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Of arms and the Gringos: an old story

14 March 2011

More evidence, if I need any, that in dealing with Mexicans one needs to understand the nation’s history.  Rafael Cardona nicely encapulates the growing fury at both the U.S. and Mexican government’s role (by commission and omission) in gun-running by reference to the most famous action against U.S. gun-runners into Mexico of all time.

(From “La vieja historia de las armas gringas.” Metáforica Política”, 13/03/2011, my translation, which takes some liberties with Mexican metaphors):

Today, let us stir the dust of time.

A near mythic example — almost a parable — of the national imagination is personified by the name Pancho Villa, the only successful invador of the United States who tried to turn back the borders to those we had before the 1840s.

The magic words seem to encode our subconscious and secret desire to change the uneven relationship we have endured and seen throughout the years. Everything is encapsulated in a single name, “Colombus.” But we misunderstand Villa’s raid. It was a response to the historical and overt role of the United States in arms trafficking to Mexico.

If the raid by five or six hundred furious Dorados in March 1916, with its sequel of murder and arson had any motive (not the sole one, but an important one) it was to capture arms dealer Samuel Ravel, who had stolen money from Villa, a scenario repeated today in New Mexico and beyond.

But, this time, it’s not one mercenary arms trader at the heart of the story.

Today’s traffic in assault rifles (like that in the age of Mausers) show the United States government in its best role: simulating a false fight against the very crimes it is perpetrating; infiltrating spies and agents onto Mexico soil with the complaceny and gratitude of a government too distracted by protests as the situation spins out of control, and only touching public opinión there, because here (where there was a tsunami 8000 Km away to distract them) it just doesn’t matter.

The United States government releases try to lessen the severity of the situation, by recasting it as a local problem. Columbus officials have been ensnared in a long list of irregularities and corrupt practices, all related to a larger issue: the failed ATF operation, the size of which we are told is none of our business. we are told. Si no le gusta la sopa, plato doble. If you do not like the soup, double.

On Friday, 11 March, the wire services told us: agencies gave us this information:

“The mayor, police chief and a councilman in the border community of Columbus, New Mexico, were accused yesterday of participating in a network traffic of firearms, said the federal prosecutor in that state, J. Kenneth González.

“In a statement issued hours after the arrest of three officials, the prosecutor reported that they, along with seven others, are accused of belonging to a criminal group that acquired and smuggled weapons.

“Mayor Eddie Espinoza, 51, police chief, Angelo Vega, 40, and Councilman Jose Blas Gutierrez, 30, face various charges of arms trafficking, which were presented to the New Mexico Grand Jury.”

This information is generated in a tense atmosphere by the supposedly offended Mexican government, sounding like a cuckolded husband who was the last to know how those arms ended up under his bed, as his wife fantasized about the Merida Initiative.

“We knew nothing,” said the ever-vigilant Office of the Procurador General.

That same Friday, dropping a handkerchief on the carpet (so to speak), the U.S. Embassy signals its intention to end discussion, and posted an official statement that stands as a monument to cynicism and manipulation. Yes, the PGR knew of Operation “Fast and Furious,” but not of its international scope and only of its existence on American soil (as if that would be of use to the Mexicans), which meant the chance to see felons punished.

Which led to this, from Pascual’s people:

“Because of the attention has been given to this issue, the United States Embassy in Mexico want to make public the following clarification. The parentheses are mine:

“There is no contradiction between the statement of the Mexican government (“We know nothing”) and information provided by the United States (“Yes they did”) regarding an operation called” Fast and Furious ” which dismantled a major arms trafficking ring (of which they were the instigators). The operation took place on U.S. soil (and also Mexican soil) and resulted in the arrest of 20 defendants on January 25, 2011. “

That was meant to pacify us. “Operation Fast and furious” was uncovered when arms, provided by the United States and introduced into Mexico were used to against two of their own: Jaime Zapata here, and Terry Bryan there. That led to John Dodson, an ATF agent, confessing on CBS News on 4 March: “I am in Phoenix to tell what we have done every day since I got here. Tell me now that I didn’t do the things I ordered to do, tell me I did not do what I did. “

“After the arrests of 25 January (quoting from the Embassy press release) reports surfaced claiming that the operation could have included the transfer of U.S. arms to Mexico. Attorney general Eric Holder has requested an investigation. He has stated unequivocally that such actions, if true, “would not be acceptable” (“by whom and where would that disagreement would lead us?). He also stated that has made this clear to the prosecutors and agents in charge of the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).

“The Government of Mexico has declared that it was “not aware of the existence of an operation that included the transfer of weapons or controlled traffic into Mexican territory. ” Briefings were held between for United States and Mexican law officers that focused on operations in U.S. territory designed to disrupt weapons smuggling operations.

“The alleged transfer of weapons into Mexico is, at present, only an allegation (that is, an assumption unlikely, according to them). Attorney General Holder has made it clear that he takes such allegations seriously. He is quoted as saying, ‘That is why I asked the inspector general to conduct an inquiry into this’. “

The text is a tricky one, the reality going far beyond an allegation. Why use that word, “alleged“?

In English “allegedly” is not the same as “alegato” — for us, a philosophical argument… in the sense of a thesis or proposition. Rather, it means “as stated, as intended. Implied without reason.” In other words, a presumption.

Understanding that, the Gringo statement seeks to condemn the Mexico one for being presumptious. “You were told about the local scope of an interal operation, which automatically makes Fast and Furious a fantasy, an urban legend, a story, a game.

And worse: the government will accept that it is a fantasy, a game of mirrors. And it is all under control.

Whether Cardona’s “alegato” is correct or not, fair or not, is rather beside the point. The Mex Files receives more than its share of comments seeking to “challenge” points of view expressed, and when the Mex Files is presenting a point-of-view by another author, any disagreements or challenges are misdirected if sent here.

The larger point, and one that IS open for discussion is the alegato that Mexicans, especially when challenging the “official” story, mine history and legend for their political metaphors and that such metaphors matter. That the United States government was involved in arms-smuggling into Mexico is undisputed. That the United States’ government’s response to the furor released by the revelation of this fact failed to take into account how Mexicans process and interpret these kinds of revelations I allege is a failure to comprehend the most basic facts about Mexican society and culture. And that is worse than a crime, it is a blunder.

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