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We always knew this…

10 February 2014

That the “mainstream” U.S. media is finally catching on (Dudley Althous was for years the Houston Chronicle’s Mexico correspondent) is all to the good, but there is still the sense of “if it bleeds, it leads” in foreign press coverage.  The hard truth (and hard to put in a news story) is that crime is a symptom, not the disease.  The collapse of small farms (exacerbated by NAFTA) and rural opportunity in general, coupled with climatic change, has a lot more to do with rural insecurity than the particular crops being exploited for the north american market.

And, while the Global Post is not exactly the most widely read of sources, it’s a start…

 

TIERRA COLORADA, Mexico — Major events these days in Mexico’s seven-year-long criminal conflict have precious little to do with a war on drugs.

In the past year, the capture of town after town by volunteer police and citizen militias in the Pacific coast states of Michoacan and Guerrero has roiled and embarrassed President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government.

Officials have dispatched thousands of troops and militarized police to contain the “self-defense” groups, which claim they’re filling a vacuum left by incompetent or corrupt officials.

But many of the civilians taking on the gangs that control the region say they care little about illicit narcotics, which have been supplying US and Mexican consumers for decades. They just want the criminals to leave ordinary residents in peace.

“Drug trafficking is always going to continue,” says Neftali Villagomez, a 66-year-old butcher who now commands nearly 400 armed vigilantes in Tierra Colorada, a rural market town 35 miles north of the gang-ravaged resort of Acapulco.

“We aren’t against drug traffickers,” he says. “We are against organized crime.”

That view mocks former President Felipe Calderon. He often justified the military offensive he launched against entrenched criminal gangs in December 2006 — that the media later branded the “Mexican drug war” — as intended to keep drugs away from Mexican youth. But it dovetails with the aims of his successor, Pena Nieto, who says he wants to eradicate crimes most affecting common citizens.

Those crimes include the extortion, kidnapping and protection rackets that have flourished in recent years.

“It’s understandable. Their priority is the security of their families,” says Mexican analyst Alejandro Hope, who served in the intelligence service under Calderon. “They have lived with drug trafficking for a long time.”

Many anti-gang activists say they have little problem with poor farmers growing marijuana and poppies or the young men and women who work for the traffickers as either smugglers or guns for hire. Few express concern about crime lords’ use of narcotics proceeds to corrupt officials at every level.

“I don’t blame them for deciding to do that,” says Pioquinto Damian, 61, leader of a merchants association in Chilpancingo, Guerrero’s state capital. He barely escaped assassination Jan. 28 immediately after publicly accusing the city’s mayor of abetting local gangsters.

“The problem isn’t drugs, it doesn’t impact public activity.”

Full article here.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 11 February 2014 6:59 am

    I guess it is pretty hard to gather 400 locals to denounce people who grow and make drugs since it is their business. They are only angry about the cost of doing business and paying off the middle man. Such is life, always a price to pay.

  2. norm permalink
    12 February 2014 5:50 am

    Not Mexico, maybe relevant to the above: Linda and I had just got off the shuttle in Copan Honduras, having traveled from Antigua Guatemala, we were looking to find a place to bunk. Not two steps from the van, a 40 something aged man walks up and tells us that Copan is a safe place, ” we take care of safety in Copan”. He had a 9MM stuck in his waist ban. We spent a week in Copan, visited the ruins, ate out, strolled the little village-I never felt safer. Walking the streets, the doors to people’s houses were wide open, no buzz gates on the stores, it was safe. In the week long visit, I heard a pistol go through a clip and two on a reload at 3AM one night but who in their right mind is out on the street at 3AM in Honduras? My neighbor in Ohio does the same thing now and then.

    We saw the guy with the 9MM working security at a nightclub, a clean cut looking guy in a suit was ferrying ‘something’ in and out of the club with nary a raised eyebrow from the man watching over the festivities. I sat and watched, normally when I see people running traffic I move on but this was normal and there was no more risk than there was from falling on the quaint cobblestone streets of Copan.

    We went on to La Ceiba on Honduras’ north coast: people were running to get off the street at dusk. The good people of La Ceiba had to rely on the police for their protection…

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