MISSON, RGV – Powerful structural changes in Mexico are impacting security issues, and ultimately economic ties between two countries, experts say.

Gabriel Casillas, chief economist and head of research with Banorte Bank in Mexico City spoke about the state of the Mexican economy at an Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos (AEM) luncheon at the Cimarron Club in Mission recently, and offered an economist’s take on the state of security in Mexico.

The verdict: When gauging the economy south of the border, there are three important issues that need to be considered in order to balance security in Mexico, Casillas said.

“I’m not an expert on security issues, but I have been close to people who are the real experts from the United States, Columbia and Russia, even experts on the United Nations,” he said.

Gabriel Casillas, chief economist and head of research with Banorte Bank in Mexico City, spoke at the Club of Cimarron in Mission. (Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)
Gabriel Casillas, chief economist and head of research with Banorte Bank in Mexico City, spoke at the Club of Cimarron in Mission. (Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)

“The problem was tackled since 2006 by President Calderon, not because he wanted to (handle) it himself, as many people believe. It was because there was an important structural change in Mexico,” Casillas said. “(Prior) we didn’t have violence in the streets…they (older cartels) are smaller, not as powerful as they used to be, but they are still very powerful but now there are newcomers who don’t have the old ethos, not to retaliate or cause violence in the streets.

“These newcomers want to make a name for themselves and they do a lot of bad things,” Casillas said.

There were very important structural changes that radically altered security, especially after 911, according to Casillas.

The first one was the tightening of the northern border of Mexico with the U.S. Previous spots used to export drugs became scarce, resulting in a fight among the cartels for the few locations available to export, according to Casillas.

Number two, cash management became more difficult as consumption of drugs in Mexico doubled over the last decade.

“Instead of paying in cash to the people that were helping in the importation, now they were dealing in drugs in Mexico so consumption increased,” Casillas said. “It unfortunately became an issue. Local mafias who controlled distribution and handling used drug abusers to diversify their activities, and it created more problems.”

The third structural change in Mexico occurred when the 10-year U.S. assault weapon ban expired in 2004, Casillas said.

The selling of assault rifles became legal in the border states of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, but not California, which had a pre-existing state-level ban.

In fact, a study (https://files.nyu.edu/od9/public/papers/Cross_border_spillover.pdf) by the American Political Science Review in Aug. 2013 attempted to research whether violence increased more in areas of Mexico near border states that were selling these weapons.

The study found found that in Mexican municipios—the equivalent of U.S. counties—neighboring entry ports in the three states without the ban saw that “homicides rose by 60 percent more in municipios at the non-California entry ports, as compared to municipios 100 miles away, suggesting that the policy change induced at least 238
additional deaths annually in the area located within100 miles of the border ports.”

“In the past, the old drug lords had the contacts with the arms dealers, so they were able to get the high-powered weapons and nobody else,” Casillas said. “After the ban was lifted, everybody was able to get their weapons, and people working in the drug cartels under the drug lords became independent, and now sold weapons inside Mexico.”

(AEM) is a nonprofit established 17 years ago in San Antonio. Its mission is to help Mexican investors and entrepreneurs easily understand and adapt to American culture, and the American way of doing business. The group also extends its services to Americans who want to do business in Mexico.

Casillas lauded the U.S. involvement south of the border, which has consisted of intelligence and support against the cartels.

“We have received a lot of help in terms of intelligence and support and resources like computers, connection to Interpol and difference databases of criminals. That has been some major help we have received,” Casillas said. “The thing is, they are not fighting directly with us. The Mexican Army and Mexican police are engaging, while the technology has been a big help. Even though it’s not official, everyone knows about the help we have received.”