Alonso's bad scenario is that "no true crisis will emerge." Indeed, the Mexican government and American editorial writers have already proclaimed Mexico's recovery from the peso crisis; over the long term, according to the bad scenario, the low-level erosion of the state will continue -- in a sufficiently gradual way as to be always deniable, but leading to quasi-anarchy.
Mexico, as I said, is a nuanced example of state failure. The future will likely see a middle path between Alonso's good and bad scenarios. The public ridicule to which the current President, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, has been subjected, and Zedillo's intention to break precedent by not choosing his own successor in 2000 (this intention was rejected by the party at its convention last fall), are but two indications that Mexico's highly centralized presidential system is unraveling. Institutional reform in the country will, though, probably not be as fast or as deep as is necessary.
Working from Alonso's briefing and also material from Mexican government statistics, interviews with other Mexicans, including former officials, and my own recent travel there, I will draw a map of the southern part of North America in the early and middle decades of the next century.
MEXICO'S population growth is geographically unbalanced. Whereas women in the southern Mexican states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas have, on average, four or more children over a lifetime, those in northern Mexico have two or three. Southern Mexico follows a Third World, Central American-style growth pattern, northern Mexico a First World, U.S.-style one.
Chiapas is a highly publicized example, and Guerrero a much less publicized one, of southern Mexican dissolution, in which a deadly combination of high birth rates, widespread deforestation, and cocaine smuggling has weakened the legitimacy of the state. From 1970 to 1990 Chiapas's population doubled, growing at one of the world's highest rates: 3.6 percent a year. Much of the deforestation in Chiapas over the past 500 years has occurred in the past twenty-five years. More people, scarce land, and nutrient-poor soil have created extreme economic and social conditions with which the state cannot cope, fraying already weak local loyalty to Mexico City. Had Wall Street investors paid more attention to the warnings of environmental-security experts, they would not have been surprised by the Indian-dominated Zapatista uprising in Chiapas in January of 1994, which helped to sink the peso. The uprising may now be over; cycles of violence are usually short-term, because of the energy involved. But the state's power in the south will continue to wane.
Meanwhile, Guerrero has become a cauldron of protests and roadside ambushes of both peasants and policemen. Though many of the government's opponents espouse noble goals, Zapatistas and others alike are said to be just as deeply involved in the drug trade as the government is, and to include violent criminals whom opposition leaders cannot control. There are no good guys. According to Eduardo Valle, a former special prosecutor for the Mexican Attorney General, in an article in New Perspectives Quarterly, Mexican drug cartels reportedly collect as much as 40 percent of the street price of Colombian cocaine as their fee for transporting it to U.S. markets. Valle cited an article in the newsletter Mexico Report to the effect that annual profits from drugs moving through Mexico to the United States are more than double the revenues of Mexico's petroleum industry. By some estimates, 70 percent of all the marijuana and cocaine entering the United States comes by way of Mexico, and as much as $30 billion in drug money is laundered near the Mexican-U.S. border each year. Drugs constitute the economic subsoil of Mexico -- the subterranean part of North American free trade that doesn't require treaties or congressional approval.