Thursday, September 30, 2010

Comparing Mexico to Colombia is Like Comparing Dwayne Wade to Yo-Yo Ma

Highlighting the LA Times' recent reporting on the subject, Daniel Hernández has a pretty good summary of why the two nations are so different at La Plaza:
The nature of the foe: Colombia's decades-long conflict with the FARC rebel group and with powerful drug cartels is motivated, at least on the rebel side, by a Marxist ideology aimed at overthrowing the state. In Mexico, the drug war is motivated by the cartels' basic goal of moving narcotics into the U.S. without government interference, and collecting profits.

Territory: At the peak of its power, the FARC controlled a "Switzerland-size chunk" of Colombia's territory, with identifiable borders, plus other land. In contrast, Mexican drug gangs' sway over certain regions of Mexico remains fluid, and there is "no zone the Mexican army cannot reach when it wants."

Targets and tactics: Terrorist-style attacks have occurred in Mexico's drug war (a remote-controlled car bomb in Ciudad Juarez, a grenade attack on civilians in Michoacan) but they have not occurred with the frequency and scope as such tactics in Colombia. The Mexico drug war is mostly a conflict between feuding cartel groups.

State weakness: This is where the line is fuzziest. Colombia had a weakened army when the FARC began attacking the state, but a relatively strong civil society that eventually rose up and demanded solutions. Mexico sent 50,000 troops head-on to combat its drug gangs, but it has so far fallen short in pursuing desperately needed reforms in the justice system, for example, and in money laundering.
Taking that a step further, even if you accept that their similarities are important, I don't really know what the implications are. A Plan Mexico for Colombia is where a lot of proponents of the analogy go, but it is there in particular that the comparison falls apart, because, even after a decade of Plan Colombia, the nation remains the world's premier cocaine exporter, it remains far more violent than Mexico (though safer than 10 years ago), and Plan Colombia was successful only insofar as it helped beat back the Farc, a group that has no corollary in Mexico.

Discarding that, what does the comparison tell us? OK, Mexico could use a more trustworthy judiciary and police force, but who couldn't? It's kind of like telling us that Delhomme needs to throw less interceptions because Peyton Manning does; we don't need Manning's example to know that turnovers are bad.

Scoring When it Counts

Chicharito's been quiet since the games started counting, so it was nice to see him find the net for the game-winner against Valencia in the Champions League.

Dos Santos, in contrast, despite being the darling of Mexico's World Cup run, can't even get onto the bench for Tottenham.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Attacks on Municipal Governments

The good news is that a mayor wasn't killed this time, but the municipal palace in Matamoros was attacked with grenades earlier today. Matamoros, a beach town in Tamaulipas, is located in the Zetas-Gulf war zone in the Northeast, which is also the area where a lot of the recently attacked mayors lived.


Five more of the arrestees of in last year's sweep of Michoacán officials were released, leaving the number of those remaining in jail at one, out of a total of 38 initially arrested. One of those released said that the arrests stemmed from a list of names found in a drug seizure, which could be a damning piece of evidence, or could be entirely circumstantial. Regardless of whether the reason for the collapse of the michoacanazo is the inability to build a case against guilty officials or the mass arrest of innocent officials, this episode is an utter embarrassment to the Calderón administration. Unfortunately, it's also an airtight demonstration to the millions of Mexicans who are suspicious of government declarations that the sky is blue that their skepticism is justified.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tragedy in Oaxaca

Earlier today, a landslide in a tiny, rain-soaked town in Oaxaca buried some 300 houses. One thousand people are feared to have been killed.

Update: Evidently, the death toll is being revised significantly downward. The state government of Oaxaca is presently reporting four deaths and 12 disappearances. Ulises Ruiz, who's not a paragon for honesty, we should add, says that the number could rise, but that the initial estimates were significantly off the mark.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Whose Side Is He On?

Reading about AMLO's continued and ever-more-rabid opposition to a PAN-PRD alliance in Mexico State, you wonder if he meditates on the fact that the more successful he is in this gambit, the more he helps Peña Nieto along his way to Los Pinos.

