We have a place down in Mexico, where we spend a few months a year, just south of San Diego. It’s a quiet area, at least as quiet as any other area in Mexico these days. The house is paid for, kind of a hedge against retirement, and the upkeep is minimum. But there’s a major downside.
Mexico has turned into a combat zone nearly rivaling Baghdad. The war between various drug gangs, crooked cops, corrupt Mexican Army and still-honest Mexican Marines has turned most border towns (and many in the interior, as well) into bloody war zones. Over 14,000 people have been murdered in less than three years, and the count keeps climbing. Kidnappings take place almost daily, and the majority end badly, even if the ransom is paid. Army patrols have been singled out for rape, torture and street executions, and the local cops are even worse, as most of those that are bad, are working for one drug cartel or another. Terror is the name of the game here, and scarcely a day goes by that we don’t hear automatic gunfire in our neighborhood.
And our place is in one of the better neighborhoods!
The popular wisdom says that all this is a result of President Felipe Calderón’s war on drugs and corruption. While I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t think he had a well thought-out strategy when he began this war, I hardly think it’s fair to lay the blame at his feet. That’s like blaming a rape victim for being a woman, hence vulnerable. A load of crap! At least he’s trying to do his job!
I think what some of the players in this war are missing, is the fact that the Mexican people are only going to take so much. Like people anywhere, they have their limits. Crime occurs all over the world, an unfortunate by-product of human population. Organized crime, demanding that businesses pay protection, is a little worse, but sufferable, at least when few options exist.
But when day to day life becomes hazardous for wives, sons and daughters, it takes on a new, more personal nature. Tolerance runs out quickly, and courage can flourish. At some point, things come to a head, and the people take things into their own hands. That’s not likely to suddenly erupt on a national level… it’ll occur first just here and there, and with only limited benefits. But the word spreads quickly, and the courage surfaces!
At that point, the narcotraficantes*, the crooked cops and the Army, can suddenly find themselves the hunted. And if it happens, it’ll be open season!
It won’t be pretty, and it won’t be easy. Such things never are. But the outcome is a given. One man with a submachine gun can’t beat 1,000 men with axes and clubs… not in the long run. The beheadings and acid baths will all be remembered, and the fear and resentment will all surface. The murdered friends and family members, the butchered kidnap victims and the raped girls, women and old ladies will be remembered, and they’ll be avenged.
And a cry will go up all across Mexico… “Viva México! Muerte a los asesinos!”**
The real question then will be, can President Calderón keep a lid on things. I hope he has a better strategy for that.
I’m sure some of you reading this must have an opinion on whether or not the people will get tired enough of this garbage to do something about it. I’d really like to hear your comments.
**Long Live Mexico! Death to the murderers!