Hart, the interim chair of the department of history and an expert on Mexican history and culture, says the U.S. government proposals to spend more money at the border and provide aid to the Mexican military won't effectively halt the violence.
"They are throwing money at the wrong things," Hart says.
They are building an easily surmountable wall to keep people away, but the upper-end traffickers use aircraft, he says.
"The U.S. needs to focus more on limiting the demand for drugs and less on militarizing Mexico," Hart says.
The violence that resulted in the deaths of more than 6,000 people last year, he says, is the result of two major problems: territorial wars between the Federation and Gulf cartels and localized violence between destitute desperados and the protective services of the cartels. The latter form of violence - a result of desperados intercepting ground shipments of drugs on the way to the border - is underreported but widespread, he insists.
"The solution lies in taking the profit out of it," Hart says. "Once that is done, the cartels will disintegrate."
Part of the problem inside Mexico is that the government of President Felipe Calderon is not providing basic human services to the poor, yet the drug cartels, even without intending to do so, are improving local economic conditions by spending money, Hart says. If the Mexican government adopted and enforced a progressive income tax, it would be in a better position to improve the desperate social conditions that prevail today.
In the areas where the cartels are strong, like Culiacan in Sinaloa, "people are suddenly prospering because of the volume of money in circulation."
Consumption has gone up, and infrastructure and human services are being provided on a larger scale than before. In Chetumal, Quintana Roo, the university has seen explosive growth since 1990-growth fueled by tourism and the drug trade from Central and South America.
"The government is run by an oligarchy that, in turn, holds some 80 percent of the urban and productive assets in the hands of only 2 percent of the nation's wealth holders," Hart says. "As the elite refuses to provide adequate human service, the cartels are inadvertently filling that need."
Hart, the John and Rebecca Moores Professor of History, was recently awarded the Harvey Johnson Prize for the best book of 2008 by the Southwestern Council of Latin American Studies (SCOLAS). His "The Silver of the Sierra Madre" was published in September by the University of Arizona Press. The award presentation took place after the speech of the Dominican Ambassador to the Organization of American States at the SCOLAS convention banquet at Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, last month.
For more information about the University of Houston's history department, visit: www.class.uh.edu/hist.
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