A Fifth Dead Mayor

The decrease in my posting combined with the increase in attacks on municipal presidents mean that an astonishingly high percentage of my recent posts have been focused on episodes like this one: a mayor in Tancítaro, Michoacán was found stoned to death along with his personal secretary earlier today. The official in question, Gustavo Sánchez, was not a member of any political party, and was an elementary school teacher who had taken the job in an interim capacity late last year.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Against a Truce

Leo Zuckermann doesn't like the editorial from El Diario, but he says it was more complicated than a simple plea for peace:
You can criticize Calderón's strategy against organized crime (in this space we have done so). But what sounds like a street fight is saying that the president started the poor because he was illegitimate [as the paper accused]. That can have only one goal: to piss off the government. Why?

Because El Diario is very pissed. Not only have two of their people been killed but now, according to Alejandro Poiré, federal government spokesperson, the Procuraduría de Chihuahua has signaled that the most likely motive for the murder of Luis Carlos Santiago "is for personal reasons and not for his professional activities". El Diario doesn't believe this...
The practice of chalking up murders committed for political reasons to lovers' quarrels has a long history in Mexico.

A Fourth Murdered Mayor

The latest is Prisciliano Rodríguez, from Doctor González, Nuevo León, which is about 25 miles from Monterrey. This is the fourth in the past six weeks, and the fifteenth since Calderón came into office. The issue has gotten a lot more attention since the August murder of Edelmiro Cavazos, of Santiago, Nuevo León, and it's something that should be more of a priority for the feds. Any reduction in the threat of organized crime will have to include a cooperative effort from all levels of government, and the widespread targeting of mayors makes cooperation at the municipal level a lot harder.

Sweetening Things Up

It only seems fitting to follow the post on Mexico's and the US's obesity epidemics with a bit about the popularity of Coke. Daniel Hernández reports in the La Plaza that the Mexican Coke recipe, which uses sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, is making inroads in Texas and California. According to sugar loyalists, the Mexican recipe is to its American counterpart what filet mignon is to a Slim Jim, or something along those lines. I'd always heard in Mexico that their Coke tasted different, but I never noticed anything. Of course, I was typically drinking the stuff to put out a fire caused by eating too much salsa, so that might deaden my palate a bit.

Number One, Unfortunately

Mexico has knocked the US from its top spot among the world's most most overweight nations, according to a new study from the OECD. Seventy percent of Mexicans suffer from some form of obesity, compared to 68 percent of Americans. Calderón made remarks claiming the same in January, but this is, to my knowledge, the first study that shows Mexico as the world's tubbiest nation.

To celebrate my intimate relationship with each nation's cuisine, I'm doubling up on lunch: a plate of deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza along side an order of twelve tacos al pastor. Pray for my arteries.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

He's Safe!

Julio César Godoy, kin of Michoacán Governor Leonel Godoy and fugitive, has been sworn into his seat in the Chamber of Deputies more than a year after being elected, during which time he has been well hidden. Now, he has an exemption from prosecution for the next two years. Regardless of whether Godoy is dirty or the charges against him are trumped up, this episode makes a mockery of Mexico's political class and criminal justice system.

Update: More here.

Protecting the Journalists

Calderón has announced a new plan to protect journalists. It has a provision that threatened journalists receive government protection, though one wonders if the government truly has the resources to protect the scores if not hundreds of journalists whose work leads to threats. In any event, good for him, I guess, though one wonders why he decided to make it an issue now, since Mexico has been among the most dangerous places in the world for reporters for at least a decade now.

Moreover, while Calderón doesn't deserve criticism over the new plan, it's also true that the tools are already in place to protect journalists. Mexico has had a special prosecutor for crimes against reporters since the Fox years, but the office's performance couldn't be charitably describe as anything beyond ineffectual. And, of course, murder remains a crime, and if Calderón wanted to make the investigation of murders of journalists a higher priority for the PGR, he could certainly make that happen. If 90 percent of murders against journalists resulted in a conviction, we'd soon see fewer killings, and subsequently less self-censorship. What's missing is a genuine recognition from the government that journalists being killed is a substantial problem for the nation at large. I'm skeptical that Calderón's plan can will that element into existence.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Half Full or Half Empty?

