Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mexican Crime Wave (or maybe Crime Tsunami?)

A recent kidnapping and murder of the 14 year old son of a Mexican industrialist threw Mexico’s crime problems into a national spotlight. President Calderon hopped on the bandwagon calling for tougher penalties for criminals and helping organize an August 30 march against crime in Mexico City. But, the Mexico Solidarity Network (MSN) wonders, just exactly who is this march against? In the wake of the massacre at a church service in Juarez this month, the MSN analysis helps me grapple with the question “Why?”

Kidnapping’s on the rise, they say. Calderon’s war on drugs forces organized crime into new ventures. And the economy is tanking, so more Mexicans turn to crime. Corrupt police get their slice, so victims have to cough up the ransom. Kidnappings aren't the worst problem Mexico has, but since the victims are rich and well connected politically, it gets the attention.

Much more widespread are common crimes and pervasive government corruption. This starts at the top: officials turn a blind eye...and then “anything goes.” Organized crime rules much of the country and controls important politicians. Drug sales hauled in at least $22 billion from the U.S. since ’03. Many politicians get their cut of this cash, depositing that income in banks (obviously), not stashing it in shoeboxes.

Calderon’s failing drug war has focused almost exclusively on interrupting transport routes and production facilities--and NOT the money laundering. That’s why we have not only the massacre in the church, but also murder and mayhem in the newspapers every day. Monday August 11 was in many ways a typical day, with 17 executions reported in the state of Chihuahua [the state directly south of El Paso, TX], including the second most important official in the office of the state Attorney General. Other states of Mexico reported 13 additional victims that day!

Several thousand troops deployed to Chihuahua this April and initially delighted beleaguered civilians. But the honeymoon was short. The army conducted hundreds of unwarranted home searches, beat homeowners and pedestrians at will, and killed innocent citizens. In Chihuahua, the army got caught up in a war. Most of the local police are aligned with the Juarez cartel. The Juarez and Gulf cartels are involved in open warfare over lucrative territories. The army may be hoping simply to return to the earlier status quo: murders in isolated rural areas rather than during highly public gun battles in city centers.

This would help account for the government's lack of action on money laundering, which is the heart of drug trafficking and should be its most vulnerable point. But politicians don’t want to interrupt the flow of illegal money. That money greases the political system and provides one of the most important sources of foreign exchange in this country on the verge of an economic crisis. With the Mexican economy suffering its worst performance in the second trimester of this year since the depression of 2003, politicians don’t particularly want to stop the money flow. With a GNP that declined 1.7% during the second trimester, about the only growth industry is illegal drugs and kidnappings.

So if you're on top in Mexico, you really don't care about some poor recovering addicts getting creamed in a church in Juarez. You're watching your own back...and pocketbook.

And if you're in the United States, sitting on top of the world's economic pyramid? Well, I wonder, just how do we feel about all this?


Dusty said...

Ya a San Diego native, we would get more news on the goings-on in Mexico than the nation press lets on.

It's getting nastier and nastier down there and they can thank NAFTA for that crap. We hosed them big time with it, the only folks loving NAFTA are big corporations...not workers.

putting this up on Sirens okey dokey sista? ;)

Border Explorer said...

1) Right. Now in IA, I hafta use internet for Border/MX news. Not so when in El Paso.
2) Right again. And well said.
3) Absolutely. And thanks!

Mariamariacuchita said...

The organized crime wave is escalating up the food chain to the wealthy.

Imagine if a child of someone like Bill Gates was to be kidnapped in this country and murdered. There would be a howl heard round the world.

Yet this is the everyday reality of the poor. Calderon says this is because they are doing such a great job in controlling the drug trade, and are hitting the income of the cartels, but this is propaganda, not true. This crime escalation is really because they have not gone in and arrested the crime families and they are unchecked.

What they need is a Mexican Elliot Ness to go break up the syndicates for good. We are seeing in Mexico what went on in this country in the early part of the 20th century with our Mafia. Back then we created laws so we could prosecute them on other grounds, like racketeering and tax evasion.

Border Explorer said...

Great contributions, Maria!

Regarding: "up the food chain" Yep, "what goes around, comes around."

On kidnapping the wealthy: When Charles Lindberg's son was kidnapped/killed, the nation called it "the crime of the century" and made it a federal offense, providing a historical precedent to your observation.

Point 2: Agreed. Everybody's in bed together: perpetrators and enforcers.

Love the analogy to 20th century mafia/E. Ness! This comes to my mind in recent Mexican machine gun, public executions--like Chicago gangland days.

Perhaps MSN's call to attack cartels by attacking their drug money laundering is analogous to the tax evasion & racketeering laws you cite.

The historical perspective you've provided us really helps me. Thanks, as always!

Randal Graves said...

The problem is that our position on this economic pyramid is an illusion, as the rich/poor gap explodes. We're going to see more of that stuff up here. Crime isn't the problem, it's the symptom of the bigger problem.

Sure, there's always going to be some dumbass trying to emulate Scarface, but I'd wager the VAST majority turn to crime because they've got no other avenue. Slice the economic pie a bit more fairly - and drop the ineffectual war on certain drugs and certain drug users - and things will get better.

