Colombia's incredible turnaround and the strategy credited with bringing it about have become not only a rare success story in the drug war, but also its most formidable brand and export, reports The Washington Monthly. The governments of Mexico and several other Central American countries that have been plunged into violent confrontation with drug gangs have tried to replicate their South American peer's strategy. There are two problems. The first is that none of these places, despite years of effort, has seen the kind of transformation that President Álvaro Uribe Vélez brought about in Colombia. In fact, so far, the momentum runs in the opposite direction, particularly in Mexico.
The second problem, says the Monthly, is that, in Colombia itself, Uribe's strategy has reached a point of sharply diminishing returns. Having largely defeated sweeping leftist insurgency against the state, and having decapitated a relatively cohesive paramilitary force, Colombia now faces a hydra-headed, apolitical, essentially criminal set of groups vying for turf and control over what's left of the drug trade. None of these groups is as powerful as its precursors, but nor do they seem to be susceptible to the same strategic countermeasures. Violence is starting to drift upward. “If you look at the trend lines on homicides and kidnapping, it looks like a backwards J,” says Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America. “They drop really sharply from 2002 to 2006, then there's a stagnation. In 2008 and 2009 several of those measures start to creep back up again.”