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Comment of the week

23 March 2009

Heather Williams, from Durham North Carolina, commenting on a New York Times article (Mexican Drug Cartel Violence Spills Over, Alarming U.S.) nails the reality of U.S. “concern” over our war on (some) drug dealers:

I wish the NYTimes would refrain from this kind of yellow journalism that characterizes the drug trade as a form of contagion that is spreading from Mexico. This story comes off as barely veiled racism when it speaks of violence “spilling over” from Mexico and suggesting that Mexicans are importing methods of violence that we (white) people never would have thought of. Fact is, the drug trade is a transnational commodity chain that links consumers i the U.S. with a pyramid of distributors, processors, financiers, and growers. In that sense, the violence is a product of the trade itself, not a disease vector from Mexico. Drug transshipment is a 35 billion dollar a year business in Mexico, but it’s estimated to be a 70 billion dollar a year retail industry here in the U.S. Do we really think that all the people profiting from this trade are colorful (and brown) cartel leaders walking around with Tec-9 pistols in their coats? Give me a break. You can’t move that kind of cash without bankers, real estate agents, trucking firms, lawyers, bureaucrats, cops, border patrol agents, etc helping out at every stage of the game.

What has really changed here? What about the crack trade that peaked in violence in the early 1990s? At that point, the U.S. had 24,000 murders a year, and Mexico less than 8,000, but no one ever worried that our violence would “infect” them. Since that was mostly African Americans killing and suffering and dying, it was never seen as “spilling over” from anywhere, but instead was reported as a homegrown pathology. And when Rep. Maxine Waters led an investigation of a news story that turned out to be true that the CIA had been involved in introducing crack to U.S. consumers to fund their illegal wars in Central America, she was painted as an antipatriotic extremist.

On this story, you’ve got a reporter here who’s repeating some bloody anecdotes but no universal statistics. Russia, for example, as a violent crime rate 50 percent higher than Mexico, and their gangs are unbelievably violent and yes, transnational (according to the FBI, a Russian gang likely has access to your credit card number– they have most of the world’s numbers on file right now), but we don’t have front page news about Russian gangsters “spilling over” into Brooklyn and Queens and slitting throats and cutting people up with chain saws because that would get the NYT in trouble with some sensitive constituencies, no?

Seems like there is no end to what we want to imagine about Mexico and Mexicans. I saw Just stop this kind of xenophobic reportage and stick to measured facts.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 26 March 2009 11:32 am


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