Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Worse Than Ever Before! Or, Comparable to the Last Few Years

Here's the intro to a recent Mclatchy piece:

As recently as a year or two ago, commandos fighting for the Mexican drug cartels often would rather flee than confront security forces.

But an influx of combat weapons — purchased at U.S. gun shops and shows or stolen from Central American munitions stockpiles — and a vast supply of ammunition now enables them to fight, and sometimes outgun, army and federal police units.

Cartel squads toss hand grenades, fire rockets and spray security forces with high-caliber gunfire. They sometimes have 10 times the ammunition of federal forces.

The story about criminals' impressive firepower is certainly worth writing every now and then, but the implication that there's anything new about it is totally unsupported, and is just untrue. For one, the army has heavy artillery, which very few gangs do. Obviously, if three trucks worth of hit men attack a single army Humvee at an Oxxo, they former have more firepower in that moment, but that's more an issue of concentrating forces rather than the total sum of each side's firepower. The idea that the military's arms purchases fail to keep up with the gangs' and that's why Mexico is so violent is not right. Furthermore, grenades in Mexico are nothing new, nor are other high-tech weapons. To wit, this was from a piece written in 2005:

The U.S. government is shutting its consulate in Nuevo Laredo temporarily, citing new safety concerns in the wake of a high-stakes drug-cartel turf war that intensified this week to include rocket-propelled grenades, officials said.


The Associated Press also said authorities found three massive shell casings, believed to be from a rocket launcher, according to unnamed investigators.

This piece, with its desire to label a longtime problem as something suddenly and unprecedentedly dangerous, is a perfect example of what I was talking about here:
This line from a Post piece on Patricia González's brother's kidnapping and videotaped confession jumps out:
Gonzalez's kidnapping and his forced video "confession," with its similarities to the propaganda produced by terrorists, represent a stark escalation in a drug war that has left 30,000 dead over the past four years. The warring cartels often accuse government officials of corruption but rarely in such al-Qaeda-style videos.
The second sentence refutes the first. The only thing even marginally new about this was the fact that the guys are dressed up in fatigues and holding assault rifles. Everything else you see has been going on for years. An anti-kidnapping cop in Torreón was taped crying, beaten, and confessing every illicit relationship and smuggling maneuver in the region back in 2007, and though jarring, it was nothing new even then. La Barbie videotaped the execution of a bunch of Zetas and uploaded to Youtube in 2005. Nothing in this most recent video outstrips that.
As if to prove my point, the scary confiscated weapon whose picture accompanies the Mclatchy piece is ...a revolver. OK, a revolver with a scope affixed to it, which is cool, but a weapon with less killing power than a hunting rifle.

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