Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Violence in Mexico
While the media focuses on exploiting false crises, like the ‘risk of Ebola in the U.S.’ or whatever might have ‘inexplicably’ happened to Renee Zellwegger’s face (who gives a damn?), serious problems are being drowned out by all the noise.
Perhaps the problem with our lack of understanding about places like Mexico comes from media repression, because after all, Mexico is one of the deadliest places in the world for journalists.
We need this list: in order to do anything about violence, especially that which so deeply affects us, we need to know certain things and see our implication in them.
But first, it is important to clarify that there’s a lot more to Mexico than violence. Yes, it is in desperate need of a course reversal, but the narrative that only constructs it as something that needs ‘rescuing’ is highly problematic. Rather, we must think of it as a place with much cultural richness and ecological diversity to offer the world. And like any other, it is a place that deserves dignity and peace.
Anyway, I think the question shouldn’t be between, “Poor Mexico, when will the international community save it?” and “Damned neo-imperialism; won’t they ever leave Mexico alone?” Rather, I think the point is to show that we are in the worst possible limbo somewhere in between, where:
The Mexican and U.S. tax payers pay billions of dollars for the drug war, mainly to military contractors, to no avail and creating no improvement for either country’s national security. As Musa al-Gharbi wrote for Al Jazeera:
“In 2013 drug cartels murdered more than 16,000 people in Mexico alone, and another 60,000 from 2006 to 2012 — a rate of more than one killing every half hour for the last seven years. What is worse, these are estimates from the Mexican government, which is known to deflate the actual death toll by about 50 percent.”
The CIA distributed U.S. weapons to cartels (allegedly to “track” the guns, although some believe this is meant to help fight the rogue and ruthless Zetas cartel, which was started by former members of the Mexican army’s special forces also trained in counterinsurgency tactics by the U.S. army in Fort Bragg, Georgia).
Corruption is pervasive, and not only in the public sector: even the giant Walmart allegedly bribed its way through the Mexican bureaucracy. Meanwhile, the world’s big banks help launder money for the cartels, which rack in profits to the tune of roughly $40b each year.
With that kind of money, the narcos can, and do, purchase police chiefs, entire departments, and higher levels of the state—both within Mexico and, increasingly, in cities across the U.S. (not to mention, in scores of other countries as well, such as Peru and Australia).
Moreover, they are also expanding their economic activities beyond the drug trade, kidnapping, and the extortion of local businesses: they are also investing it, further blurring the lines between big business and drug money.
The Mexican government investigates less than 7% of reported crimes (perhaps because it is difficult to find a politician, at any level of government, in any part of the country, who is not in collusion with organized crime or at least with big business).
And while the population gets scared to death at incessant violence, the state pushes the structural and economic reforms to open the country for business, such as through the removal of protections and standards. It uses its alliance with the media monopoly to silence opposition, and the armed forces (and other thugs) to violently crush resistance from workers, farmers, students, teachers, environmentalists, etc.
Fortunately, there’s a lot that people in both Mexico and the U.S. can do:
- When elections come around, make sure your would-be representatives know that your vote will be strictly conditioned on their concrete actions to pressure for a change (for example, through aid, trade, and diplomatic sanctions, etc.). (Thanks to Manuel Rivas from Barrios Unidos for this comment.)
- Organize collectively, wherever you are: talk to your neighbors, set up events, hold vigils and rallies, attend information sessions, gather speakers, host potlucks and letter-writing campaigns, distribute leaflets with calls to action, visit your government representatives, sign and deliver petitions, etc. Many people don’t have the luxury of organizing without fear of reprisals, so if you do, get involved.
- If you’re in the U.S., check out #UStired2 to organize and coordinate collective action.
- Share news and information about it to keep people engaged and organized.
- Write letters-to-the-editor to demand attention to this situation.
- Boycott companies that benefit from the ongoing violence.
- Be creative, public, and loud: paint something, write a poem, compose a song, do some improv, make a video, and raise awareness about this situation. Do whatever you do best, whatever you love to do, to shed light on the matter.
- What else do you think we can do? Please feel free to comment and share this.
Michael S. Wilson is a doctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he focuses on peace and conflict in Latin America. His dissertation project is a comparison of social movements emerging against resource extraction. A Mexico City native, Wilson is a writer, educator, and activist. Some of his academic and journalistic works have appeared in the Human Rights Review, AlterNet, Tikkun Daily, Counterpunch, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, SCENE Magazine, The Pointer Newspaper, and Socialist Worker, among others. You can reach him via WordPress, Academia.edu, Facebook, or Twitter.
Thumbnail (black & white) photo credit: Arturo García Guerrero
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