A Mexico fan could choose to be disappointed by the suspension from the Tri of promising youngsters Efraín Juárez and Carlos Vela. After all, it is a shame that they won't be able to continue developing with the rest of the green-shirts, and the reason for the suspension -- a prostitute- and transvestite-filled post-game bash following the victory over Colombia on September 7-- is a bit embarrassing.

But I think we have to see things as half full here. While generally criminal and likely immoral, mishaps with prostitutes are a rite of passage into the elite levels of soccer. Vela and Juárez are heading down a path previously tread by the likes of Wayne Rooney, Frank Ribery, Ronaldo (the good one), and many other greats. Trophies are sure to follow.

An Illustration of Inequality

Two short notes in the Mexican papers this morning jumped out at me: first, 57 percent of the nation's municipalities don't have a single bank. Second, 86 percent of the nation's businesses have no access to credit.

I've seen versions of that first stat (I posted about an estimate of 64 percent earlier this year), but that second figure is astounding. Inequality is often described as a moral and fairness issue, and to me it certainly is. However, here it's also an issue of efficiency objectively speaking. How many more jobs could be created if the smaller firms could more easily borrow money and expand their operations? What would be the impact on Mexico's GDP if more than 15 percent of the nation's businesses could get their hands on a loan?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Looking for a Truce

One of the big stories in Mexico this week (not to mention one of the biggest Mexico stories in the US) revolves around the murder of an El Diario intern in Juárez, and the subsequent front-page plea by the paper for a truce with the drug gangs. This attempt to carve out some sense of what would be acceptable for the gangs led to a condemnation from the federal government, on the grounds that no one should try to negotiate with organized crime.

There's no question that when societal institutions outside of the government start to show a willingness to find an MO with criminals, it undermines attempts by the government to unite all of the nation in steadfast opposition to organized crime. It makes it easier for other groups to negotiate wth crime as well. Nonetheless, it's really hard to blame newspapers for wanting to live in peace. The government's frustration is understandable and valid, but the newspaperman's desire to see his children grow is far more so. Furthermore, Calderón's team is in a sense reaping what it has sown. It has spent precious little effort to protect reporters, neither as regular citizens whose job makes them a target, nor as a special industry necessary to the operation of a free society. Even if Calderón's team had done a lot more, newspapers would still likely be in the crosshairs, but given that they've done next to nothing, it's logical that newspapers would decide that their safest bet lies in seeking accommodations with criminal groups.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lou Dobbs' Judicial Alter-ego

This has a simply fantastic opening sentence, but the "you people" part is my favorite. The judge sounds not entirely unlike my grandmother when talking about the whole of humanity under the age of 60.
A man convicted of trafficking cocaine will be resentenced after a federal judge made a slew of inflammatory comments about his Mexican heritage, including tangential references to Iranian terrorists, Hugo Chavez and Adolf Hitler's dog.

Jose Figueroa was convicted of running a multimillion-dollar cocaine operation in Wisconsin. U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa sentenced him to almost 20 years, the low end of the guidelines range.

Figueroa appealed, saying he was discriminated against on the basis of his national origin. He challenged both the pre-sentencing remarks and a search of his home, which led to the discovery of $50,000 cash and large quantities of cocaine.

The 7th Circuit rejected Figueroa's nonconsensual search claim based on his own courtroom testimony, but found Judge Randa's comments to be out of line and ordered resentencing.

Noting Figueroa's Mexican descent, Randa had made a number of comments about Mexico's contribution to drug and immigration issues in the United States, angrily referring to Figueroa and his family as "you people" several times.

