward democratically, it needs to move on after having made some major achievements (top capos arrested, etc) stop fighting ancient, unwinnable wars and re-envision the way it both uses its military and views its narcos.
I think this would have to be done transparently. If the Mexican government is to broker a business deal with the narcos and endorse the drug trade, it should do it openly, and risk the backlash from the moralistic crowd (good luck, given that the president is one of that lot) and the US. It needs to openly say: we endorse this industry that exists. We do not tolerate the violence within it, or the corruption that it causes. Like all industries in this country, labour conditions and realities within the drug trade need to be examined and addressed. We will work with narco-representatives to hammer out a working arrangement.
Ok, so it's never going to happen. There's no way in hell Washington would allow Mexico to legalize an industry and openly allow tons of drugs to be trucked into the US. But it was a nice thought anyway. I welcome suggestions for what might actually work in reality.