Of course, people with I don't know how many houses, Johnny, might have to cut back on the ivory backscratchers.

Border Explorer said...

Randal, I'm going to have to adjust my outlook vis a vis the pyramid & rich/poor gap. It's so true that the elite close ranks trans-nationally and leave their poor compatriots in the toilet.

Your last point prompts me to say that when I get so very frustrated by the structural injustice (and I do!!!) I remind myself that I can always improve in living more simply/justly and sharing my wealth--which is wealth compared to most of the world. It gives me something concrete to do to make a difference, even if a small one.

Bradda said...

Good post and good comments. I have to agree with Randal. If McCain gets in we may be headed towards the situation in Mexico sooner rather than later.

Border Explorer said...

Bradda, I don't have much faith in the Dems after Clinton signed NAFTA, but after 8 hell-years of Bush & Co, the Dems are the only hope I've got.

susan said...

The top of the pyramid analogy is a good one but the one I've preferred for a while is living on top of the birthday cake with all the creamy but unhealthy frosting.

Poverty doesn't engender violence so much as inequality. When you see fantasy images of wealth on television it's bound to make some people come unhinged.

There are a lot of people here trying desperately to eat as much frosting as they can while never noticing the cake slumping beneath them.

Border Explorer said...

That's great, Susan. Thanks. Mr. B.E. will appreciate that image, too.

And, admittedly slow, I just caught on to Randal's comment re. Johnny's houses. Seems he can't count to 7 yet. (John McBush, that is--Randal counts just fine.)

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Thank you for helping to keep us informed. I'm trying to take all this in. So much corruption. It's interesting that the U.S. media doesn't mind letting people know that things like this happen "way over there" in Colombia or Afghanistan, but God forbid people should know about the country next door.

Border Explorer said...

Such a good point, Ruth. And I have to wonder if they'll use "keeping out violence" as another justification for the border wall.

Ingrid said...

you know, that is a great summary. So much for thinking of going down there for any holiday! do you think this is setting things up, intentionally or unintentionally, for any north american union (Jim/average american patriot mentioned it) to 'take over'? Or is it in fact already 'taken' but more by divide and conquer than anything else? A country so rich in history so ravaged by violence.. it is very sad..good post and you're a great advocate!


D.K. Raed said...

Thanks for putting this out there. B.E. Since I no longer live in Sandy Eggo, I miss a lot of the details. I think Calderon has proved as big a crook and general f*ck-up as is apparently to be expected by those who steal elections. Didn't a million or more citizens protest that fraud's election & call for recounts?

DivaJood said...

IF GOVERNMENTS TRULY WANTED TO END THE DRUG CARTELS AND DRUG TRAFFICKING, IT WOULD END. They don't, because there are lucrative kickbacks in letting the drug cartels continue.

Drugs, extreme poverty vs. extreme wealth, frustration - we're just seeing the tip of the iceburg.

Border Explorer said...

Ingrid, I sometimes wonder if the media silence on MX violence "here up nort" relates at all to the luxury vacation industry vis a vis corporate ownership of our MSM. And neither do we hear anything about this proposed(?) or upcoming(?) North American Union. What's up with that? Thanks for your input and kind words.

D.K., now that you mention it, I recall a big flap over Calderon's election. And yes, I think he's a real f*ck-up, too. (Things are starting to sound familiar...)

Yes, Diva, "Apocalypse Now"...or real soon when the iceberg emerges.'s the economic pyramid in disguise as an iceberg, ready to smash us all! The recovering addicts massacred in Juarez were simply the first wave.

Marjorie said...

It is not just the wealthy who are the kidnapping victims, it is the emerging middle class.

Every businessperson I know is fearful. The Business Assoc. met just a few days back with the new Jefe, General Mier.

The question is, with all of the busts going down around here, who will take over the lead positions in the cartels? New lieutenants who are just waiting in the wings, or will the Army eventually supply the protection and keep the money flowing?

Absolutely, the Baja tourist board and American Real Estate Agents and investors and the new Mayor of Rosarito all tried to keep this very quiet for the last ten years. One woman, Nancy Conroy was the only one to report the attacks against the touristas, and she finally just closed up her Newspaper.

The US Press failed miserably to report the organization and marches of the Tijuanese,the people of Rosarito and Mexicali so many of them organized by Alberto Capella in an anti-crime movement which has been going on down here for years.

It was only when it was so in your face, that no longer could you deny what was happening, they had to report it.

We wait and watch.

(Hi dusty, damn, i have had a seriously bummer summer, death in the family, about 5 trips back and forth to SB, more skin surgery, fighting American Developer down here, trying to paint, etc,etc, still want to get together)

Regards ya'll,


BTW, not meaning to be a media whore, but check out fulano's and Richard Grabman's discussion of the 400M we just sent down here,under my blog, "Bingo",
a real eye opener.


Border Explorer said...

Marjorie, I think a link from Dusty's post led you here...lucky for me cuz I found your blog Maggie's Madness; it's one I'm going to be watching. I didn't find "Bingo" however.

Thank you for the update from the Baja!

Marjorie said...

I don't know why that didn't come up here it is again:


Boycott Corona Beer.


Border Explorer said...

Thanks. (wow!)