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Damage Control for Calderon

When Mexican President Calderon says drug lords are not in control of any part of Mexican territory, you have to understand that he is in pure damage control mode from earlier in the week when he said precisely the opposite thing.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, he rejected U.S. government reports that questioned whether the Mexican government is losing control of its territory to drug cartels.

Calderon said his government has not "lost any part -- any single part -- of the Mexican territory" to organized crime, and called it "absolutely false" to label Mexico a failed state.

Of course, it wasn't just a US government report which made the claim. Calderon himself said as much in a speech to graduating cadets earlier this week.

Calderon, who has sent more than 45,000 troops to fight the cartels, said the military would remain on patrol until the government had control of the most violent parts of the country and civil authorities were fully able "to confront this evil." Only then, he said, "will the army have completed its mission."

To be fair, much of that is inferred by the Washington Post rather than a direct quote. But to be logical, a government does not deploy 45,000 army troops within its own borders if its police forces have control of major areas. This is underscored by the deployment yesterday of an additional 5,000 troops to Juarez alone.

And while the humorist in me instinctively wanted to spoof President Filipe Calderon's denial in a Baghdad Bob-esque manner ('Juarez Juan' came to mind), I had to blunt my criticism of his denial and step back long enough to garner the appropriate measure of empathy for the situation he and his country are in.

But humor and empathy aside, Mexico is in a sad state. It has not lost all of its territory and writ to the cartels, and it is not a failed state, but those conditions require a modifier: "Yet." it is, however losing control of its territory, including major portions of its cities and perhaps the whole of Juarez on the US border. And it is a failing state, fully capable of either collapse or resurrection. The trending is not good, but Mexico has Calderon going for it - who gives every appearance of a decent man and certainly the best choice Mexicans could have made for themselves in the last election. Quite frankly (and logically), if he were as corrupt as his challengers and predecessors, he would not have a price on his head.

Consider the following from just today when judging Mexico as a failing state:

  1. Mexico's Peso Falls to Record Low on Pared Interest-Rate Bets - Bloomberg
  1. Mexico to send up to 5,000 more troops to Ciudad Juarez - Los Angeles Times
  1. Texas Gov. Perry wants U.S. troops guarding Mexican border - El Paso Times
  1. Ahead of Spring Break, U.S. State Department warns of travel to Mexico - MSNBC