It’s Time to De-Escalate the Drug War
And we never really face what is in front of us, never face what is inside our gutless language of cartels and drug lords and homeland security, never face that forces are unleashed on the land with names like poverty, a fix, murder, and despair, and our tools cannot master these forces. …Things happen and no one says much. Then after a while, no one admits the thing even happened.
-Charles Bowden on life in Ciudad Juarez
US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual resigned last week after cables he sent were released by WikiLeaks suggesting he thought Mexican police and military forces were crippled by corruption.
Truth was no defense in Pascual’s case.
Since right-wing President Felipe Calderon won a razor thin majority in 2006 and immediately declared a bloody shooting war on drug cartels, some cartel leaders have been killed or arrested. But, then, like mushrooms, as happened in Colombia with the killing of Jose Escobar, the number of cartels has grown from four to seven. In the crossfire, over 34,000 Mexican citizens have been murdered, many in notoriously gruesome fashion without a shred of mercy.
It seems the cartels have calculated that their strong suit in countering Calderon’s bully war – fought in conjunction with US drug warriors and with lots of US money -- is extreme and certain violence of the sort that means not only will you be gruesomely tortured, dismembered and killed, but so will your entire family.
In his book Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Field, Charles Bowden paints a horrific picture of a city overwhelmed to the point of mass numbness and the inability to even remotely address the present descent into barbarism. Only two percent of the crimes in the city ever go to court, let alone end in a conviction.
Calderon’s war, most agree, is a dismal failure. He cannot run for re-election, but since he wants his National Action Party (PAN) to win big in next year's election, some shift or change may be in the air. Security is now in the forefront of people’s minds in Mexico. Naturally, life and death trumps concerns about drug trafficking.
US dollars aside, Calderon has repeatedly slammed the US for not addressing the demand for drugs here that drives the supply side in Mexico. He is also critical of the ease with which guns and automatic weapons pass from the US into Mexico.
“As far as reducing the demand for drugs, they haven’t done so,” Calderon told the El Universal newspaper. “As far as reducing the flow of arms, they haven’t -- it has increased.”
In one embarrassing incident, two AK-47s that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents allowed to be shipped to Mexico as part of a sting operation were used in the murder of a US Border Patrol agent.