Thursday, April 22, 2010

The LA Times on Mexico

The LA Times has a strongly worded editorial in today's paper about recent violence in Cuernavaca:
The fear and violence in central Mexico underscore how Calderon missed the point in a series of tone-deaf comments that have cost him support for his war. A government report leaked last week put the number of dead nationwide at 22,700 since Calderon launched his crackdown on the cartels in December 2006. He noted a little too dismissively that most of those were narcos and their associates. He also has pointed out that Mexico's homicide rate is lower than that of Jamaica and Brazil, Washington and New Orleans, yet they're not branded as danger zones and losing tourists. Mexico has an "image problem," he said at a recent tourism conference. "We have to work on the perception and image of Mexico."

No, actually, this isn't an image problem. It's a real problem to residents of Cuernavaca, Ciudad Juarez and a growing list of cities whose citizens don't care whether things are worse in Rio de Janeiro or Washington.
I agree that the comments from Calderón were tone-deaf and inappropriate, and I've written a not-yet-published piece arguing just that. (Though somehow I managed to not use the expression "tone-deaf" anywhere in the piece, a further sign of my declining English skills.) But I disagree that it isn't an image problem. It's both a security problem and a related problem of perception. The two aren't mutually exclusive, and addressing them both requires a two-pronged strategy. The security problem is certainly a priority, but you can't blame the Calderón administration for pointing out the gap between Mexico's image and its reality (although I don't think Calderón should necessarily be the person to make that case, at least not in the way he has).

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