Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Meaning of "Rigged"

As part of its welcoming of Calderón to Washignton, NPR published an examination of security operations in Juárez titled, "Mexico's Drug War: A Rigged Fight?". The authors' methods are questionable (Malcolm Beith discusses why at length here), but I also think the piece* suffers from a conceptual flaw common to lots of reporting on Mexican security: the idea that the fight is either wholly clean or entirely corrupt, as though it were a binary condition. A lot of this presumably comes from the fact that lots of critics of Mexico's security problems and ordinary Mexicans often speak in such sweeping denunciations, and most reporters (understandably) don't get much beyond those two groups. But the idea that Chapo and co. have bought the army wholesale is silly. (To take but one recent piece of evidence: in his famous interview with Proceso, Ismael Zambada talks about how the army almost caught him on a number of occasions.) The idea that the security agencies are completely free of corruption is, of course, likewise not credible. Whereas "rigged" equates the army (or whatever agency) to the 1919 White Sox, determined to lose, the truth is somewhere in between those two extremes.

*Granted, the title is much more problematic than the reporting in this regard.

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