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WE kill the criminals?

6 November 2009

The following editorial (my translation) appeared in today’s El Universal and was read on the radio:

The massive uproar over the mayor of San Pedro Garza Garcia’s announcement that  he would create an anti-crime  “cleaning squad” is compounded by his revelation of a suspected drug trafficker’s execution in Mexico City, before Capital officials had confirmed the event. Death squads in Mexico?  A grave development, but the evidence has been there for some time.  The real problem is that people do not seem angry that discretionary authorities are promoting the use of brute force.

While there is no national survey to confirm it, citizen comments suggest support.  A chilling coincidence with this is discussion of the death penalty. Seventy-five percent of people supported it in 2008, even with the knowledge of this country’s inefficient judicial system, which leaves in doubt the guilt of those arrested and convicted.  One party ran on a platform supporting the death penalty and won votes with their stand.  Who benefits when politicians run on on “vengence” platform, like the mayor of the Monterrey suburb?  It is a terrible precedent.

Citizens must understand that opposition to death squads is not squeamishness.  They understand history and human behavior. Mercenaries hired by governments or business groups to eliminate criminals  eventually become part of a gang of kidnappers or assassins. It has happened before here in Mexico, with an elite military group giving rise to the “Zetas”. In Colombia, paramilitary groups were established entrepreneurs that the country who now can not undo the damage. Civilians — who can not afford “white guards” — always end up in the crossfire.

Impunity must never be used to justify the irrational use of force.

While the stress of fighting even foreign wars has been known to dehumanize soldiers and even break down professionals trained to deal with brutality, fighting a “war” against one’s one population is even more likely to have consequences within the population.  Unleashing mercenaries — whose only loyalty is to a paycheck — is an invitation to disaster.

I have never been upset by gangsters killing other gangsters — and there is some validity to the argument that allowing the gangsters to grow rich could corrupt the state (though how money made from this enterprise is any more or less corrupting than any other money is harder to determine) — and gangsterism has to be controlled.  But, the Calderón Administration (and it’s hardly unique in this) has been putting the cart before the horse:  eliminating the criminals, without a thought to the structure that guarantees society has a way of dealing with them.  That is, spending money to put soldiers (and private? funds for mercenaries) on the streets at the expense of funding for courts, judicial reforms, prisons, police training and accounting controls.
4 Comments leave one →
  1. 7 November 2009 9:49 pm

    Speaking of mobbed-up mayors, have you seen this?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1225121/Mexican-mayor-announces-death-political-rival–hours-body-days-identified.html

    Either he’s psychic, or he’s psychotic. Take your pick…

  2. 8 November 2009 5:33 pm

    Death squads are a most natural turn of events. You mention Colombia, but it’s not the preserve of Developing World countries. The British Govt effectively ran death squads in Northern Ireland for one example.

    I’d never advocate such a policy, but I see few short term answers that are as effective. Realistic ones anyway. Long term problems from todays clandestine, unofficial and thoroughly unethical policies? Well, that’s either a problem for the political successor, probably of a different political persuasion. Or, in the case of a dictatorship, at least the long term problem is ‘in his pay’.

    I’ll continue racking my brains for examples of brutishness that wasn’t overcome with brutishness. And work out how they did it.

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