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Behind Mexico’s Bloodshed

11 September 2010

According to investigative journalist Bruce Livesey, in Ciudad Juarez, the murder capital of Mexico, the military is picking winners amongst the cartels.

I might quibble with a few of Livesey’s observations… or rather, his word choices.

Since the Revolution, the economic role of the state (and, for many years,” the state” effectively meant the Revolutionary Party, the PRI after 1949) was as arbiter of the economy.  While the PRI is technically a Socialist party, as a friend of mine once defined the “Mexican system” it was  “consensus capitalism” … capitalists agreed among themselves to control the market of a given product (the classic meaning of a “cartel”), and the state’s role was to clear the path for these cartels to operate.

With narcotics as a major agricultural export — and recognizing very early on in its history that social peace often meant making accommodations that would include disparate elements (think of Obregón’s definition of the Revolutionary Party as “all who fought for the Revolution”), a place was found for the theoretically illegal, but long established, narcotic crop growers.  The drug trade was, at times, actively encouraged by the United States (during World War II, when Sinaloans were encouraged to plant more opium poppies for example), or only half-heartedly discouraged, given the political and social realities of the United States.

Given that since Richard Nixon decided to launch a “War on Drugs”, the United States has used a carrot and stick approach to Mexican official harrassment of the growers and exporters, of course that industry’s support of the state has been unofficial.  To call that “corruption” — as Livesey continually does — over-simplifies the situation.

Secondly, I think he misses a point about the PAN presidential victory in 2000.  Although PRI had begun to embrace a “market capitalist”,  or Washington Consensus, economic system about the same time as the start of the U.S. “War on Drugs”, and its relations with the narcotics industry became more problematic, PAN was much more aggressive in their support of competition in the marketplace (including foreign competitors).  For the narcotics industry, it wasn’t so much that PAN was uncorruptable, as that the Fox victory spelled the end of the state-enforced non-compete agreements among the narcotics exporters.

A third point.  In the second part of the report, at about 04:00, Livesey says that the gangsters are killing “addicts who want to get off drugs” in reference to a couple of massacres at rehabs.  All these massacres occurred at private Evangelical church-run facilities, and there are reports that they were used for hiding gangsters marked for execution by their rivals.  If the attacks on rehabs were meant to just indiscriminately frighten addicts, one would have expected attacks also on  established rehabs or programs like Narcotics Anonymous groups.

That said, Livesey is the first “mainstream media” reporter to catch on to the important connection between the destruction of Mexican agriculture under NAFTA, having the rug pulled out from under Juarez and other border industrial towns by the U.S. switch from NAFTA partner Mexico to cheap labor (or slave labor) production centers like India and China and the narcotics trade.

Livesey originally did his reports for National Public Radio, but it is quasi-alternative media like The Real News Network that is making these kinds of serious news reports available.  Alas, commercial outlets are going to continue to ignore, or simplify, the news to fit between the advertisements… one reason all the more to send  The Real News Network a contribution.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Frank permalink
    11 September 2010 12:58 pm

    Bruce Livesey could have just read the Wikipedia condensed Readers Digest version of the Mexican Drug Wars.

    His comment about poor displaced ex-Farmers and other factory workers in Cuidad Juarez Mexico who had to be part of the drug cartels, because they could not farm anymore is over-stated. He forgets about the huge amounts of people who immigrated to the U.S. looking for work.

    The drug cartels always have to bring in re-enforcements from other parts of Mexico when they lose a few members. Drug Cartlels also recruit from street gangs including U.S. street gangs. Bruce Livesey makes it sound as if a person goes from factory worker to sicario overnight.

    I know Richard minimizes the corruption in Mexico, but stories like the recent “escape” of over 85 prisonbers of a Mexican prison are yet another example of the depth of the corruption in Mexico.

    • Jose Guadalupe Garcia Cavazos permalink
      11 September 2010 7:31 pm

      Bruce also fails to mention the involvement of other forces (like the zetas) involved in this huge cluster fuck.

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