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Monday, February 28, 2011

Breaking Bad

Since the holilday break in December, I've been watching the first three seasons of "Breaking Bad." Thanks to his naïveté, Walter White, the blue methamphetamine-producing chemistry teacher from Albuquerque played by actor Bryan Cranston, regularly runs afoul of various drug cartels -- including some from across the border.

Thanks to the show's multiple story-lines, the audience knows that White is taking even more life-threatening risks than he knows about. Moreover, his brother-in-law DEA agent also has good reason to exhibit fear.

These drug cartels will stop at nothing to have their way.

In the stack of materials I've meant to blog, I found a December 2009 Atlantic article by Philip Caputo that provides real-life background for the power of the Mexican drug cartels:
Dr. Edgardo Buscaglia, a law professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute in Mexico City and a senior legal and economic adviser to the UN and the World Bank, concluded in a recent report that 17 of Mexico’s 31 states have become virtual narco-republics, where organized crime has infiltrated government, the courts, and the police so extensively that there is almost no way they can be cleaned up. The drug gangs have acquired a “military capacity” that enables them to confront the army on an almost equal footing.

“This in itself does not prove that we are in a situation of a failed state today,” Buscaglia wrote. He seemed to be suggesting that the situation could change tomorrow—and not for the better.
While narco-republics on the southern U.S. border pose a very big problem, Caputo cites experts who believe that Mexico could become a failed state and thus pose an Af-Pak-like security problem::
In the past year, experts like General Barry McCaffrey (the drug czar in the Clinton administration) and political figures have warned that if the cartels are not contained, Mexico could become a failed state and the U.S. could find itself with an Afghanistan or a Pakistan on its southern border. Such forecasts are hyperbole, but the fact is that drug trafficking and its attendant corruption are a malignancy that has spread into Mexico’s lymph system.

** I'm only partway through season 3 -- AMC will run episodes 5 and 6 later this week, which my DVR will record -- as the network prepares to debut season 4 in July.

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