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Pyrrhic victory

29 July 2010

The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.

(Plutarch’s Lives)

Photo: Chihuahua Resiste (

This is Rosa Angélica Marín Hernández’ quincena.   Killed last Saturday while  a riding in a car with her sister and some younger (as in four year old) neighbor children going to buy hamburgers, the Juarez teenager was buried in her gown.   According to her family, the Federal Police were the shooters.

Whatever the circumstances, Rosa was not a victim of the “drug war”, but of “drug warriors”…  Jesús Eduardo Martín Jáuregui, was not speaking of Rosa’s quincena, but of a sting of “victories” perhaps more notable than the victory over a girl’s coming of age for their higher body count  when he wrote La guerra ganada, o la guerra Pírrica de Calderón (“The war won, or Calderón’s Pyrrhic victory”) in Crisol Plural (my loose translation):

Do not fail to note that — despite results that might lead soothsayers of disaster or apostles of discord to jump to conclusions, and assume that organized crime is having a successful day in this war — it is not so.  Our nation’s forces are covered in glory as long as they and the cartels and their henchmen continue to confront each other and decimate each other. We can predict that what is done is done right — and when it comes to combating organized crime we’re marching to victory… hail to our Chief — as designated by the national emblem: an eagle about to be strangled by a snake.

I don’t think there is a a “war on drugs”, or “some drugs” or on the misnamed “cartels” (cartels are cooperative business arrangements,  not competitors bent on killing each other off) — it does nothing to control drug distribution. If that is even the purpose.  If there is a purpose.  The “war” is many other things : blow-back from both  Plan Colombia (or whatever the U.S. intervention in Colombia is called today) and NAFTA agricultural policies as well as an ill-conceived economic stimulus package for the U.S. “security industry” (and the Calderón Administration) that works against a  U.S. policy that both encourages and punishes narcotics use. And, more than any of those, a needless militarization that has taken on its own logic — one that shunts aside resolution of social problems in favor of solutions that, costly as they are in the short term, are devastating in the end.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. el_longhorn permalink
    29 July 2010 11:44 am

    Isn’t this just the natural result of Mexico essentially ignoring its civil laws and institutions for the last 30 years or so? After allowing decades of massive corruption, the country called its police and judiciary into action to fight the narcos, but the institutions were too weak and pathetic to do anything.

    To me, the purpose of Calderon’s efforts are to enforce the state’s monopoly on the use of violence. I can’t judge how effective this has been, but what other reaction can a nation have when its authority is challenged the way Mexico’s has been by the cartels? Most of the US/Mexico border is essentially without a government. Or, more accurately, the narcos ARE the government now. They grant permission for what is needed, they collect the taxes, they enforce order.

    What would the PRD do? What other solution is there than for the government to try and get control back from the narcos? What do you suggest?

  2. el_longhorn permalink
    29 July 2010 9:49 pm

    I can’t believe I am saying this, but Mexico is on the verge of having to learn counter insurgency strategy! Clear and hold? Maybe they can start one city at a time – clear a city of narcos and re-establish the police and government.

  3. 29 July 2010 10:18 pm

    More guns as with the United States is not the solution. Where will the financial resources come from, i.e. Merida?

    The drug violence is a symptom not the problem. Mexican public officials need to be held accountable for their corruption and greed by not only Mexican civil society, but by the International Community including the United States. We can help here in the US by minimizing our demand for illicit drugs or at least buy American. We can also help by stopping guns from the US enter Mexico.

  4. Maggie permalink
    29 July 2010 11:30 pm

    I thought the same thing this morning, where do we go from here?

  5. Frank permalink
    30 July 2010 1:49 am

    The cultural and long history of corruption in mexico will ensure the “drug wars: in mexico will continue for a long time.

    The drug cartels have infiltrated the highest levels of government, this is now a war on corruption and ethics which seems to exist in so few places in mexico.

  6. Frank permalink
    30 July 2010 6:43 am

    Maybe when Lopez Obradór is elected president he can “transform the country through moral ideals, with principles grounded not in the accumulation of material wealth, but in stewardship and a sense of community.”


    TIJUANA — Baja California’s largest law-enforcement shake-up in recent years was carried out Thursday, when Mexican soldiers detained 62 current and former state and municipal police officers suspected of collaborating with drug traffickers.

    The arrests, ordered by a federal judge, came on the heels of investigations that lasted two years, said the state’s attorney general, Rommel Moreno Manjarrez. The detained officers will face charges of drug trafficking and organized crime; Moreno didn’t detail their activities or name any drug-smuggling group.


  1. WWMFD? (What would MexFiles do?) « The Mex Files

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