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Mexico’s war on drugs has been ongoing since 2006, and since then, more than 300,000 people have been murdered. Violence between law enforcement, the military, and cartels have been the primary drivers of this crisis. However, a powerful new factor that is adding to crime, civil unrest, and migration is Climate change and its effect on Mexico’s water supply.
Mexico is currently experiencing a water crisis, which is worsening the country’s drug war. Changing weather patterns, the failure of government institutions to accommodate growing and moving populations, and decaying infrastructure are reducing the availability of usable fresh water in several parts of Mexico. The loss of rainfall is putting greater stress on already overexploited aquifers and depleted reservoirs. To make matters worse, the government has mismanaged the water supply, failing to crack down on illegal pumping by cartels and farmers, and preferentially allotting scarce public water supplies to large companies. This has inflamed the water crisis and caused the brunt of drought to be endured by Mexico’s poorer and marginalized communities.
The water crisis is intensifying civil unrest, and this is where the U.S. government can make a difference. If the United States reallocated some of its drug war funding from militarized aid and law enforcement to water collection and distribution projects, this could reduce water’s role as a driver of violence and displacement. The Biden administration has given $1.7 billion to Southwestern Indigenous tribes near the U.S.-Mexico border to help them improve water infrastructure. These efforts could be repeated in the geographically similar areas of Mexico.
If we fail to act, Climate change will increasingly lead to the kind of violence that has defined the country’s drug war. Researchers have linked Climate change to the Syrian Civil War, and it seems that disappearances and confirmed murders are disproportionately concentrated in areas where water reserves are strained. Water access has long driven conflict in Mexico. Shortages of drinkable water create a new market for drug cartels who capitalize on soaring water prices by siphoning and reselling water from public utilities. At the same time, the urban poor and farmers, desperate for water, are increasingly resorting to theft, kidnapping, and sabotage, along with peaceful protest, in an effort to save themselves and their livelihoods.
The U.S. government has committed billions of dollars in aid to a war on drugs that has failed, with drug seizures at the US-Mexico border remaining high and drug-war related murders soaring since 2006. If the United States wants to quell Mexico’s drug violence, it must fund water-saving efforts in Mexico. The U.S. government must acknowledge the scope of Mexico’s water emergency and offer funding to help implement long-term solutions.
In conclusion, the water crisis is inseparable from the scourge of violence in Mexico. The U.S. government has the resources and know-how to aid Mexico’s water crisis, and if it reallocates some of its drug war funding to water collection and distribution projects, this could reduce water’s role as a driver of violence and displacement. We need to act now to prevent the situation from getting worse.
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