How poseurs and clubbers helped kill 10,000 Mexicans
On the current, sickening trends, the number of Mexicans killed in the drug-related bloodshed which has paralysed the country since January 2007 will hit 10,000 within the next few weeks, or possibly even days.
To put that in perspective, an estimated 3500 people died in the 30-year period of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It also eclipses the number of American troops killed in the War in Iraq, which at the latest count stands at 4333.
Australia’s sizeable cokehead community - even the casual users who had a discreet line in the loo last night at some groovy Sydney wine bar - should give themselves a quiet pat on the back for the role they’ve played in the deaths of these people.
And every celebrity who revels in the attention of their own pathetic battle with substance abuse, and uses their “brave” decision to go into detox as some kind of fashion statement, should also take some of the credit too.
What’s happening in Mexico is a simple case study in supply and demand.
A dignified and sophisticated country has gone totally off the rails because its political class, its police force, and sections of its judiciary have either through greed or unimaginable fear become the vassals of the most despicable criminal gangs on the face of the earth.
The country’s most recent descent into lawlessness has been made possible primarily by political corruption, and the (literally) mind-blowing violence which is directed towards those who stand up to corruption. Men like the heroic 1994 presidential candidate and anti-cartel crusader Luis Donaldo Colosio, who ended up with a bullet in his skull while campaigning in a town square in Tijuana.
The word “brazen” does not even go close to capturing the conduct of the drug cartels in the elimination of any opposition, be it from rival drug gangs, or from politicians or the police.
To this end it is easy to see why so many good people in Mexico either ignore what is going on around them, or become involved in it out of fear for their safety.
So many of the people who have been killed have been impoverished street-level people who were heavied into low-level involvement with the warring cartels. A staggering number of the dead have been civilians who have been caught up in shootouts in restaurants, stores, public parks.
A few weeks ago 16 people were shot dead during a three-hour-long street fight in Acapulco, the jasmine-scented beach resort where middle-aged American folks arrive on cruise ships to drink cocktails out of coconuts.
It has also become common for warring cartels to execute not just their opponents but the wives, parents and children of their opponents.
In this freest of free markets, driven largely by the west’s insatiable appetite for drugs and its moral ambivalence of their use, the cartels have also acted like any other strategically-minded business by diversifying.
At the international level this has involved challenging long-standing drug distribution monopolies in Colombia and Asia. At the domestic level it’s involved exploiting and terrorising the Mexican population.
It’s estimated that the drug cartels actually make more money from people smuggling than they do from the production and distribution of coke, because people are prepared to pay so much money to have a shot at a new life in the United States.
The heart-breaking character of Mexican people smuggling is that, again, it so often involves the parents of babies and toddlers who have gone to life-ending lengths to extract their children from the poverty they’ve been born into.
One of the most moving speeches I have ever heard was by Arizona Governor John McCain at a News Corporation conference in California, where he expounded on why he was one of the few Republicans who was championing a green card moratorium to let every “illegal” remain in the States. He told how he had personally witnessed crime scenes in the middle of the Arizona desert where entire families were found baked alive in the back of broken-down vans, huddled together and clutching their rosary beads.
The other rapidly-growing arm of these businesses is kidnapping and extortion, where innocent middle-class people who have no involvement whatsoever with the drug trade are picked up at random on the streets and held and usually beaten until they receive a ransom. Often when the ransom is paid they are still killed anyway as the cartels are determined to frame their reputation around notoriety.
In one recent case in Tijuana three kidnapped civilians were burned to death and their bodies were chained to the front of a popular pizza bar.
As someone who has lived in Mexico it pains and puzzles me that the extent of this brutality is largely ignored. The Mexicans are right in thinking that they are regarded by outsiders as a vaguely comical lot, generally seen in caricature.
The few stories from the Mexican drug war that have received attention by our media have been of the Quentin Tarantino meets Gabriel Garcia Marquez variety, such as the raid on a drug house which found a purpose-built pornographic movie studio and a private zoo with an albino lion, or the bust in the country’s north-east where, along with some 20 hit-men, dealers and extortionists, police also found the Mexican beauty queen Laura Zuniga, Miss Sinaloa 2008, who had become a gangster’s moll and was found hiding in a truck filled with AK-47s.
But these stories provide little context to what is really going on, where every day two or three people, on a bad day a dozen, get knocked off in the battle for market share, or the pursuit of profits unrelated to drugs.
One of the few media organisations that has devoted thought and energy to covering this war is the Los Angeles Times. Its website has a section called Mexico Under Siege and I urge anyone who is interested in what is really going on to read it.
The reality is that Mexico is now being subjected to a kind of moral and civil breakdown which isn’t a world away from what a mob like the Taliban has inflicted on Afghanistan, albeit for obviously different reasons.
But despite Obama’s visit to Mexico City and the rhetoric from Hillary Clinton about helping Mexico with law enforcement, the Mexicans are largely fending for themselves in this one-sided battle.
The origins of which can be traced back to our trendier bars and nightclubs where, unlike on the streets of Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and Nogales, people are having the time of their lives.
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