In the last three years,
MORE than three years
ago, the man who directs the destinies of our nation from Los Pinos
[the presidential residence] declared war against the Mexican drug cartels.
Since then, we Mexicans have given - according to official statistics
- more than 31,000 lives to the war, with countless injured. Several
large cities (
How did we get here?
How can this inertia be stopped before
First. Calderon negotiated
the launching of this war with President Bush, not with the then newly-arrived
Obama. And he agreed in terms of a package deal with absurd conditions.
The drug war has never been, nor should it be, a Mexican war. It was,
and is, an essentially American war generated by increased consumption
of drugs on a global scale in the
Images. I was able
to uncover, through reading local newspapers in
Second. It took the
Calderon government a year to ask the
Third. Before starting a war - and we don't need to read Sun Tzu or Friedrich Engels to know - the state should conduct solid intelligence work. Who are the traffickers? Where are they? What are their ties? What is their financial structure like? A thousand and one questions needed to be answered. Today, we know that when Calderon started the war against the narcos, all or much of the intelligence apparatus of the Mexican state was controlled by factions of the drug gangs themselves. By using anti-narcotic officials at the highest levels, they conducted operations against rival gangs, stirring a hornet's nest of revenge that seems to be without end. How many policemen were working for the enemy? Agency directors, organised crime units, SIEDO, AFI commanders, deputy attorneys-general... To date, the Mexican government still does not know or does not want to know. To date, state intelligence is infiltrated, distorted, and fragmented. It is (as can be determined from their own press statements) absolutely incoherent.
Fourth.The judicial system is corrupted. It has been that way for many many years. There are officials from the Attorney-General's office who have been discredited, corrupt judges, absolute ineptitude when there is no declared complicity with the crime.One can't go to war with such a structure. How many criminals have been let go in the past three years?How many have received insufficient sentences when compared to the magnitude of their crimes? Pepe Reveles said the other day in a roundtable that those who handed over the corpses to El Pozolero (and we are talking about more than 100 dead people) would be set free soon because the Attorney-General could only charge them with possession of weapons and drugs due to a badly carried out investigation.A cancerous chaos reigns, as has customarily reigned in the Mexican justice system, a paradise of accidents and coincidences. We live in a territory with a backlog of investigations, disorganised files, no scientific evidence, lack of a national fingerprint bank, nonexistent gathering of information from all the policing agencies in the country. How many times have we read in the news that a person under arrest had recently been in jail? Who let him out?
Fifth. In the
Images. The most frightening of anecdotes: In Torreon a man is stopped at a red light. When the light turns green, the car in front of him stops without reason. He wants to lay on the horn, but resists the urge. These are not times for honking. The road is backed up. The light cycles through and turns red again. The man decides to get out of his car and kindly ask the men in the stalled car if there is any way he could be of assistance. The driver of the stalled car shows him a gun and hands him 200 pesos. 'You seem like a good guy. I just lost a bet with this jerk' (pointing to his co-pilot, who, smiling, shows off an Uzi).
'If you had honked, I would have shot you. Today is your lucky day, pal.' The car takes off. The kind man just stands there in a cold sweat.
Packages of money
Sixth. Conan Doyle, in the voice of Sherlock Holmes, used to say that when the story was unclear, 'follow the money'; one must follow the money, the financial trail. Narco trafficking, like the smuggling of alcohol in the US during the Prohibition era, or car theft in Mexico, is a criminal business, it follows the rules of a semi-visible market, it has investments, is subject to production and distribution.A portion of the money, millions and millions of dollars, will commonly be moved in packets of green bills wrapped up in newspapers and in Samsonite suitcases. But the other portion, perhaps the most important, becomes investments, houses, luxury automobiles, office buildings, hotels, stores, restaurants.
During the time of
Caro Quintero, a district of Ciudad Juarez, jokingly called
Images. A Santander Bank manager had been telling his regional boss for two years that he was receiving money from an unknown source. He was told: 'Money is money.'
Seventh. An Army convoy in La Laguna heads toward a high-security prison: they are transporting an important prisoner. Unfamiliar with the area, they have a local police patrol heading up the front and another in back. When they reach a traffic light, the local patrol stops. He flashes his lights three times and then zooms away at 100 miles per hour. The officer at the back does the same in reverse. From the alleys, gunmen emerge and engage in a shootout against the military. The patrolmen have yet to reappear in public, nor have the local officials, who have vanished into the big information black hole that is Calderon's war.
Today, we know from
the statements of those under witness protection that for years police
chiefs played escort to drug transport runs and protected narco bosses.
But it is not only the chiefs; many other police officers have acted
in collaboration with, abetted, informed, and protected the drug bosses.
The state has supplied the foot soldiers. One in three drug-related
arrests - you can read it every day in the newspapers - is a police
officer or former police or military man. Years ago in
Is it possible to
hide the fact when someone's salary goes from $1,500 a month to $25,000?
How many hours of economic research could a policeman endure before
it is discovered that he owns six houses in subdivisions throughout
the state of
Everything is born of a police service whose morals are perverted. And this is old Mexican history, which reaches its highest level during the 'German' times. The hitch is impunity. Mexicans know that historically the police and the Army are not a force for maintaining order, but rather a quasi-legal criminal force. Knowing what the Calderon government should have known (we cannot assume that the stupidity has stretched to the bounds of absurdity)? How could one dare to launch a war against the drug bosses with human resources like these? It was not only a war that one could not win, but one could not begin it without first purging the police force. But how do we clean up the police force without at the same time transforming the repressive nature of the Mexican state? A retired general once told me that he had no doubt there were still hundreds of honest captains and majors in the Army, but they were not the decision makers. You cannot stage a war against narco trafficking with this quality of human resources. There is no possibility at all of changing the situation while the dominant moral in law enforcement is the one we see today.
Images. Any citizen
with a cellphone can record them: On the road from
Companies that charge for protection
Eighth. Today the
Narco is not only a dozen armed groups that control one of the most
important economic activities of the country. They are companies that
charge for protection, for example to all
Images. Some children in a picture on the front page of La Jornada show a sign that reads: 'Dear Kings, we do not want Calderon's war.'But it's not enough not to want it, we must stop it. So that means, before anything else, solving, among others, the eight problems that are presented here.
Paco Ignacio Taibo II is a celebrated Mexican writer, historian and political analyst. This article originally appeared in La Jornada (15 January 2011). The above, translated from the Spanish by Sandy Juarez and Jason Wallach, is reproduced from the Toward Freedom website (www.towardfreedom.com).
*Third World Resurgence No. 249, May 2011, pp 34-36