Don’t Extradite Chapo! Mexico Needs to Prove It Can Lock Him Away.

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
Feb. 27 2014 5:23 PM

Don’t Extradite El Chapo

The Mexican government won’t win against the cartels unless it can prove it can lock them away.

(Continued from Page 1)

The Peña Nieto administration’s frontal assault on the Zetas and its dogged pursuit of Guzmán should be seen as an effort to reassert the supremacy of state power. The goal is less to drive all drug traders out of business than to dissuade these organizations from terrorizing the population with violent crime. Peña Nieto can’t come out and say this too explicitly, but given the choice of ending the drug trade or ending violence, he’d probably settle for the latter. It’s not a matter of making deals with bad guys, as conspiracy-mongers love to suggest, but of setting priorities.

Conventional wisdom suggests that violence and mayhem increase when the established head Mafioso is taken out, as underlings retaliate and engage in bloody turf battles. It’s not clear, though, whether this will happen in Sinaloa. Mexico’s cartels have already had brutal turf battles over the past decade, and if Guzmán’s successors are as rational as reports suggest, they would be well-advised not to ratchet up the violence and to hope that the Mexican state’s fury will be focused on continuing the fight against the Zetas and bringing the central state of Michoacán (currently besieged by another cartel) under control.

The acknowledged role of the U.S. government in the capture of Guzmán is also significant and should put to rest concerns that the Peña Nieto administration was radically rolling back the level of cooperation with American agencies that Calderón’s team had embraced. Upon taking office, Peña Nieto’s team was reportedly surprised by how embedded American officials were across a number of Mexican agencies, and they moved to consolidate and coordinate the bilateral exchanges in one office. Washington at first worried that this reflected a lessened appetite to fight the cartels, but even before the success of this operation, U.S. officials had been assuaged that the changes reflected an internal reorganization of Mexico’s security apparatus and were not driven by a desire to end American involvement in the effort.

Advertisement

The Mexican government has proven that it is far from powerless in the face of these world-class mafias, that it can hunt down and overpower their chiefs. The greater challenge for Peña Nieto now is proving to the Mexican people, and to his northern neighbor, that Mexico’s judicial system is capable of trying and incarcerating for good (in such a manner that he can no longer pull strings behind the scenes) someone as powerful as Guzmán. It is on these fronts where Mexico has yet to demonstrate that it is a democracy with a resilient and entrenched rule of law.

Prosecutors across the United States are lining up to demand that Guzmán be extradited to face trial in their jurisdictions, and plenty of people on both sides of the border find this a desirable prospect—the best guarantee that Guzmán is locked away for good. 

But that is not the best long-term solution for either nation. The impulse to extradite drug kingpins to the United States (in cases where the bulk of their crimes took place in Mexico) is akin to the impulse in this country to send terrorist suspects off to Guantánamo. It’s essentially a surrender, a recognition that the system can’t handle such cases.

In Mexico’s case, sadly, that’s often been true. But that has to change for the country’s successes against the cartels to have lasting meaning. Mexico needs to dispense justice on behalf of Mexicans. The likes of “El Chapo” Guzmán can’t only appear to be defeated and diminished on the day of their apprehension but forever afterwards as well.

A version of this piece also appeared in the New America Foundation’s Weekly Wonk.

Andrés Martinez is the editorial director of the New America Foundation.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The Feds Have Declared War on Encryption—and the New Privacy Measures From Apple and Google

You Might Not Be Crazy if You Think You Can Hear the Earth Humming

These “Dark” Lego Masterpieces Are Delightful and Evocative

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Activists Are Trying to Save an Iranian Woman Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 6:39 PM Spoiler Special: Transparent
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?