School of Americas Watch delegation
visits volatile El Paso-Juarez - Page Two
Felipe Calderon/War on Drugs:
In 2006, Felipe Calderon, was elected President and became committed with US backing to launch a full scale “war on drugs” which has been a dismal failure leading to the death of 45,000 Mexicans. His 6 year presidency ends this summer. Mexican human rights group have filed grievances against Calderon at the International Criminal Court in The Hague claiming that under Public Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna, the army and navy “systematically” violated Mexican civil liberties. (Cf., “NYT”, Nov. 26, 2011). Drug violence has spread even to the interior of Mexico gripping the cities of Acapulco, Vera Cruz and Guadalajara.
One of the problems besetting Calderon is that as the” war on drugs” soured, so did his credibility. Despite extensive military and federal mobilization, 98.5% of all crimes in Mexico go unsolved. The general belief in the Mexican street is that both the military and police have been co-opted by the drug cartels, often protecting them from prosecution and undermining the drug war. One powerful example of this is the case of Marisela Escobedo whose 16 year old daughter Rubi Frayre was brutally murdered in 2008. Marisela was sure it was her daughter’s boyfriend Sergio Barraza who did this heinous crime. The authorities ignored her case because of cultural machismo and corruption, but she persisted and finally succeeded in getting some justice when a court sentenced Barraza to 50 years in absentia even though he had already fled from prosecution and imprisonment. For her efforts, Marisela was murdered on December 16, 2010. (Cf., “the Murdered Women of Juarez”, by Laura Carlsen, January 21-23, 2011).
Recently Javier Sicilia, famous Mexican poet, has taken up the cause of civil justice after his son, Juan Francisco, was found brutally bound and shot with six friends in Cuernavaca. Sicilia has accused Calderon’s government of institutional sexism, corruption and failure to reform Mexican social institutions. His non-violent “civil society” approach calls for legalizing drugs, for America to become less addicted, to stop the flow of arms to Mexico, as well as for the Drug Cartels to leave civilian out of their turf battles. He wrote these poetics in memory of his dead son:
- “The world is not worthy of words
- they have been suffocated from the inside
- as they suffocated you, as they tore apart your lungs ...
- the pain does not leave me
- all that remains is a world
- through the silence of the righteous,
only through your silence and my silence, Juanelo.”
He has founded a movement called “Peace with Justice and Dignity” in which he argues that “organized crime is nothing more than the market economy organized in a very perverse form. It’s a form of using individuals in a way that those individuals are made use of by capital: as instruments, to extort, to kidnap, to rape, to enslave, to sell, simply to use human beings as resources and instruments for economic ends. And this is born from an economic concept that is now dominant throughout the world. I would also like to make North Americans aware of this. Because the Occupy movement hasn’t been paying attention to this. Although they are very conscious of the human pain that exists within the economic system, they don’t seem to recognize that much of the pain exists in the economic system as a form of negation of humanity. So we have to change the economic paradigm.”(Cf., http://nacla.org/blog/2012/2/14/interview-javier-sicilia-part-ii-reweaving-mexico%E2%80%99s-social-fabric).
Calderon met Sicilia in Juarez to explain the drug war but refused to apologize for human rights violations across the breadth of law enforcement establishment involving the military, Federales, and county/municipal police agencies who habitually abused their authority by intimidating the very people that they have sworn to protect.
In many ways, Calderon’s 2008 decision, creating “Joint Operation Chihuahua,” which called for using the military to end drug trafficking in Juarez was a disaster for the citizens, as it gave the military a blank check to act as it saw fit, making it a state within a state, unaccountable for its actions. The military arrived with 2,500 soldiers, military trucks, airplanes and helicopters. Leading this deployment was General Felipe de Jesus Espitia, another School of the Americas graduate, who although trained in jungle warfare knew very little about urban crime or syndicates. Life in Juarez became even more dangerous as street crime exploded: carjacking, kidnapping, and extortions as the military campaigned primarily concentrated against nickel and dime drug players and addicts rather than against the patrones and the drug cartels. Margarita Rosales weeps over the loss of her son Javier Eduardo, who along with his friend Sergio Fernandez Lazarin, was picked up by the military on the grounds of being members of Los Aztecas, tortured, and left to die in the desert. Sergio survived but Javier did not. Rosales has never been able to bring those guilty of these crimes against her son to justice nor have the other 45,000 Mexicans who have died since Calderon assumed the Presidency. (Cf., Cecilia Balli, “Calderon’s War”, Harper’s, Jan. 2012).
Others in Juarez argue that the Calderon’s War was a smoke screen for “social cleansing”, getting rid of “undesirables”, “the poor”, so that a new international bridge across the Rio Grande linking Juarez with New Mexico can be built. Building it would be a boon to land developers like Carlos Slim, who is reported to be the wealthiest man in the world, worth $69 billion dollars. Slim comes from Lebanese background, raised in Chihuahua, and dominates telecommunications in Mexico through Telmex and America Movil, and has other extensive holdings through Grupo Carso SAB. Recently, he made a substantial investment in Juarez water, and historically has made lots of money in real estate development. (Cf., www.forbes.com). Slim and Bill Clinton apparently have joined forces in Juarez to reduce the high school dropout rate by establishing a program to encourage 900 soccer youth to stay in school. Some see water and soccer as a public relations move to conceal perhaps the real motive for driving Mexicans from the western side of Juarez which is to pave the way for building a new international bridge and making millions if not billions.
America and Juarez Violence:
American increasing consumption of drugs is the primary factor for the violence in Juarez and Mexico. It is estimated that it amounts to $23 billion a year involving 130 million Americans representing one/third of the nation. As one Juarez authority put it:” every time an American sniffs cocaine someone in Juarez dies!” These American billions are the Cartels’ bloodline, and until the United States is able to curb its appetite for drugs this mayhem will continue in Juarez and throughout Mexico. (Cf.,http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2008/06/25/4376042-mexican-drug-war-alarming-us-officials.
Unfortunately America’s “War on Drugs” is broken but there is no political will to acknowledge it, or to propose a different approach grounded on legalization, rehabilitation, and education. Too many law enforcement agencies have grown fat in pursuing the “War on Drugs”, as manifested by an exploding prison system and narco agencies whose very existence hinges on a continuation of the “War”. The historical parallels between prohibition and drugs are striking requiring a leadership of the caliber of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to take on the “Beast” and all the vested interest connected to it, both legal/illegal.
Arthur Kane Scott is Professor of Humanities and Cultural Studies at the Dominican University of California and Fellow of American Institute of International Studies
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