¿Por qué le pedimos al gobierno (de México) que detenga el flujo de drogas?, ¿por qué no lo detiene aquí el presidente (Barack) Obama?
(Why do we ask the government of Mexico to stop the flow of drugs? Why not ask President Barack Obama to stop it here?)
— Vicente Fox, speaking yesterday in San Diego, California
Much as I liked to make fun of Don Chente’s often blunt (and sometimes gaffe-prone) public pronouncements, the question he raises is one heard more and more in Mexico. I admit, I get rather snippy (especially when reading and writing late at night, for posting the next morning) when I read remarks like a comment on F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller’s statement to the U.S. Congress that “there is an ‘unprecedented’ level of violence in Mexico linked to the country’s drug wars” to the effect that Mexico could solve the problem by “just legalizing drugs”. Sorry… that’s been done, but the violence still continues, and I’m afraid my response is that it’s U.S. drug users (including those casual users who aren’t likely to be imprisoned unlike the poor, the less educated, the less-than-white) are the ones who bear responsibility for the senseless slaughter of men, women and children in this country.
Certainly, as Javier Sicilia’s cri-de-coeur (published in Proceso and elsewhere) rightly points out, the government in this country — executive, legislative and judiciary — at the Federal, State and Municipal levels, bear as much responsibility as the gangsters for the situation. Sins of Commission on the part of the gangsters, of Omission on the part of the government.
This is not a failed state, but two seemingly contradictory policies have created a situation in which the government is not able to act appropriately (or, when it does act, act badly) in this one area.
On the one hand, there is no way it can control the consumer nations from its seemingly endless need for Mexican narcotics (or, for narcotics passing though Mexico), and this country does not have the resources to match the economic power of the exporters. With the United States unwilling (and/or unable) to control its narcotics use, and not even willing to discuss it’s role in bankrolling the narcos, I don’t see what the Mexican government (at any level) is expected to do about it. The United States throws a hissy-fit when some U.S. concern is inconvenienced, or a tourist is inconvenienced, or when Mexicans attempt to prevent a U.S. business from muscling in on the Mexican market… yet when its largest institutions are directly involved financially in the killing business, it simply shrugs the matter off.
And, let us not forget, “private enterprise” in the United States supplies the weaponry that keeps the whole shootin’ match going. That’s not just the weapons used by gangsters, but resources for the government forces as well — and for free-lancers who take advantage of the situation to settle who knows what private issues.
Whatever the reason, Mexico (or, rather the present Administration) was sucked into a situation where, as Vicente Fox rightly said, it is expected to “control” another country’s problem… and that country expects Mexico to pay what Ulysses S. Grant used to call “the butcher’s bill”.
On the other hand, the government’s willingness to make gangsterism a centerpiece of state policy has sucked the life out of other legitimate functions to a degree where “traditional” political processes are increasingly meaningless.
I don’t write much about the ins and outs of the various parties right now, even though there will be a Presidential election next year, and a very important governor’s race in the State of Mexico in a couple of months. We should be arguing over the future of the oil industry, new taxation plans, energy use, climate change legislation, gay rights, transportation, the cost of corn (and everything else) … not about a foreign imposed “war”.
Sicilia’s open letter has ignited something that until now has been largely ignored (again, perhaps by design) in the Mexican and foreign press: people want to get on with their lives, and find the narcotics issue as much a distraction as a threat. Politics isn’t just about political parties and elections, and what’s been going on in this country out of sight (or rather, hidden behind the fog of war) has been the real political issue.
AMLO is still running around, and there probably is more support for his economic and political policies than the media (and media commentators) realize. The Zapatistas and other alternative political groups likewise have their support. People like Sicilia and other intellectuals are demanding direct action. The Catholic Church is also weighing in and demanding change.
And, given the increasingly bellicose statements by U.S. officials, as well as remarks by Mexican officials that don’t go over well (Such as claims from an administration that will be gone in less than two years that they need another seven years of violence to resolve the violence they unleashed four years ago), more and more people are coming around to the conclusion that the present political system is designed (or perhaps doomed) to creating a repressive culture that deserves to be rejected. The existing political system, perhaps, can only exist in a militarized, quasi-terrorist, quasi-economic colony of the United States, like Colombia, where the “drug war” also consumed the political system.
I don’t see much point in even writing about the nuances of a leadup to a future election, when we don’t have a clue at this point what the real issues are going to be… or the candidates… or even know whether the candidates and parties will much matter. Political events outside the ballot box (strikes, demonstrations, pressure by media or “special interest groups” are legitimate political activities and always have been) may change the whole equation… and it looks to be about to change.
As Don Porfirio said, nothing happens in Mexico until it happens. And, I think, it is happening now.