Monday, September 6, 2010

A Couple of Errors

Boz had a comment on Twitter the other day about Andrés Oppenheimer blaming Obama for something that is more rightly the fault of the US Congress: the assault weapons ban, or, more precisely, the lack of one. I agree with him on that score, and I also find fault with this line:
Mexico has the primary responsibility for ending its drug violence. Unless it becomes serious about reforming its 2,200 -- yes, you read right -- corruption-ridden police forces to prevent them from protecting drug traffickers, Mexico's drug cartels will always be ahead of the game.
If you have no frame of reference, 2,000 seems like a huge number, but the US has roughly 18,000 police departments. The US figure represents not only a much greater number in gross terms, but also as a proportion of the total population in each nation. You hear exasperation like Oppenheimer's from Mexican analysts when they talk about the large number of police departments, but the US plainly shows that a large number of different departments and a decentralized police system is not in and of itself a barrier to basically honest and competent police.

As long as we're discussing the mistakes in American coverage of Mexico, this line from Alfredo Corchado is worth refuting:
The meeting took place in Cuernavaca, outside Mexico City, and was attended by leaders of the Sinaloa, Juárez and Gulf cartels in an effort to distribute routes and end rising violence. But the resulting cease-fire didn't last long, and when the pact broke, it unleashed a level of violence not seen since the 1910 Mexican Revolution.
That's only true if you ignore the Cristero War, in which something like 100,000 people were killed in a three-year period. Calderón's four years in power have been bloody, but the total of drug-related killings since December 2006 is only about a third of the total of the Cristero Wars. And that's in a country that was something like one-fifth the size of modern Mexico. This assertion that Mexico is passing through its most violent period since the Revolution isn't the worst mistake in journalism, but it's something that gets repeated a lot, and, unless I'm mistaken, it's completely untrue.


boz said...

Also, Obama supports CIFTA (as did Bill Clinton). It's waiting on Senate ratification, not the president's signature.

Good point on the Cristero war.

Basic factual inaccuracies make Oppenheimer and the Miami Herald look bad.

pc said...

Yeah that was really weird. It makes no sense at all, it would be like blaming Calderón for the weakness of Pemex reform. Which he may well have done as well at some point.