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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Barbarization of Mexico

Small Wars Journal has an article, written in 2011, that discusses the increasing barbarization of Mexico. (The article is a PDF that you can download here). The authors make the following observation:
Perhaps the most prominent element of Mexico’s narcoviolence is the increasing tempo of atrocity. Daily media reports recount beheadings, dismemberments, persons hung from bridges, the discovery of mass graves (narcofosas), grenade attacks, drive-by shootings, rape and
femicide, running gun battles in the streets, assassinations of police, mayors, and journalists. Refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are increasingly a factor in the conflict. While illegal immigration to the US as a whole has declined, a quiet exodus of affluent Mexicans across the border is emerging. Meanwhile, one in three murder victims go unidentified and few cases reach prosecution, highlighting a state of impunity.
In one recent example of atrocity, a casino in Monterrey—Casino Royale—was the scene of a deadly assault on Thursday 25 August 2011. Initially pegged as a grenade attack, it was in fact an arson attack where a group of at least eight assailants (believed to be linked to Los Zetas) poured gasoline inside the casino before setting it on fire, trapping dozens of people inside and killing 52 people. The brutality of the attack shocked Mexico and led to the government to characterize it as an act of terrorism. In a nationally televised speech, an angry President Felipe Calderón declared three days of mourning on Friday and labeled the attack—the worst against civilians in the nation's recent history—an act of “terrorism.” In Calderón’s words, "We are not
confronting common criminals... We are facing true terrorists who have gone beyond all limits."
 
It is easy to lose sight of the violence’s human toll in the debate over insurgency tactics, flurry of statistics, and high-profile events like the casino attack. One of the most saddening cultural artifacts of the drug war is a video of a Mexican schoolteacher keeping her students close to the ground while gunfire rages outside. She leads them in song to try to keep them calm while simultaneously keeping their heads down from stray gunfire. Such daily descriptions of horror belie assertions that Mexico’s ongoing conflict with drug cartels is mere criminality.
Just as an example, here is a recent article posted at Borderland Beat about increased violence and collapse of the rule of law in the Tarahumara Mountains:

At the municipality, the local area's government center, the inhabitants have turned their homes into "tanquetas" (light armored vehicles) and live with the uncertainty that at any moment and at any hour, they will see armed men, with or without hoods, come to fight with each other or with the townspeople.

On weekends, teachers, medical personnel and residents leave the town, because the violence gets worse on those days.

"When we return, we find out there have been murders, abductions (levantamientos), kidnappings. Ransom demands are made in millions of pesos, generally 5 million pesos. People work hard to get the money together, it's very common for them to work the gum opium (la goma); they sell it and resell it and get the money," explains one of the town's school teachers.

People get together early in the day and behind closed doors to celebrate birthdays. "There's so much fear, that you lock the door, and if somebody knocks you don't open the door or ask who it is until you hear the voice of whoever is knocking. Or, if they come to visit, they have to call ahead by phone to warn you. Schools are always locked up, kids only go out for recess, and they don't leave until their parents come (for them). Only a few are allowed to leave by themselves because they live close by," he emphasizes.

According to the teacher, more than half of the students in one of the grade schools are orphaned of either a mother or father. In fact, there are class groups in which out of 23 students, 18 are orphans, since women are also murdered because they're the partners of men involved with criminal groups, he points out.
Read the whole thing.

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