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WWMFD? (What would MexFiles do?)

30 July 2010

El Longhorn… one of the Mex Files more consistent and perceptive readers (and sometime critics), posted a long comment on the Pyrrhic victory post (below this one).  Most of what El Longhorn says — that institution building was neglected for the last thirty years and that judiciary and police are too weak to deal with the crisis at hand, are good points.  Nothing I would disagree with, noting that for the last thirty years, Mexico has been under a string of “neo-liberal” administrations, which — with the neo-liberal penchant for (in the words of Ronald Reagan) reducing government to where it can be drowned in a bathtub, may account for the loss of state prestige and the present institutional weaknesses.

El Longhorn ends by asking, “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?”

I admit I’m more sympathetic to the PRD than to the other major parties in this country, but am not privy to their affairs.  And, while I had expected a PRD coalition victory in the 2006 election (and think AMLO actually won the election), I cannot, of course, speak for a party, nor — as a resident alien — take any active role in Mexican politics.  That said, the PRD — and many others — have looked at alternative role for the Mexican state beyond that of policeman.

Where, as El Longhorn says, “the narcos ARE the government”, perhaps there isn’t an immediate, one-shot (or rather, multiple gun-shot) formula for bringing those citizens back into the body politic.  But “winning hearts and minds” is not a matter of firepower alone.

Speaking of the United States’ attempts in Afghanistan, Scott Lemiux (Lawyers, Guns and Money) wrote the other day:

…  policymakers and analysts … seem to have no idea how difficult effective state-building is; effective authority isn’t something you can establish because you really want to.    Staying in Afghanistan out of the belief that if we spend enough money and kill enough people an effective Weberian state will control the whole country and wipe out any Taliban influence is just nuts.

Substitute “cartels” for “Taliban” and you get the idea…it’s pretty well a given that MORE military incursion is not resolving Afganistan’s problems (and there will always be anti-governmental forces of some kind in the hills and hollers), nor will it solve Mexico’s.

In Tuesday’s Ciudad Juarez El Diaro, I read:

El presidente de la Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la Cámara de Diputados, Rubén Moreira Valdez, advirtió que si el Gobierno federal sigue la misma estrategia en contra del crimen organizado, el año terminará con 16 mil muertos, ya que cada mes se registran mil ejecuciones, a pesar de que al inicio del sexenio eran 100 en ese mismo periodo.

“Estamos acercándonos a mil muertos en sólo un mes, y si seguimos así, llegaremos al final del año con 16 mil muertos en la famosa guerra contra el narcotráfico”, aseguró el legislador federal del PRI…

(The Chamber of Deputies Human Rights Committee Chair, Rubén Moreira Valdez, warned that warned that if the federal government continues to follow the same strategy against organized crime, the death toll this year will be 16,000 deaths, or over one thousand a months, compared to about 100 a month at the beginning of the Presidential term.

“We are approaching a thousand deaths per month, and if we continue this way, we will reach the end of the year with 16 000 deaths in the famous war on drugs,” said the PRI deputy…)

So, it isn’t only the PRD that sees the present administration’s approach as wrong-headed and destructive. What I appreciate about the PRD, and their allies is that they present these alternatives, things like better schools and price supports for agriculture and expanded business opportunities not dependent on the one country that also buys most of the narcotics, for capital investment.

As in Afganistan, as in Vietnam, as in the Porfirian era here, a purely military/police response leads to opposition.  The problem I see is people are forced into an either/or situation, with neither being the best option available:  the Taliban or anarchy in Afganistan; the cartels or the negligent, inadequate state and federal government here.  People need multiple choices.  The PRD (and their allies) offer some creative solutions to the underlying problems that create a security vacuum, but so do other institutions, like the Church, and the PRI and some in PAN… and the Zapatistas (who were, unwisely, forced out, or opted out of electoral politics, much to the country, and their own, disadvantage). A healthy state would — or should — present its citizenry with transparent options.  What the present administration has done, it seems to me, is define a symptom as the disease, and attack that symptom with the least effective medication… one that is likely to harm the patient and leave the disease organism possibly weakened, but hardly dead.

I’ve said before that the violence we’re seeing now only happened in this present administration.  Diego Valle Jones, in the “Food and Fishing Blog” (his fishing is of the data sort… the guy’s a wonk who likes to cook) published this chart recently:

Notice which direction the always high Mexican homicide rate was headed… until the Calderón Administration started this “war.” Valle didn’t run data from 2009-2010, but I don’t see that the trend has changed.  Yeah, there is the argument to be made that the state HAD to fight these cartels sooner or later… but one wonders if rather than going with more firepower, more attention had been paid over the last thirty years (or, is paid now) to the basics like education and social services, employment opportunities, government accountability and court reform, better criminal prosecution and basic anti-violence measures like controlling the gun trade, whether there wouldn’t be more victories in this “war.*”

Besides which… if the purpose of this “war” is to keep narcotics out of the United States, it just isn’t working.

To keep doing the same thing and expecting different results is insanity.  So, a short answer to a complex question.  What would Mex Files do?  Something different.

*  Assuming, it is even Mexico’s war, and not a proxy war to keep the United States from having to deal with its own narcotics problem on its own territory (cocaine can come in as easily through other nations as through Mexico, and the U.S. doesn’t seem to be concerned about marijuana except when it’s Mexican marijuana, which is, at any rate, a cash crop).  Or, a simplistic tool to keep the Calderón Administration in power, or an excuse to apply the “shock doctrine”.  But, that’s still being thought through.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Frank permalink
    30 July 2010 6:49 am

    Now you are comparing Afghanistan to Mexico? Didn’t you just post links which indicate mexico is no where near as corrupt as many other nations in the world?

    Once the people of mexico tire of the drug violence and no longer accept corruption (La Mordida) as part of the everyday mexican culture a drastic change is possible.

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