The Silliest Piece of Writing Since Liberal Fascism

Matt Yglesias thinks that bands should charge more for their tickets, and price out the less wealthy members of their fan base whenever possible. The comments on this one are a lot of fun.

Friday, September 17, 2010

El Grande: Another Big Shot

The arrest of Sergio "El Grande" Villarreal, who was someone always whispered about in Torreón, was another big scalp in for Calderón and co. It's striking how the government caught very few top-level people in Calderón's first three years, and now, in the past year, La Barbie turned himself in, Nacho Coronel was killed, Teo García was arrested, Sergio Villarreal was arrested, and Arturo Beltrán was killed. Quite a stark shift. This doesn't, however, seem to have brought about any big change in the willingness and capacity of organized crime to kill people, though of course a shift like that wouldn't probably be evident in a single year.

Enrique Peña Nieto Is like Mayweather Ducking Pacquiao

I don't think Peña Nieto's underhanded gambit to avoid having his pick face an alliance opponent in next year's race to replace him by itself will trickle down into the public consciousness, though it should. There is, however, a growing list of starkly and objectively deficient moments in his tenure (the Paulette case, his absentee swine flu response, this) that together could begin to put a dent in the popular support for him. I don't see how anyone paying close attention doesn't have grave concerns about his judgment and his readiness for the presidency. He's definitely slick, which explains his popularity, but the more you see him, you get the feeling it's not like Bill Clinton was slick (which would in and of itself be worth keeping an eye on), but rather like James Woods' pimp in Casino. My biggest complaint about AMLO since 2006 is that he's simply not a democrat. Peña Nieto isn't there yet, but you have to wonder if his instincts aren't similar.

A Story Bursting with Irony

Chiapas is building a wall across parts of its border with Guatemala. This should play well with the conservative talking heads.

Catching Up

Today will be devoted to some of the more notable stories over the past week that my absence from this space forced me to neglect.

The first: more alleged silly theatricality from the SSP. About a week after it was revealed that La Barbie wasn't taken down in a massive Federal Police operation but rather turned himself in, one of the journalists who survived a kidnapping in Gómez Palacio earlier this summer says he wasn't actually rescued either, but that he managed to escape after his kidnappers were spooked by a helicopter and took off. Subsequently, he and his colleagues faced pressure from the SSP to participate in the ruse to the public that they had been liberated thanks to heroics from the Federal Police. Now, the same cameraman from Televisa Torreón is asking for asylum in the US, saying he fears for his safety.

Assuming this is true, in addition to a lack of competence throughout the ranks, there is an equally worrying lack of wisdom from those at the top of Mexico's security mountain.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Viva México

Lack of time, embarrassment over the events taking place at Neyland Stadium last Saturday, and ill health have all combined to limit my blogging. Hopefully, all of this will pass. In the meantime, everyone have a shot of tequila tonight.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

More on La Barbie's "Arrest"

Some sharp comments from Leo Zuckermann:
These videos always seemed weird to me. Why would someone like La Barbie confess so easily when the first thin lawyers tell their client is to shut up? The smiles and confessions from Valdez begin to make sense it's true that he turned himself in so as to join a protected witness program and therefore give up "bigger fish" to the authorities.

I continue to think that the detention of the La Barbie, one of the most violent criminals in the country, is good news, even with all of the informational confusion that has surrounded the case. It's a shame that a good police action is tarnished by a failed communication that unfortunately only awakens the suspicious instinct in many Mexicans.
The second paragraph basically echoes what I said a handful of posts ago, so of course I'm partial to that line of thinking. It also occurs to me that if the idea was to have him hand over other criminals still on the street, then there was nothing stupider than parading him in front of the camera.

Up, Up, Up

Earlier this week, a report from the Chamber of Deputies indicated that the number of kidnappings in Mexico has tripled in the past five years. Kidnapping is notoriously hard to tally with much precision, because the victims often neglect to report it, but we are safe in concluding that there is at least some truth to the report. This is not a happy stat, and just a further example that organized crime in Mexico isn't just about drugs. The implications of that fact are troubling.

