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The slaughter of the innocents

31 March 2010

In rural Pueblo Nuevo, Durango, ten children and teenagers from an ejido were murdered after the truck they were riding in was attacked with grenades and gun-fire on the highway Sunday.  Following as it did the death of two graduate students at Tec de Monterrey during an army attack on presumed narcos last week, it shouldn’t be surprising that Secretarío de Gobernacíon, Fernando Gomez Montt, felt it necessary to stress that there was no army involvement in the Pueblo Nuevo slaughter.

Of course, it’s likely the Pueblo Nuevo incident had absolutely nothing to do with the “narco war” — a similar slaughter in Oaxaca a few years ago, which at first blush seemed to have some relation to the latest political violence in that States,  turned out to be the latest chapter in a five hundred year old water rights dispute between two small communities.  Or, it may only be tangentially related to the “narco war”.  the “tools of the trade” — guns and grenades — being too easily available for dispute settlement.

To label this a “terrorist attack” — implying the violence had some higher purpose — is premature.   Like the Le Barón attacks in Chihuahua (against the breakaway Mormon colonists in that state last year), which quickly assumed a political importance they turned out not to have, I expect the story will get more complicated — and more simple — as more is known.

What’s intriguing is that between the LeBarón murders last July and now, there has been a genuine change in the Mexican perception of the Army’s role in rural peacekeeping.  Then the call was for for  more arms and militarization, now it’s the army that’s immediately a suspect when there is a crime in a rural backwater.

I don’t mean that the army SHOULD be suspected, or that they are deviating from the task they were given, but do question whether they should have been given the task in the first place.  Not so under the surface, the twin problems of the Fuero Militar (the military justice system’s oversight of military personnel’s crimes against civilians) and the after-the-fact attempts to legalize the use of the military for the U.S. sponsored “drug war” are being raised not just by the Mexican intelligencia and outside agents, but by ordinary people.

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