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AMLO and the Drug War: what is to be done?

2 September 2018

Epigmenio Ibarra, a photojournalist who has covered wars in Central America and Colombia, in Serbia and Bosnia, in the Persian Gulf with the U.S Army, with the Shiite insurgents in southern Iraq and with Saddam Hussein’s troops in Baghdad, has seen enough wars close-up to speak on what does, and doesn’t work. In his piece for SinEmbargo (translated by Reed Brundage for his Mexico Voices blog*) Ibarra looks at how we got into this useless “drug war” and the challenges the new administration faces in extricating ourselves from the slaughter.

Calderón’s megalomaniac urgency to seek legitimacy [because of his close and possibly fraudulent victory over López Obrador], the pressure he put on the commanders to obtain results, stop capos, and dismantle organizations, as well as the frustration of pursuing an elusive enemy, and the enormous firepower in the hands of untrained soldiers sent to execute tasks that belong to the police and to move among the civilian population, ended up creating the tragedy.

AMLO has declared that his objective is to pacify the country. He is determined to achieve this by deploying all kinds of resources, even though some of his proposals scandalize those who—knowing very little about the war—grossly simplify them with the purpose of attacking him. Achieving that goal will not be easy or quick.

On December 1, we will enter a complex period of transition, in which we will have to rebuild practically all the police forces, from the federal to those of the smallest municipalities, as well as the federal and state public ministries [agencies including prosecutors, investigative police and forensic experts]. López Obrador will have to reconcile between what he dreamed and what he can do, without losing the goal of getting what he dreamed as soon as possible.

I do not like the idea of the military remaining in the streets at all. I fight it and I will continue to do so, so the soldiers return to their barracks, but I understand that the immediate withdrawal of the Army and Marines can be dangerous. However, it would be more dangerous to maintain the doctrine that has prevailed for the past 12 years and continue waging a war of extermination. I am confident that the new President will not order the military or the police to engage in acts of repression. Peace, as he says, is the fruit of justice and neither are achieved at gunpoint.

López Obrador’s challenge, as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, will be to contain the Army and the Navy, to make them follow strict protocols for the use of force, to submit to the civilian justice system those commanders who have been involved in human rights violations, and change their orders radically.

It is no longer a matter, as Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto did, of waging a war against the cartels, but of providing security to the population. Using force to fight will have to be changed to using force for dissuasion. Fire is not extinguished with gasoline.

* If you don’t have Mexico Voices on your reader, you should. Brundage (a retired Foreign Service officer) has for several years now either translated, or overseen translations, from the Mexican media. He seems to read everything, and provides an excellent resource to both the Spanish-challenged and to those who, while they can read Spanish, do not have the resources to delve into the broad spectrum of Mexican political issues that aren’t picked up by the foreign press.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Peter Melvoin permalink
    3 September 2018 12:47 am


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