A Third Murdered Mayor

The mayor of El Naranjo, a small town in San Luis Potosí, was killed earlier this week while working in his office. Beyond the act itself, this is notable for two reasons: first, this is the third mayor to be killed in about a month. Second, though it lies just of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León, San Luis is not a state known for a whole lot of drug violence. Could it be that the Zeta-Gulf wars are spreading?


Mexico's National Security Council spokesman, Alejandro Poiré, says that his nation doesn't share Hillary Clinton's opinion that Mexico resembles Colombia in the 1980s. It's notable that this Poiré and not, say, Genaro García or even Calderón himself pushing back against Clinton. Even though they may completely disagree with her assessment, there's a lot of hesitation in Calderón's government to rebuke Hillary.

Update: Obama disagrees with Hillary, too. Good for him.

Well, That's Embarrassing

Evidently, La Barbie wasn't captured as the result of a 1,000-man operation; he turned himself in. Why would the government be spreading the news that they caught him? First of all, it's not worse news just because he turned himself in. There's still another capo behind bars. More to the point, it's not like anyone was convinced of Calderón's basic soundness and competency owing to that one event; it was a big deal at the time, and Valdez is certainly a big fish, but in the broad scope of Mexican security, it was not a game-changing moment. Had it actually occurred, the Valdez operation alone would have provided a minor and temporary boost to perceptions of Calderón's drug policy, and for the sake of that blip, they all made fools of themselves. Whosever idea this was deserves all of the egg on his or her face.

At least now we have a clue as to why he was smiling the whole time.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hillary Jumps on the Comparison Du Jour

Hillary Clinton says that Mexico increasingly resembles Colombia from the 1980s, and added that Plan Colombia, while controversial, delivered results. The implication is that Mexico needs its own Plan Colombia in order to overcome the present problems.

The issue here isn't that she's wrong, exactly; Mexican security does look increasingly chaotic, all the more so when take a step back and consider the arc of the past eight years or so. But when comparing Mexico and Colombia, the differences are far more important than the similarities. Mexico doesn't have anything like the Farc, the paramilitaries, or the giant tract of jungle that is completely out of government control. It doesn't have to fight drug traffic against the backdrop of a decades-long civil war. And it is in the realm of these key differences that you can point to some success for Plan Colombia and President Uribe (i.e., the Farc was weakened), not on the Colombian security issues that are most comparable to Mexico (like cocaine production and traffic, where Colombia remains the world leader). That should give us a lot of pause.

Also, I'm not sure if this is related, but Santiago Creel and Jesús Murillo Karam today came out against a Plan Colombia for Mexico.

We're Going after Chapo

The post's title doubles as a comment from Felipe Calderón last night. It's striking how little we've heard language like that from him over the past four years. He almost always addresses the government's pursuit of Chapo on defensive terms: We aren't protecting him. That, of course, feeds the strain of thinking that such is precisely what Calderón's up to is up to. I generally prefer politicians who aren't prone to boasts to those who are blustery, but this seems like an issue where a little bit of aggressive promise-making wouldn't be out of place.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Celebritization of El Universal's Op-ed Page

The newest columnist at Mexico's paper of record is none other than Cuauhtémoc Blanco. And while part of me might want to get all superior and make fun of his opening effort, I actually thought that it was pretty good. You might expect some athletes with enormous fame to pull their punches and offer nothing but anodyne cliches, but Blanco is evidently determined to locate spades, and label the objects in question as such. To wit: his headline was, "Stadium without people; coach without merit", and the rest of the piece pretty much followed in that vain. I especially liked the ending, which I took to be ironic, given Blanco's own storied track record with consumption of unhealthy products:
Remember: eat your fruits and vegetables and we'll see each other here next Monday.

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.


According to a BGC-Excélsior poll, 88 percent of the nation believes in the frontal combat of organized crime. That seems like an extraordinarily high number, and it's worth remembering that all of the media outlets belonging to Grupo Empresarial Ángeles are generally mano dura. Nonetheless, even if the sample was cooked a bit, it's a reminder that there isn't much of a constituency as yet for calling off the dogs.

