Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mexico - Conflict and Disorder (Part 1)

Mexico: Sing about Drugs, Go to Jail
Ruling Party Considers Proposal That Would Send Musicians to Prison for Ballads that Glorify Drug Trafficking
MEXICO CITY, Jan. 22, 2010
(AP) A new proposal from Mexico's ruling party could send musicians to prison for performing songs that glorify drug trafficking.
The law would bring prison sentences of up to three years for people who perform or produce songs or movies glamorizing criminals.
"Society sees drug ballads as nice, pleasant, inconsequential and harmless, but they are the opposite," National Action Party lawmaker Oscar Martin Arce told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The ballads, known as "narcocorridos," often describe drug trafficking and violence, and are popular among some norteno bands. After some killings, gangs pipe narcocorridos into police radio scanners, along with threatening messages.
Martin said his party's proposal, presented before Congress on Wednesday, also takes aim at low-budget movies praising drug lords. It was unclear when lawmakers would vote on it.
"We cannot accept it as normal. We cannot exalt these people because they themselves are distributing these materials among youths to lead them into a lifestyle where the bad guy wins," he said.
Martin said the proposal's intention is not to limit free expression, but to stop such performances from inciting crimes.
But Elijah Wald, author of the book, "Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas," said politicians are attempting to censor artists rather than attacking Mexico's real problems.
On his Web site, Wald has posted descriptions of dozens of past efforts to stop the songs, including radio broadcast bans and politicians' proposals.
"It is very hard to stop the drug trafficking," he said. "It is very easy to get your name in the papers by attacking famous musicians."
The norteno band Los Tigres del Norte canceled their planned appearance at an awards ceremony at a government-owned auditorium in October after organizers allegedly asked the group not to perform their latest drug ballad.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a nationwide crackdown on drug cartels in late 2006, deploying tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police across Mexico.
Even performers who don't sing drug ballads have been caught up in recent raids.
In December Mexican authorities arrested Latin Grammy winner Ramon Ayala at a drug cartel's party in a gated community of mansions outside the central mountain town of Tepoztlan.
Ayala's attorney has said the accordionist and his band, Los Bravos del Norte, did not know their clients were suspected members of the Beltran Leyva cartel.
Greg Etter, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Central Missouri, said he agrees that narcocorridos promote violence.
"It affects their view of social normality, and that's what makes it dangerous," he said.
Martin said an alleged murderer recently told police he first got involved in organized crime because he liked the songs and wanted one to be composed about him one day.
But Etter said bands have been singing narcocorridos for more than 30 years, and legislators can't stop such a strong musical tradition.
"I don't see how you could put a lid on it," he said. "Yes, these are dangerous. Music affects emotion and emotion affects actions. But if they suppress it, won't it make it even more popular?"
Is Mexico's Drug War a Civil War?
By Allan Wall
June 22, 2008
The ongoing struggle between the Mexican government and the drug cartels – and the struggles between and within the cartels themselves - is a war.
It’s not a conventional war in the classic imagination, of two armies facing each other on a large plain. But then, most wars today aren’t like that anyway.
Most wars today involve small unit tactics, close quarter combat, ambushes, checkpoints, uncertainty, and alternating periods of quiet punctuated by surprise attacks. As in Iraq, where I served a tour of duty, the fighting in Mexico varies greatly by region and locality, with its ups and owns .
Could the Mexican drug war be classified as a civil war?
According to the Correlates of War, an academic project studying the history of warfare, a conflict must have over 1,000 casualties per year. Since over 4,000 Mexicans have been killed since December of 2006 (plus the injuries), then Mexico’s Drug War would qualify by casualty count as a civil war.
The classic definition of a civil war though is "a violent conflict within a country fought by organized groups that aim to take power at the center or in a region, or to change government policies."
In that sense, the Mexican Cartel War does not exactly fit the definition. But then, the American Civil War might not either, since the Confederacy wasn’t trying to take over the North, but to secede from the U.S.
In today’s Mexico the drug cartels are not trying to officially install themselves in Mexico City. They just want to control their drug smuggling routes and will take on anybody, including the government, who stands in their way.
The official U.S. military definition of a civil war is:
“A war between factions of the same country; there are five criteria for international recognition of this status: the contestants must control territory, have a functioning government, enjoy some foreign recognition, have identifiable regular armed forces, and engage in major military operations.”
Let’s look at each of the five criteria:
1. “The contestants must control territory.” The Mexican drug war is sometimes called a “war for territory.” But they aren’t fighting for territory in the sense of owning property, or of carving out an official political entity. Cartels fight their rivals for control over smuggling routes. They aren’t interested in governing their turf in the same sense as a mayor or governor, they don’t care about political ideology. Their goal is to protect their routes, sources and alliances, and sometimes to muscle in on the other cartel’s turf, and they will kill anybody who stands in their way.
2. “The contestants must have a functioning government.” A drug cartel does have a government of sorts, an internal chain of command, which, given its goals, functions rather efficiently. Of course, a drug baron can never relax, being under constant threat from the government, rivals and would-be-rebels in his own organization.
