Mar 13, 2012

Drug War: Guadalajara: Profiles in War

La Jornada: Like many other things which have begun out of ignorance, when Calderón christened his offensive against crime “a war,” not even he had any idea what he was initiating. He understood even less the implications that a war, any war, has on the people and state institutions. Today he is learning the costs to the Mexican people. One example is Guadalajara.

He strolled into a nightmare, still not understanding its scope, without knowing what he was doing. His obsequious advisors from Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), Navy (Semar), Secretariat of Public Security (SSP), and the Attorney General (PGR) fell silent and let him wander. Although it’s been said a thousand times, it will never be enough in the face of the historic, brutal damage whose final scope we do not yet know.

By the end of this administration, as a result of the violence which has broken out, there will have been 60 thousand people killed and 220 thousand displaced and in search of safety in Ciudad Juarez alone, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, a Norwegian center specialized in the subject, which has puts us on the level of Somalia, Libya, and Iraq.

Calderón’s refrain is “we can’t stop fighting crime.” It turns out that in five years, no one has asked him to. What would have been desirable was that we fight crime with a minimal amount of perspective, intelligence, and common sense, which we did not. We have gotten ourselves in a totally atypical war, but a war nonetheless. Should anyone doubt that fact, he should see the images of the conflict in Guadalajara. Let him tell us how they’re from those seen in Cairo, Iraq, or Afghanistan. There are belligerents, there are disputed and innocent casualties, including minors, there is the use of the weapons, tactics, and operations (or whatever you’d like to call them) of war. There are dead, wounded, a population in flight, the destruction of property. So?

But there is more: in Guadalajara, like throughout the rest of the country, there is societal unrest. It has created a culture of fear and with it a cruel and egotistical individualism, a distancing from traditional social ties known as cohesion, solidarity, which were always so rich in our society. Today it seems the mental slogan is “every man for himself.” It’s the fear taking over.

The federal and state institutions have suffered a decrease in their prestige, and rightly so. Like the Army and the Navy, the PGR , the police, the prosecutors and local courts are not prepared for the quick strength which was required. The penitentiary system has exploded because it was offered loads of power and control which it could hardly resist. Like in few other cases, corruption, paired with with inefficiency, lack of infrastructure, and the absence of technological systems, made already existing vices explode. Thus, the chain of enforcement, prosecution, sentencing, and the reversal of sentences simply blew up in the faces of the Mexican people.

These are the most visible injuries. There are others about which little has been said: international discredit; the loss of moral standing in international bodies; the disbursed public budget, carefully disguised by the administration. The fall of productivity in services, industry, and agriculture; the unemployment caused by the closing of multiple sources due to insecurity or even extortion, a widespread crime. The rise in common crimes, result of corruption of officials and impunity, is another result.

The population’s emotional insecurity will continue as long as there is no cohesive reconstruction project. It will continue because they see the moral destruction of official structures, beginning with the highest representatives in power. The authorities have lost respectability and confidence in the eyes of the people. The was rill leave behind feelings which will be projected through future generations. There are already significant delays in education and culture, a major setback for displaced persons. It’s creating a country with a feeling of being at permanent risk, on the defensive, and believing that the entire future will be a disaster.

The unfinished balance will be terribly negative. Not only are the incredibly painful scenes of fire and death in Guadalajara; they are lamentably repetitive. There will come a time you will organize, complement and expose such a burden, and in that moment Calderón and his cabinet’s responsibilities will be exposed to history’s judgement. There is talk of ending impunity! That’s the place to start." Spanish original

By Jorge Carrillo Olea 

Original translation by Michael Kane, Intern, Center for International Policy  

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