When the Calderon Administration escalated anti-drug efforts in 2006, drug-related violence in Mexico reached unprecedented levels. The growing intensity of drug-related violence has led to uncertainty over how to classify the violence spreading across Mexico. Much of the public rhetoric argues that Mexico’s drug-related violence has surpassed that which typically characterizes the drug trade and is instead more similar to armed conflict. Due to the changing landscape of Mexican drug violence, an assessment of whether or not the conflict meets the requisite conditions for a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) is needed to determine if the application of international humanitarian law is appropriate. This paper argues that Mexico’s Drug War meets the conditions for NIAC status and application of IHL is appropriate. The question of how to respond to drug-related violence is becoming increasingly relevant as the effects of such violence extends to a more diverse geographic area within Mexico. NIAC status plays a central role in the future of anti-drug policy and has the potential to prompt significant changes in the handling of drug-related violence in Mexico. This paper attempts to provide a comprehensive answer to this question and identify the potential implications that recognition as a NIAC will have on Mexican anti-drug policy.
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