Life in “Murder City”: Part II

Some numbers from “A Tale of Two Cities: Ciudad Juarez and El Paso”:

Continuing from the previous post, I think it’s fair to say that here in the U.S., we cannot isolate ourselves from these events. We have our own set of diverse problems, but we’re linked to Mexico in more ways than most Americans know. From maquiladoras to SB170 to our drug problem, our relationship with Mexico should be one of the most pressing issues for Washington, yet you don’t often see these grisly statistics.

So far, our war on drugs consists of pursuing drug runners in Mexico, to Colombia, to parts of Central America-basically chasing the cartels from one area to another all over the continent. This does nothing to quell the anger and fear over the impact of impunity. How can this whack-a-mole strategy make a dent in the insanity of Juarez? Charles Bowden, author of “Murder City”, commented that 50,000 have died since Felipe Calderon took office, and about one hundred of those were soldiers. Calderon’s pleas for ending trafficking of weapons sends a contradictory message to the corrupt involvement of his government in this war. Noe Ramirez Mandujano, Calderon’s top anti-drug official,was arrested for taking bribes from traffickers. We know now that most of the victims are not new members of cartels or other criminals. The Nation reports that “On June 21, Cronica, another Mexico City paper, presented a National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) study that examined more than 5,000 complaints filed by Mexican citizens against the army….” The report details instances of rape, murder, torture, kidnapping and robbery. The Nation also reports that “a former member of the Juárez cartel [was shocked] to learn of a new cabinet appointment by President Calderón because he says he used to deliver suitcases of money to the man as payment from the Juárez cartel.” Despite the bravery of Mexican journalists, these events are still incredibly underreported in Mexico due to fear and not reported at all in the US. The Nation goes on to state that

“Nor does the fact that in the midst of what is repeatedly called a war against drug cartels by both the American and Mexican governments and press, Mexican soldiers seem immune to bullets. With over 8,000 Mexicans killed in 2009 alone, the army reported losses of thirty-five that year. According to Reporters Without Borders, a total of sixty-seven journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, while eleven others have gone missing since 2003. Mexico is now one of the most dangerous places in the world to be reporter. And possibly the safest place in the world to be a soldier.

When there is a noteworthy massacre, the Mexican government says it proves the drug industry is crumbling. When there is a period of relative peace, the Mexican government says it shows their policy is winning. On the night of July 15, a remote-controlled car bomb exploded in downtown Juárez, killing at least three people—a federal policeman, a kidnap victim dressed in a police uniform and used as a decoy and a physician who rushed to the scene from his private office to help dozens of people injured in the blast.  A graffiti message attributed the blast to the Juárez cartel and claimed it as a warning to police who work for the Sinaloa cartel.

On July 20, the Mexican ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, minimized the Juárez bombing, saying that it was not aimed indiscriminately at civilians and that it did not indicate any escalation in violence. He parroted the declaration of Mexican Attorney General Arturo Chávez that the motivation for the bombing is economic, not ideological, and that “we have no evidence in the country of narco-terrorism.” US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual also indicated that this violence in Mexico, which also included a grenade attack on the US Consulate in Nuevo Laredo a few months ago, ‘is disturbing but has not reached the level of terrorism.'”

I have no words to accurately articulate my shock at that last statement, and to understand it better you should read the whole article.

Back to us (actually, come to think of it, we never left the equation). Latin American leaders are very timidly calling for an end to the demand and consumption of drugs in the United States, because of our economic, political, and  military foreign policy ties. One suggestion included the taxation of consumer countries for the drugs seized in the region on their behalf. The other option is that-which-must-not-be-named: legalization. Just like in the NRA case, again we must end with the power of political fear in Washington: claims that the lack of progress is due to “‘head-in-the-sand resistance within the Obama administration and Congress to any real discussion of alternative drug policy options’ because of fears of attack by political foes.” Other than the whack-a-mole strategy, Truthout says that the only other tactic is throwing people in jail for drug-related offenses. It’s not putting much of a dent in this mess either-an approximately $100 billion demand for illegal drugs exists in North America, and it’s on the rise.

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