|No More Blood!|
In sharp contrast, Mexico has always had a clear, marked split between those with wealth and power and those without. For at least five hundred years, the people had no power in relation to authoritarian and corrupt governments -- first under the Spanish, then under a series of virtual dictators and, lastly, under the seventy-year long, one-party hegemony of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
The Spanish conquerors, the peninsulares, imposed an explicit caste system to define the difference between los de arriba y los de abajo, the haves and the have-nots. The ostensibly pure Spanish-blooded Mexicans, the criollos, and the Ladinos, hispanicized, mixed-race mestizos, continued this discriminatory split after Independence in spite of outlawing it in their constitutions. This split persists between the nouveau riche of the post-NAFTA, privatized, Mexico -- the world of Carlos Slim -- and el pueblo, the common people. According to a recent study by the World Bank, the bottom fifth of the country earns about 4 percent of the income while the top tenth controls 41 percent.
Nearly half of Mexicans are very poor, despite the acclaimed rise of the GDP since globalization. The public education system remains abysmal, stuck in traditonal methods of rote learning for students and a patronage system for teachers, who can sell their positions when they retire. Nearly fifty percent of workers are in the "informal economy," earning a few pesos a day as laborers and vendors, without government health or pension benefits.
Corruption remains endemic among the police and courts, as well as other government agencies. Local and state police remain vestiges of the enforcement arms of corrupt, authoritarian politicians. They are poorly paid and educated, often having at best a junior high education and being functionally illiterate. They do not know how to collect evidence. They are accustomed to using torture to gain confessions. Those they arrest are frequently released for lack of evidence. As a result, less than two percent of reported crimes lead to convictions. In prison, the prisoners run the show. So there is, in reality, no rule of law, no real justice. There is only impunity.
Thus, for many Mexicans there is still no future, no opportunity to prosper. There is only the despair of powerlessness, lack of faith in the government and in the institutions of civil society, and fear of and disdain for the justice system. A recent poll found that political parties, congressional deputies, senators, the Supreme Court, governors and mayors maintain high levels of public disapproval and lack of confidence.
NAFTA was touted to bring economic opportunity to the average Mexican. Instead, it brought low-wage, assembly-line jobs in maquiladoras, factories south of the border which import car parts and components of other manufactured items in order to assemble cars, TV's and the like for re-export to the U.S. International and Mexican owners make the profits. The workers make mimimum wages without protection of labor laws. NAFTA also brought U.S. corn into Mexico where, ironically, it originated. Mexican famers were forced out of the corn market and could turn only to one or the other of the two remaining economic bridges to the wealth of the U.S.
The second bridge is the market of mano de obra, the Mexican manual labor that supplies the needs of U.S. business in the fields of agriculture, construction, service industries and home care. Remittances, the money sent back to Mexico by these laborers, has been one of the largest sources of income in the country and kept many families from the depths of poverty. Border "security enforcement," begun under the administration of Ronald Regean with the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), was continued by President Bill Clinton, and -- with the creation of the Homeland Security Department in 2003 under George W. Bush -- was raised to the level of a defense against a "national security threat". The Obama administration has continued and accelerated this strategy. This "border security strategy" has made the flow of Mexican labor --and thus access to this source of economic opportunity and relative power -- exceedingly difficult and dangerous.
This leaves the third bridge to money and power between the U.S. and Mexico: the drug market. People in the U.S. want their desires for mind-altering substances satisfied. Legal alcohol and cigarettes are not powerful enough. U.S. citizens are willing and able to spend billions of dollars a year to obtain what they seek. They have few qualms about the consequences -- for themselves or anyone else -- of doing so. U.S. laws prohibiting the sale and consumption of such drugs has not stopped its citizens from seeking what they want. They have only forced the market into the hands of people willing to risk jail in return for earning huge profits.
Through its drug market and its paradoxical prohibition laws, U.S. has created the only remaining access to the wealth of the "land of opportunity" for the hopeless of Mexico. This opportunity to overcome the discrepancy in power between the two worlds is so great that those in the drug market, the so-called cartels, are willing to commit murder and mayhem to gain and keep control of the largest amount of power possible.
Given the lack of a criminal justice system in Mexico -- or rather, one that even works for the cartels -- there are no actual limits placed upon them. The cartels can act with impunity, flaunting the efforts of the Mexican goverment to control them and terrifying the populace into silence. Their brutality -- going beyond all human limits in their torture, massacres, beheadings and other heinous acts -- speaks of their sociopathy, their complete sense of being beyond the formal law or human morality. They are acts of ultimate impunity in the face of both Mexican and U.S. governments' impotent attempts to stop them. This violence is rooted in the chasms between wealth and power and poverty and powelessness both within Mexico and between Mexico and the United States.
The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity is beginning to dispel the powerlessness of Mexicans. Victims of violence, injustice and impunity are speaking up, joining together to make the truth visible, to tell their stories and demand justice. They are discovering the power of united voices and common action.
However, the violence in Mexico will only be significantly reduced when the citizens and politicians of the United States recognize the split between the impotence of U.S. drug policy and the power of the drug market and also recognize how this split fuels the violence. Only with this recognition of the role of U.S. power in the destruction of Mexico will the U.S. take the action -- legalizing the regulated sale and consumption of these drugs -- that will lead to reduction in the violence. Under the current strategy of the U.S. and Mexican governments, the violence will only worsen.