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¡Ya Basta!

19 April 2011

15 April 2011 Guadalajara Reporter:

An attempt by President Felipe Calderon to deflect criticism  from his handling of the drug war appeared to backfire this week.

In a speech to Coahuila business leaders on Tuesday, Calderon turned the tables on angry protesters of recent weeks who have repeatedly called for his head, often using the expression, “Ya Basta” (that’s enough) – implying everyone is sick to their teeth with the drug violence, and in particular the president’s perceived woeful management of a confrontation that he himself engineered.

“Let’s not be confused my friends,” Calderon said. “The ones who are doing the killing are the criminals … It’s the criminals that have ravaged large parts of our society and territory …  they are the enemy, the ones who assault, steal and poison our young people.”

The president called for “a common front” against the “true enemy” rather than blaming the government or the armed forces for the lack of security.

“It’s toward the criminals that we should be directing a  collective ‘Ya Basta,’” Calderon said.

His comments were greeted with disdain from several learned commentators, not least Jose Narro, rector of the UNAM, Mexico’s largest university. “Of course Mexicans have the right to say ‘that’s enough,’ but the cry shouldn’t only be directed at the criminals.”

Narro said the fact that the number of violent deaths is increasing, while the number of arrests and prosecutions remains static is clear evidence that “things are not being done in a proper manner.”

Narro urged Calderon to come up with a “comprehensive” solution to the security problem that focuses on investing more in the youth of the nation – i.e. in education.

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said the people’s “Ya Basta” call is directed at everybody but primarily those entrusted with public responsibility. He said politicians need to listen more carefully to what constituents are saying and would welcome the idea of a “national pact against violence and organized crime,” as has been suggested by Javier Sicilia, the poet whose son was murdered recently in Cuernavaca.

Humberto Moreira, president of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), said Calderon’s “Ya Basta” call needed to be accompanied by concrete proposals to promote jobs and education (only 13 percent of the population study high school, he noted).

Raul Plascencia, president of the National Commission for Human Rights, said it should not be forgotten that the government is ultimately responsible for public security and is duty-bound to respond to the public’s criticisms.

“The resources for public security in 2011 are the highest ever in our history, so it’s vital that we evaluate the results,” he said.

Although under the hammer at home, Calderon has found support from north of the border, where senior law enforcement officials say the increased violence is an indication that government policies to combat organized crime are paying off.

To most Mexicans, however, such an analysis is a very hard sell indeed.

North of the border, the same day the Guadalajara Reporter published this piece (credited only to “Staff”),  Alex Pareene (Salon.com) picked up on “this astounding quote from” Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Michelle Leonhart, as reported in the 9 April 2011 Washington Post:

U.S. and Mexican officials say the grotesque violence is a symptom the cartels have been wounded by police and soldiers. “It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs,” said Michele Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The cartels “are like caged animals, attacking one another,” she added.

It seems “contradictory” because that is absolutely appalling spin. For one thing, these “caged animals” are actually attacking civilians and children. And they are doing so because the drug war has made their chosen industry both profitable and dangerous enough to make murder and brutality effective means of winning competitive advantages. If this is a sign of success, maybe we should reconsider waging this war.

Of course, it needs to be added that Pareen is only calling for Ms. Leonhart’s resignation, not for — as Mexicans in increasing numbers are — an entire rethinking of the culture, economy and political framework of the country.  However, Pareen — like Ms. Leonhart — has the luxury of indulging in the small gestures people in the exploiting countries can take to assuage their guilt over what they do to those they exploit .  “WE” (Pareen and Leonhart) aren’t “waging the war” that needs reconsidered… the Mexicans are, and they are the ones who can reconsider it. 


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary O'Grady permalink
    19 April 2011 11:17 am

    That remark should be a career-ender for Michele Leonhart. Why do I doubt that it will be?

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