3. “The contestants must enjoy some foreign recognition.” No foreign government officially recognizes a Mexican drug cartel. Nevertheless, cartels have plenty of international connections, having spread their tentacles into South America, and north into the U.S.
4. “The contestants must have identifiable regular armed forces.” The cartels don’t have “regular” forces in the same sense of an organized national military. But they are organized, and the cartel “soldiers” (some of whom are defectors from the regular Mexican army) do function quite efficiently to carry out the goals of their organization.
And they sometimes do dress in a recognizable manner and are thus “identifiable” to those in the know.
5. “The contestants must engage in major military operations.” The drug cartels are well-armed, and do engage in operations against the government forces and other cartels.
So even when we look at Mexico’s situation in light of the 5 criteria, it raises more questions than it solves.
The Mexican situation has plenty of other complications. Widespread corruption in Mexico facilitates the cartels’ power. And high demand for drugs in the U.S. provides most of the cartels’ funding. In Mexico, drug profits have made their way into legitimate businesses, politicians and even the coffers of the Catholic Church.
So is Mexico in the midst of a Civil War, or does it depend upon one’s definition of a civil war? Or is it something even more complicated and difficult to resolve?
In Mexico, the Body Count Continues to Mount
By Allan Wall
May 27, 2008
In Mexico, the ongoing battles between the drug cartels and between drug cartels and the government go on and on, and the body count mounts.
On May 23rd, 2008, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora announced that, in calendar year 2008 thus far, killings linked to organized crime and narcotrafficking have increased 47% over those in 2007.
According to Medina Mora’s figures, as of May 24th, there had been 1,378 such murders. At this time last year the figure was 940.
Since it’s only May, that means that 2008 is well on the way to surpass the 2007 total of 2,500 killings.
The total body count (to date) under the Calderon Administration is 4,152 killings, 450 of whom were policemen, prosecutors or Mexican military personnel.
(As a point of comparison, the U.S. has lost 4,081 military personnel in Iraq since 2003).
Another way to look at the death toll is as a daily average. On May 22nd (the day before Medina Mora’s higher figures were announced), Mexico’s Jornada newspaper published its calculation of an average of 7.6 killings per day since Calderon took office, although it added that in the week previous the average was 15 such killings per day.
The killings in Mexico have increased in some regions and decreased in others. According to Medina Mora, there has been a “significant increase” of killings in the northern states of Chihuahua, Baja California and Sinaloa. Meanwhile, the killings have decreased in Nuevo Leon, Guerrero and Mexico City.
Ciudad Juarez (across the border from El Paso, Texas) has been the scene of heavy fighting, both between cartels, and between security forces and narco gunmen. In Ciudad Juarez alone, there have been about 400 such killings thus far in 2008.
In a recent grisly example near the city of Durango, 6 severed heads were recently discovered alongside the highway. But they weren’t just flung down on the roadside. No, they were each placed carefully within a cooler, 4 of them in an abandoned vehicle, accompanied by threatening messages to rivals.
It’s probably no coincidence that the heads were placed on the same road where 8 gunmen were slain in a shootout several days earlier.
Reports also indicate re-alignment and re-organization among the drug cartels, who live in a grim, dog-eat-dog world of shifting dependencies and alliances.
The U.S. government is preparing the aid the Mexican government in its fight against the cartels, but this aid too is controversial.
President Bush wanted to give Mexico $500 million dollars worth of aid, but neither congressional chamber was willing to give that much. The House approved $400 million dollars and the Senate $350 million. The difference is to be worked out in House-Senate conference during the next few weeks.
Both congressional bills include making part of the funding contingent upon human rights certification. This doesn’t set well with Mexican politicians who have charged the U.S. with meddling. However, since this is an aid program, in which they’re getting the aid for free, Mexico will likely take whatever it is given.
Mexican Attorney General Medina Mora has long complained about the smuggling of U.S. weapons from the U.S. to Mexico. Cartels arrange for the purchase of weapons in the U.S. and move them into Mexico. This problem is exacerbated by corruption within the Mexican Customs department and the general lawless atmosphere that exists on the U.S.-Mexican border.
Tighter border security would definitely help. However, the Mexican government complains when the U.S. tightens up the border! If you have a porous border, it won’t be porous just for border crossers. It’s also porous for drugs and weapons! Our own leaders ought to point that out to Mexican leaders.
Of course, wherever there’s a market, there are suppliers. As long as U.S. drug users continue to purchase drugs, there will be a people willing to sell to them. That makes U.S. drug addicts themselves the principal financiers of the Mexican drug cartels.
It’s no accident that some Mexican border towns are so violent . Cartels are fighting over the privilege of moving the drugs into U.S. territory.
Combine Mexican corruption and collaboration with drug cartels, and a massive American market for their products, and you’ve got a big problem. The cartels are rich, well-connected, and brazen, and when one narco-chief is killed or imprisoned, another is waiting in the wings to take his place.
Famed Mexico watcher George W. Grayson, professor at the College of William and Mary, has gone so far as to say that “It’s impossible to win the drug war while the demand exists in the United States and Europe.”
Meanwhile in Mexico, the body count continues to mount …
Also See:
Illegal Aliens and a New American-Mexican Border
08 July 2008