Monday, August 30, 2010

More on Calderón's Reaction to Criticism

Lydia Cacho is not the first person I looked to for security commentary, but I thought she had some interesting things to say in a column last week:
The drug traffickers march took to the streets of Zacatecas. Wives, children, and brothers of criminals walked along the streets demanding their right to "a life in peace". Neighbors noticed armored trucks with false plates, and recognized leading retail dealers, and four fired ex judicial police. And as in a theater of the absurd, the march passed before the people and the authorities. The signs requested the removal of the army. The wife of a famous hit man had a sign that said, "No more dead children, fuera army".


This problem has many ramifications, but here I will deal with one: the incapacity of President Calderón to ally himself with critical and professional civil organizations that for decades have worked in their communities against violence, corruption, and for human rights. These groups, which don't belong to the elites invited to the Dialogues for Security, have for years been making local diagnoses that allow them to understand the complex reality. Their activists are the ones that have created social prevention and education networks. And yes, they have also documented cases of grave violations by the army and authorities, and they are critical of the system; nevertheless, their work is centered on the dignity of people and they are a tool to defuse possible social explosions. Strengthening civil organizations right now could be the most important play for the federal government. They are the ones who know who is marching, governing, and writing for the country and those who defend dark interests. A strategic dialogue that respects differences and creates alliances where they coincide is a tool against narco-cynicism. Calderón needs to understand who are his real enemies.
A couple of points: first off, Calderón's willingness to take the criticisms of his policy to heart isn't an elite versus non-elite dispute. Or, at the very least, it doesn't need to be. Only so many people can have access to the president, which means some of the smaller, more localized groups are going to have a harder time getting heard. If their message is carried by someone else, I don't see that as much of a problem. Second, narco as a modifier could stand to be curtailed a bit. Narco-cynicism is a bridge too far.

Lastly, she's exactly right that Calderón's intransigence toward critics does more harm to the effectiveness of his policy than listening to them would. Both Calderón supporters and his critics are guilty of this sometimes, but the tendency is often to reject everything the other side has to say and dismiss them as entirely incorrect. It's a search for areas of disagreement than for areas of agreement, which is not the most productive approach. Apologies for any resemblance the previous sentences might have to many written by David Broder over the past few decades.

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