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Back to México, impunidad e incompetencia

Guillermo Velasco Barrera, Professor of Political Communication, University of Navarra, Spain

Mexico, impunity and incompetence

Mon, 01 Mar 2010 09:28:25 +0000 Published in El País (Madrid)

Mexico's image abroad as a violent and unsafe country is gaining ground week after week. The recent massacre of 15 young people in Ciudad Juarez, while they were at a party, captured the attention of media around the world, but the truth is that the wave of violence in this and other cities in the country is not recent. Unfortunately, organized crime, impunity, incompetence of authorities, complicity and indifference of some have established themselves in entire regions, generating pain and suffering to thousands of families.

According to committee Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal, one of Mexico's leading social organizations in the fight against crime, between 1994 and 2004, nearly 10,000 kidnappings were committed in Mexico City and its periphery alone. The organization estimates that 65% of kidnappings in Mexico take place in the country's capital.

The data includes the so-called express kidnappings, in which a person is deprived of his or her freedom for a few hours in order to withdraw money from his or her credit cards from credit . This statistic does not include the so-called "virtual kidnapping", through which people are extorted to deliver money or even jewelry to protect the integrity of a family member who is not really kidnapped, but the threatened person is made to believe that he/she is. From agreement to Jose Antonio Ortega Sanchez, president of this NGO, many of these extortion phone calls are made from prisons with prepaid cards, which, among other things, could mean the agreement of prison authorities with criminals.

This subject of scams that are one more modality of the kidnapping industry in Mexico work, to a great extent, because of the climate of anxiety that has been generated in the country. Many people have been victims of robberies, assaults and kidnappings, in fact, some make rash or wrong decisions when they hear a threatening voice on the other end of the phone.

Another brutal expression of organized crime is drug trafficking, an activity that has put an end to the lives and tranquility of thousands of citizens in Mexico. Felipe Gonzalez, president of the Public Security Commission in the Mexican Senate, stated in recent days that in the three years of President Calderon's government, more than 17,000 executions have taken place in connection with the war against organized crime. Many of these deaths are settling of scores between the drug cartels themselves. The findings of decapitated bodies stuffed in plastic bags are reproduced. It is not only killing, but also sending a message, both to rivals and to society as a whole, that nothing and no one can stand in their way.

In all this scenario of violence, Juarez is the Mexican city that most swells the statistics and has become, from agreement to the mentioned committee Citizen of Public Security and Criminal Justice, the most violent in the world: 191 intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, which means 11 murders per day. In this border city of 1.5 million inhabitants, the homicide rate increased by 800% between 2007 and 2009. Many of the victims are women, whose raped and tortured bodies are found in the desert or in areas surrounding the city. According to various organizations, more than 1,000 women have been murdered in Juarez in the last 14 years. Various hypotheses have been put forward behind the murders of these young women, the vast majority of whom are from the humble class and work in the maquiladoras (companies that import materials without paying tariffs). One of them suggests that they are kidnapped in order to film them in snuff film scenes, in which real murders are recorded.

The President of Mexico has just been in Juarez to meet with the families of the young men murdered on January 31. The mother of one of them turned her back to him to show her impotence, pain, anger and rejection of a government that mounts great media displays in the fight against crime, but which, in reality, has fallen far short in its results. We must not forget Calderon's first and unfortunate expression after this massacre, while he was in Japan. He referred to what happened as a fight between gang members. He later apologized, but popular indignation had gone too far.

Mexican political parties have sought to capitalize on the recent status in Juarez for purely electoral purposes. This year, elections are being held in 13 states in the country, which will set a very important precedent for the 2012 presidential elections. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has governed uninterruptedly for more than seven decades, has proposed, through the governor of Chihuahua, that the seat of state powers be moved to Juarez. Said proposal did not obtain the necessary votes in the local congress , but in addition, it was a mere propaganda action without any basis or added value . This has not been the first sensationalist proposal of the PRI linked to security issues. Last year, this political party proposed to establish the death penalty in Mexico, knowing the unfeasibility of what they were proposing, with the intention of generating among the Mexican population, the perception that the security problem had gotten out of hand of the president's hands and it was necessary to take drastic measures. A mere electoral strategy.

The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which nominated Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in the 2006 presidential elections, raised an even more demagogic and unfeasible issue: the abolition of state powers. The important thing was to win the media headlines with a spectacular declaration that does not contribute anything to the battle against crime. The National Action Party (PAN), which currently governs Mexico, proposed the creation of a plan to "recompose the social fabric". Mere speech, words and more words that, at this point, will have little echo in a society that has grown tired of a political class that has tried to put an end to the mafias with speech and propaganda measures.

President Calderon has sent a delegation of five of his ministers to Juarez to form a joint strategy with society and the local government "to recompose the social fabric". What is needed is the political will to stop those who commit crimes. Calderon has a great moral obligation and a historic opportunity to impose himself on the mafias and put an end to this spiral of violence in Mexico. This requires a purge of the security agencies and the inclusion of capable and trustworthy men in his cabinet at subject security. At the same time, a great communication strategy must be mounted to involve society, but such strategy can never replace effective, decisive and intelligent action against those who seek to paralyze Mexico by sowing death and fear.