War zone or post-national paradise?

With more than 2,000 killings this year in Ciudad Juarez, pictures of gunshot victims strewn about the streets and bulletproof-vested shopkeepers attending terrified customers, potential paramilitiary group formation, calls for UN peacekeeping troops and dire predictions of the violence spreading north the United States-Mexico border is increasingly looking like an all out war zone. Perhaps ...

576975_091113_Mexicowar2.jpg
576975_091113_Mexicowar2.jpg

With more than 2,000 killings this year in Ciudad Juarez, pictures of gunshot victims strewn about the streets and bulletproof-vested shopkeepers attending terrified customers, potential paramilitiary group formation, calls for UN peacekeeping troops and dire predictions of the violence spreading north the United States-Mexico border is increasingly looking like an all out war zone.

Perhaps it is because of this that I was surprised this morning to attend a conference calling for recognition that the transborder region is increasingly more a region than a border. Speakers at "Rethinking the U.S.-Mexico Border," came from both sides of the border, but it's more accurate to see their flawless bilingualism as an expression that they truly do view the area as a region that must work as one in order to harness the potential of what is already a $300 billion economy.

With more than 2,000 killings this year in Ciudad Juarez, pictures of gunshot victims strewn about the streets and bulletproof-vested shopkeepers attending terrified customers, potential paramilitiary group formation, calls for UN peacekeeping troops and dire predictions of the violence spreading north the United States-Mexico border is increasingly looking like an all out war zone.

Perhaps it is because of this that I was surprised this morning to attend a conference calling for recognition that the transborder region is increasingly more a region than a border. Speakers at “Rethinking the U.S.-Mexico Border,” came from both sides of the border, but it’s more accurate to see their flawless bilingualism as an expression that they truly do view the area as a region that must work as one in order to harness the potential of what is already a $300 billion economy.

Among the recommendations presented by one group, the “Binational Task Force on the United States-Mexico Border,” was the need to target demand for illicit drugs on both sides of the border (20 percent of drugs produced in Mexico are consumed there, most of the rest goes to the US), as well as the creation of parallel border agencies (such as the synergy between Canada and the US) facilitating coordination between the two countries. Importantly, they called for a reinstating of the American ban on assault weapons, and more work on preventing arms and cash smuggling south. They also advocate immigration reform in the US and more focus on development in Mexico to stem flows north. On the flip side, Mexico also needs to start taking illegal immigration seriously.

Given that NAFTA is now 15 years old, none of this should sound very surprising. But remembering that a lot of the talk about the border in recent years has involved walls (electrified or otherwise), vigilantes, and how to make everybody just stay put on their own side, this all sounded pretty good. As most of the speakers emphasized, it’s not about philosophically agreeing with unilateral solutions or not, they simply don’t seem to work.

Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images

Jordana Timerman is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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