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?