The other day I was surprised to learn that Russia is as small as Mexico, GDP-wise. The bad news is that Mexico is as big as Russia. If you lived next door to Russia and you read about large numbers of Russian soldiers deserting to join violent drug cartels, would you be worried?
A reluctance by soldiers to act as police may have played a role, some experts said. Of the 4,890 soldiers assigned to the federal police force to help combat traffickers during the 2000-06 administration of former President Vicente Fox, all but 10 deserted, said Gomez, citing Defense Secretariat figures.
"Many are scared," said retired Gen. Luis Garfias Magaña, noting that hundreds of soldiers have been killed in clashes with the cartels over the past decade. "Before, a few died combating guerrilla groups," he said. "Now, they're fighting a veritable war against the traffickers."
The danger has escalated under the seven-month administration of President Felipe Calderon, who has sent more than 25,000 troops and federal police to areas under siege by the traffickers. In the process, experts say, he has also made the soldiers vulnerable to the cartels' corrupting influence.
"It's part of the larger issue which the military has always feared," said Roderic Ai Camp, an expert on Mexico's armed forces at Claremont McKenna College in California.
"It exposes all those people who come in contact with the anti-trafficking mission to corruption."
Mexico is a bad neighbor. Close the border.