Mexico: Democracy, free trade no match for cartels
In the midst of its 94 year old political constitution, a freely elected President approved by the nation’s voters, as well as membership in the trilaterally based North American Free Trade Agreement, famously known as NAFTA, Mexico’s questionable stability emerges as a risky notion to inhabitants living north of the border.
Headlines have portrayed numerous stories of unchecked violence committed by drug cartels that strike with impunity in Mexico. Accounts of decapitation, kidnapping, murder in the streets, often involving journalists and government officials who are trying to fight back, are abundant.
Within the chronicles of organized crime, if the notorious murder of seven infamous Chicago mobsters on St. Valentine’s Day in 1929 is said to be a “massacre,” what do you say when drug cartels continue to viciously kill citizens in great numbers? Al Capone terrorized a big city, but the Mexican drug cartels have intimidated entire countries.
While Mexican President Felipe Calderón may be ready and willing to stop cartel violence in his country, he may not be able to bring it to an end. With a population of approximately 113,000,000 in view, the extensive government corruption, increased firearms trafficking and deteriorating human rights have kept Calderón’s hands occupied while domestic carnage mounts.
An editorial by the Star-Ledger staff, published November 27, 2011 on nj.com, “Drug violence in Mexico takes horrific toll,” spells out the widespread brutality infesting many of the country’s regions:
“The stories from the Mexico drug wars have been horrific: More than 45,000 people have been killed since 2006, and the reign of terror has included kidnappings, beheadings, murders of civilians and officials, and the dumping of bodies in broad daylight.”
Members of the press under attack
Although Mexico’s drug wars frequently involve skirmishes between cartels, others have fallen prey to the bloodshed. Journalists, in particular, have paid a heavy price covering events in Mexico.
According to the Reporters without Borders for Press Freedom website, which looks at journalistic liberty and not human rights, “Mexico is one of the hemisphere’s most dangerous countries for the media. Drug cartels and corrupt officials are implicated in most of the crimes of violence against journalists, which almost always go unpunished. As a result, journalists often censor themselves and some have to flee into exile.”
Reporters without Borders suggest Mexico is ranked 136 out of 178 countries where the group now measures conditions of the press. This year five journalists and one media assistant have been killed in Mexico.
Merits of the 1994 Canadian-American NAFTA alliance and the equality of constitutional democracy have not been able to affect the, at times, pervasive anarchy and frightful way of life that permeates contemporary Mexican society. Where does Mexico go from here?
In the short term, President Calderón’s six year tenure comes to an end in 2012; Mexico’s political future is unclear. For some, including a group of supporters organized by poet Javier Sicilia, there was no time to wait for the presidential change. In March 2011, protests aimed directly at Calderón called for new drug policies in addition to his resignation.
The long range view for Mexico is no clearer, apart from the likelihood that the drug cartels will be still there.