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Why the neglect?

1 August 2011

Ana Maria Salazar, in El Universal (my translation):

Why in Mexico do we ignore the victims? In his presentation to lawmakers this week Javier Sicilia said violence is directly affecting millions of Mexican families. According to him, “the war waged by President Calderon, which has so far cost 50 000 killed, over 10 000 missing, more than 120 000 displaced people, and insecurity and fear of millions of Mexicans is an illegal war.” I do not agree with Javier Sicilia that Calderón’s “war”is illegal. But, I do believe that that there has been insufficient effort, and a lack of coordination and vision.

But beyond the effort to prosecute organized crime, is an underlying lack of government interest in supporting the victims of insecurity in this country. One would think that the government would give priority to the ordeal of the victims, partly for humanitarian reasons, but also its own political survival.

Why the neglect?

To recognize the victims is to recognize the failure of our security policy. It’s that simple.

Javier Sicilia is not alone in thinking this “war” is illegal, or that the prosecution of it has at least fallen short of legality.   The administration itself seems to recognize this, proposing a “reformed” Ley de Seguridad Naciónal to legitimize the military prosecution of the “war” on common criminals… after the fact.  That the “reform” has run into resistance in Congress, and — even if approved  it will probably be only in conjunction with a series of victim’s rights and security oversight laws proposed by the Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad (Sicilia’s group).

The dubious legality is reason enough for the administration (and it’s supporters) to denigrate or ignore the victims.  In Colombia, where a U.S. sponsored “drug war” was militarized under the Uribe administration, realization of the excesses of the military (and the inherent dangers of using military forces in civil police work) have not so much turned that country against prosecuting narcotics traffickers, as it has led to prosecution (and imprisonment) of the civilian leaders who allowed for those military excesses.  With Uribe out of office, the people are recognizing that militarized security does not offer justice, and without justice there is no real security.

Uribe’s Chief-of-Staff and several cabinet ministers are now facing trial, and the Colombian Congress will be begin holding investigative hearings on the former President later this month.  In the United States both the external wars, and the internal security laws were supported by both the Presidential party and the opposition.  Although even before George W. Bush left office, there were those calling for the former president’s men (and women) to be prosecuted for international war crimes it was unlikely to happen, even with an opposition party candidate being elected to the Presidency.    In Colombia, where the military excesses were visible at home, even with a hand-picked successor from the same party, ex-President Uribe is likely to face criminal prosecution, or, at the very least, to be held up to odium by his countrymen and women.  In Mexico, where there is little likelihood that the Calderón administration will be able to perpetuate itself, whether there would be criminal prosecutions is an open question.

Right now, the government propaganda run on television highlights the various gangster leaders captured (or killed without benefit of trial).  Even if one accepts the premise that they were people who, as Texans say, “needed killin'”, the administration (and soon to be former administration) will need to account for the appalling butcher’s bill.

Prosecution of the  “war” perhaps shows a failure of coordination and vision, but whether that will stand up as a rationale in a court of law, or of public opinion, is a rather desperate gamble at this juncture.

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