Why do so many U.S. and Mexican officials keep crooning the same old reassuring tune regarding the “War on Drugs,” despite the fact that more innocent Mexican civilians have died from drug-related violence during President Calderón’s brief tenure (commencing in 2006, after a thumbnail victory over his leftist opponent) than all the American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined?
“I have great confidence in President Calderón’s administration applying the law enforcement techniques that are necessary to curb the power of the cartels, but doing so in a way that’s consistent with human rights.”
If I said that President George W. Bush—who brokered the so-called Mérida Initiative, promising $1.4 billion in American aid for the Mexican government’s offensive against the drug cartels—was the singer of the lyrics quoted above, I doubt many readers would be surprised at my claim?
In fact, it wasn’t a lame-duck Baby Bush, but newly elected President Obama, self-proclaimed beacon of change and hope, who dutifully took his turn at the piano, clanging out the chords of exorbitant military aid, conditioned on toothless requirements of human rights initiatives, as the perfect formula for strengthening democratic governance and the rule of law in Mexico.
Why have U.S. and Mexican mainstream media, with respect to the topic of the “War on Drugs,” failed to find a madrigal that jibes with the facts on the ground? Considering that, according to the U.N., Mexico ranks among the top 20 nations for assassination of journalists; it’s not too hard to figure their reluctance to perform their duties. Although not all dissident piano players in Mexico have been shot, enough have been bumped off to persuade the majority to base their performances on officially approved sheet music.
Everyone wants to know the truth about the “war on drugs” in Mexico. What better way to start than by recognizing that there are many Mexicos; well, at least two. “There is the one reported on by the US press, a place where the Mexican president is fighting a valiant war on drugs, aided by the Mexican Army and the Mérida Initiative […] There is a second Mexico where the war is for drugs, where the police and the military fight for their share of drug profits, where the press is restrained by the murder of reporters and feasts on a steady diet of bribes, and where the line between government and the drug world has never existed,” affirms Mother Jones co-editor, Clara Jeffery.
It’s the economy, stupid! Tomas Kellner and Francesco Pipitone, senior directors at Kroll Associates, have reported that gross wholesale proceeds of the Colombian and Mexican drug cartels combined might exceed those of Google by as much as $14 billion annually. The Mexican economy would collapse should the drug trade ever cease to exist: one explanation for its pernicious resilience, the other being the unrelenting demand for drugs in the Unites States.
The Mexican cartels, however, now have nationally-sponsored competitors in three of their favorite events — drug profiteering, the indiscriminate slaughtering of innocent persons and the systematic practice of heinous forms of terror such as torture.
“What the US government is doing is pretending the Mexican army is some partner in some war against drugs. In fact, what’s going on in Mexico is a war for drugs as the economy collapses. […] Since this war, this initiative by President Calderón started in December of 2006, 12,000 Mexicans have been slaughtered, but only 72 soldiers have died, which is a very strange thing to call a war on drugs,” asserts Charles Bowden, winner of the 1996 Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction. He continues, “[The Mexican Army] has moved into Ciudad Juárez, a city of a million and a half, and the murder rate’s exploded there. […] That’s the achievement of the Mexican army. Every place they go, they’ve terrified people. The soldiers run amok, do whatever they want.”
Meanwhile, the plot thickens. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reports that 90% of weapons seized from Mexican cartels are traceable to American arms dealers. In other words, the cartels purchase the very weapons they use to murder their victims right here in the Unites States. Topping the charts for sales to affiliates of Mexican drug cartels are major cities such as Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Seattle.
Imagine a student in Seattle, sitting down to sip his coffee in a local café and read his favorite newspaper. He comes across a headline on the Mexican students murdered recently by cartel thugs in Guadalajara, Durango and Nuevo León, but he is oblivious to the possibility that the murder weapons may have been purchased in Seattle itself, perhaps not far from his present location. Then his attention turns involuntarily to the ambient music: “Yes you lied to me all these years. You told me to wash and clean my ears. And talk real fine just like a lady. And you'd stop calling me Sister Sadie. Oh but this whole country is full of lies. You're all gonna die and die like flies.”
He thinks to himself, “How depressing! Maybe I should have gone to Starbucks.” But he notices, gleefully, that his favorite film is playing in 10 minutes at the university cinema: Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player. He’ll have to ditch Business Law to make it. But he prefers to treat himself to a taste of high French cinema. On his way out, he slurps the last few drops of his coffee, a dark roast from the bowels of Mexico, and recalls his high school trip to Acapulco; the good old days, when American tourists had nothing to fear from Mexico’s closely monitored heart of darkness.
Eduardo Jimenez Mayo is a second-year law student at Cornell University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.