Ken Ellingwood, writing in the Los Angeles Times, is one of the first “mainstream media” reporters I’ve seen who notices that the situation in Juarez is NOT necessarily viewed the same by Mexicans as by those north of the Rio Bravo:
“It’s not enough to analyze it only in terms of public safety. You have serious gaps in the social and economic [areas] that have to be closed,” said Antonio Vivanco, a Calderon advisor overseeing the development effort.
In the first months, the program has paid to have more than 750 police cruisers outfitted with GPS technology so commanders can track them, a check against official corruption. Authorities have assigned extra police to key thoroughfares to create nine “safe corridors,” envisioned as crime-free zones.
The escalating war over the Juárez plaza coincided with a particularly unpleasant moment in the global market system—in the midst of massive factory layoffs prompted by the economic downtown beginning in 2007. Locals easily grasp that little of the current day-to-day violence in Juárez has much, directly, to do with any cartel. Look at who dies with grim regularity: a gang of teenage car thieves, a group of former cholos who opened a funeral home, a guy pilfering doors from an abandoned neighboring house. Not all victims are entirely innocent—the city is filled with scrappy, hard-working men and women, some of whom have turned to Juárez-by-night for survival now that Juárez-by-day has so little to offer them—but they are not drug dealers or corrupt police, either.
Juarez is something of a demographic anomaly: a desert town grown out of all proportion because of its access to U.S. markets, dependent in normal times on smuggling for a good part of its business and populated by the young and desperate. The “boom years” created a situation I once called Detroit meets Deadwood — a manufacturing city coupled with a frontier town. With the collapse of legitimate trade (or rather, having sold itself as a cheap labor site, it’s inevitable collapse when still cheaper labor became available elsewhere), it was already in an economic free-fall when the Calderón Administration ratcheted up a “drug war” to boost its legitimacy.
Back in November, based on something Maggie Drake had written about her area of the Baja (also infested with drug warriors of various factions) I asked whether or not “death squads” might also be at work. While Hill doesn’t directly say that, she is suggesting that the victims listed as casualties in the “war” are not really “combatants” but at most “camp followers” … and, as Gancho also mentions in another post, on San Pedro Garza García, Nuevo Leon’s controversial presidente municipal, Mauricio Fernández (whose “innovative” anti-crime tactics implicitly suggested using death squads), is back in the news — several of his “security team” being tied to organized crime figures.
Ellingwood and Hill both hit on something that people here have been saying, but hasn’t been much heard outside Mexico except in small circulation websites and academic publications. Throwing more police (with or without GPS-outfitted cruisers) has nothing to do with resolving an economic situation. And, a “drug war” isn’t the simple “black hats v. white hats” people want to make it out to be. About time the U.S. media noticed that.