Mexico Is Bleeding

Mexico Is Bleeding

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Yesterday, while I was having dinner with some friends, one of them got a call on his cell phone from another friend, saying that his father had been kidnapped and murdered in the state of Guerrero...

The day before yesterday, I was chatting with a university professor who told me that Los Zetas -- a group tied to drug trafficking -- had contacted her sister, the owner of a tire business in the state of Mexico, to extort money from her...

The day before yesterday, newspapers reported that 14 people were found beheaded in the tourist port city of Acapulco...

These events are examples of the current reality in Mexico, a country completely overrun by organized crime, where seemingly irrational violence can affect anyone, where impunity brazenly prevails. Yet, it is a reality that the Mexican government and its representatives abroad insist on denying.

In the federal police hangar east of Mexico City, men and women captured by the government and accused of being major drug lords are held. The place is imposing, majestic. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of police officers armed to the teeth and enormous combat helicopters displayed on a large field. President Felipe Calderón's staging for the press is almost perfect. At first glance at the spectacle, one might assume that the Mexican government, this time, truly wants to put an end to organized crime.

However, more than a few social scientists and Mexican journalists agree that the excessive growth of organized crime in this country, and the violence that it generates, would not be possible without the prior complicity of public officials, police chiefs and military men.

So far, no high-ranking politician has been touched. There continues to be, as renowned Mexican journalist Julio Scherer has pointed out, a long-standing pact of impunity in the country. Those in power are untouchable.

To make matters worse, as Edgardo Buscaglia, an expert on organized crime at the United Nations, has repeatedly pointed out, the financial machine of the Mexican drug trade remains untouched. Where do the billions of dollars generated by the drug and kidnapping trade end up? Does the Mexican government want us to believe that drug traffickers hide the money under their beds in the mountains? On the contrary, their wealth is hardly hidden. Mexican drug money is used to buy huge mansions and luxury cars, and as Buscaglia asserts, it is the means of support for major companies that operate under the protection of politicians.

It is estimated that nearly 30,000 people have been killed so far during the Calderón administration. Organized crime, its colossal economic structure unaffected, has not weakened; its capacity to generate violence and engage in drug trafficking has not diminished. As soon as the government captures a thug or an alleged drug lord, someone else has already replaced him.

Meanwhile, in civil society there have been a number of responses, mostly in the form of protests against government policy. Calderón’s strategy to deploy federal troops and police to drug trafficking hot spots in the country, some say, has only led to more violence. One recent protest movement being supported by prominent Mexican intellectuals, artists and academics, has chosen to use the campaign slogan, "¡Basta de sangre!" ("Enough blood!")

"The failure of a purely military and police strategy to defeat organized crime is clear," says writer Elena Poniatowska, a member of the aforementioned movement. "What the (Calderón administration) has not focused on is intelligence work, prevention and economically isolating the mafias. Without those, violence is a sure thing."

Other campaign organizers have criticized the Mexican president for his lack of interest in education, culture and jobs for young people.

While the subject of organized crime remains a political and media game for the Mexican government, no one appears to pay attention to the soaring poverty. While narco-politicians continue to be free millionaires and the financial structure of organized crime remains untouchable, the pool of blood that now covers Mexico continues to grow.

So, as the slogan goes: "Enough blood!" Enough impunity!

Manuel Ortiz contributes to NAM from Mexico. He is a journalist and sociologist at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).