Mexico’s Future in 2010, Calderon’s Failed Drug War

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The other day I received a comment to my last blog “What Will Become of Mexico in 2010?” The commenter lives in Central Mexico and took me to task saying my piece was “full of inaccuracies and ridiculous exaggerations” and was “sloppy, shameful work.”

Since I am often critical of sensationalistic news stories about violence in Mexico and on the U.S.-Mexico border I wanted to respond to my commenter called (gtodon). But when my response turned into several paragraphs I thought I better turn it into a blog instead. So here goes.

What so incensed my commenter among other things were my following statements:

“Friends and family in Mexico used to take solace in the view that the kidnappings and killings were isolated events that only happened to those involved in the drug trade.

That old view is disappearing. It’s being replaced by fear and a nagging insecurity. These days being in the wrong place at the wrong time can get you killed. The Mexican Army shoots with impunity and cartels exact their revenge in the streets. Innocent bystanders, many of them children, are routinely killed.”

The commenter said these statements were “absolute nonsense, and unsupported by any statistics.“  I admit I didn’t use any statistics and the paragraph is quite dramatic. It’s because I wrote it in a fit of frustration and utter despair over Calderon’s handling of the drug cartel situation, which is rapidly getting worse with no end in sight.

I wish my statements in my previous blog were ridiculous exaggerations…but unfortunately they are not. I will now back them up with more links to prove my point.

The commenter lives in Central Mexico. These killings are getting worse along the border and northern Mexico: Durango, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Baja California for example. Sinaloa, Guerrero and Michoacan are enduring terrible violence also. The Mexican newspaper El Universal does a great job of covering the mess. They called 2009 the worst so far in terms of violence. Here is an info graphic they did of the killings state by state.

True, I don’t have any statistics for the number of children that have been killed in the crossfire. However, here’s a link from the El Paso Times, which has covered the violence in Juarez since it erupted. Just a scan of the headlines, and I count at least 10 children. One child is too many. Here is another article where three students were killed in Sinaloa.

What I have noticed from my daily reading of news clips from Mexico and the U.S. border is that the increasing militarization of the Mexican side of the border is leading to an increase in deaths of innocent people caught in the crossfire. The Mexican military is indiscriminately opening fire in public places in their pursuit of drug cartel members. Increasingly innocent children and bystanders are being killed. What exactly, does Felipe Calderon hope to gain from this? It’s time he explained what the endgame is to the Mexican people. How many more innocent people are going to die while the government and the cartels shoot it out in the streets? Does he really think the billion-dollar drug market is going to go away?

I’ll refer you to a recent case of a woman from Brownsville who was killed by a random bullet while sitting in her friend’s living room in Matamoros. The bullet came from a soldier’s rifle. The army was conducting a drug raid in a nearby apartment. Here is another link to a recent gun battle outside of Monterrey where you will see the army shoot a police officer down in the street in a residential neighborhood.

The drug cartel leaders need to be defeated no question. But has the Mexican government considered all of their options in crippling these cartels? What about wiping out their bank accounts so they no longer have the cash to corrupt the police and government officials? Consider this new book out in Mexico called El Narco: La Guerra Fallida, (Narco: the Failed War) which the LA Times mentioned in an article the other day.

The book written by the former spokesman for Vicente Fox Ruben Aguilar and former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda is one of the first books to take an in depth look and criticize Calderon’s 3-year war on the drug cartels. According to the Times “it proposes some public-safety measures, including the creation of a national police force and a no-fly zone over southern Mexico. Rather than send troops to fight drug cartels, they argue, Mexico should focus on limiting the “collateral damage” that most aggrieves Mexicans: kidnappings, extortion, car theft and corruption.”

Not like the Fox Administration ever did anything to stop the cartels either, right? Still, I think it’s time to take a realistic and in depth look at this madness. Both the U.S. and Mexican governments need to do something radically different unless they want to see Mexico suffer even worse economic and security crises. In the U.S. we need to give up the ridiculous War on Drugs and start dealing with reality, which I touched on in my previous blog.

The commenter also wrote: “Many educated Mexicans who have the means to leave are choosing exile.” Some have left, true. But “many”? How about some hard numbers?

Mexicans with money and visas are leaving Mexico. Maybe I should say “some” instead of “many”?

I don’t know if there is any way to quantify how many. But I can say I know of two Mexican families personally right now looking for homes here in the United States because of the growing threat of violence and kidnappings. Not long ago, Alejandro Junco, the owner of the influential Grupo Reforma newspaper chain made headlines when he moved to Austin for his family’s safety.

How many more grenades, how many more kidnappings, how many more deaths will it take before the U.S. and Mexican governments change their tactics and their outmoded drug policies ? If they don’t I predict 2010 will set a new record for violence in Mexico. I really hope I can look back in 2011 and say this last statement was a “ridiculous exaggeration.”

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. She has a master’s in public health from Texas A&M University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.