Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fruitless Endeavors

President Calderón has announced that the army will slowly be withdrawn from the streets and returned to its barracks as the freshly purged, newly trained and better equipped Federal Police are brought in to act, once again, as domestic security.

But has anything changed since Calderón's December 2006 initiative, his all-out war against the drug cartels?

The short is: "yes" things have changed, but for the worse.

First, the police are still vulnerable to corruption because of the poor pay, widespread impunity and insufficient "Internal Affair" offices. Further, with no civilian oversight, no mechanisms of accountability nor transparency, the citizens of Mexico have no means to gauge how well the police operate. In fact, the communities of Mexico are still in grave danger because the police are now better trained and have better weapons to commit crimes and work on behalf of the cartels. From the community's point of view, one large group of well-armed men in uniforms being is replaced by another large group of well-armed men in uniforms.

Second, intelligence sources in the US are now starting to say that, after 3 years of unbelievable bloodshed, one cartel is now in a dominant position, the Sinaloa cartel headed by Joaquín "Chapo" Guzmán. Before President Calderón's war on drugs there were several powerful cartels that ensured their control through violence, corruption of the police and politicians as well as dealing very harshly with anyone who crossed them. Now, after the deaths of nearly 20,000 people there is one mega-cartel which will ensure its control through violence, corruption of the police and politicians as well as dealing very harshly with anyone who crosses it. Thus, through a Hobbesian evolution, Guzmán's organization has no competition and, as a bonus, has, at its disposal, a very experienced, well-trained, well-equipped cadre of gangsters willing to do anything they are told (and who may, or may not be in uniform).

If this is indeed the outcome then I would argue that the tens of billions of dollars invested by the Calderón government to bring about this state of affairs is money that could otherwise have been spent on education, job training and infrastructure. Calderón should have waged a war on poverty, or a war on unemployment, because, aside from the tens of thousands of sons, brothers, fathers, sisters, mothers and daughters killed in the most gruesome fashion, Mexico has gained nothing other than more dangerous threat.

It is true that the violence will drop, it will recede back into the shadows, but the reality is that the communities are not any safer, Mexico is not any safer, the US is not any safer and, the certainly world is not any safer by such outcomes.

To punctuate this, another 22 were killed yesterday bringing the total to 2825 for 2010 with an average of almost 29 per day. This includes an incident where 80 to 100 narcos took over an entire town, terrorized the citizens for over 5 hours and burned the State Police station to the ground in Yécora, Sonora.

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