The poll also had 86 percent responding in the affirmative to the question, "Insecurity is Mexicans' greatest worry and the government's foremost task". That's also a bit odd, because most polls (though not all; I believe Pew is a prominent exception) show the economy as the nation's principal challenge, and 86 percent is a huge majority. The language is perhaps part of the explanation; it asked about the population at larger rather than, What is your biggest problem?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

More Mérida

Gil Kerlikowske is in Mexico meeting with Mexican dignitaries and talking drug policy. As numerous officials have indicated over the past several months, American security aid for Mexico will continue beyond the upcoming expiration of the Mérida Initiative. He also checked out a rehab facility and reaffirmed US opposition to legalization.

More on the topic from Boz here. I wholeheartedly second his comment that improving implementation is vital for the next round. An office solely dedicated to monitoring spending is a step in the right direction, but I do wonder if that alone will be sufficient.

The Other Informe Event

Only slightly less attention has been paid to the informe of Enrique Peña Nieto than to that of Calderón. The Mexico State governor, continuing his years-long audition for the role of the president, has been peppering the newspapers (and I can only assume the TV screens as well) with a series of cloying ads, and there's been articles about the jockeying and posturing by Peña Nieto's team and the opposition for weeks now. One of the more noteworthy portions of the speech itself was the governor's denial that there exists a failed state in Mexico. Peña Nieto is getting to that debate by about a year and a half late, but it's still interesting to see him pointedly not nicking Calderón.

Knocking Felipe's Informe

Manlio Fabio Beltrones says he wasn't thrilled by the informe last week:
Right now, we are closely analyzing the content of the presidential informe and we notice that his self-criticism isn't suitably accompanied by immediate proposals and actions that allow us to come out of the economic stalling, reduce poverty, and prevent the effects of a new slowdown, which is now being forecast in the US.
This is true as far as it goes, but it's a bit disingenuous if we remember Calderón's informe last year. Basically, he did exactly what Beltrones called for, offering a specific list of ten goals in his speech last September, and following them up with concrete reform proposals toward the end of 2009. However, opposition politicians from Beltrones on down were not blown away by Calderón's willingness to accompany his report with immediate actions and proposals; indeed, they basically blocked everything.

Lots of Marriages

There have been close to 400 same-sex marriages in Mexico City since it was legalized six months ago. This, I believe, represents a rather significant acceleration in the frequency of the marriages from the first months after the legalization. The DF government says that more than 10 percent of the unions have been of foreigners, mostly Europeans but also visitors from other parts of Latin America as well as the US.

Unexpected Number

The country with the largest share of foreign investment in Mexico over the first six months of 2010 is none other than Holland, with 57 percent of the total, followed by the US (29 percent) and Spain (8 percent). So, what are the enormous investments by Dutch firms that I'm forgetting about?

Also, the total number of FDI was 27 percent higher in the first six months of 2010 than in 2009.

Update: From the department of Duh: Aguachile reminds me in comments of the Heineken purchase of Femsa in January.

Creel Blames the PRI

Santiago Creel pointed out that Mexico's violence is concentrated in a handful of states, all of them governed by the PRI for most or all of their recent history: Durango, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Sinaloa, and Coahuila. I'd never thought about it quite like that, but that's certainly true. However, we should be careful about attributing too much responsibility to the PRI governors for the upticks in violence. The primary people responsible in Juárez are Chapo Guzmán, Vicente Carrillo, and the thousands of gang members working for them. Likewise in Tamaulipas and Nuevo León--the governors of those two states didn't have a lot to do with the Zetas and the Gulf traffickers going to war. Also, if you do want to blame the government first, the point about the governors should be coupled with the realization that panistas have walked Los Pinos for ten years, and research suggests that voting for PAN mayors leads to higher number of executions.

A New Installment of a Twenty-Year-Old Feud

That would be Elba Esther Gordillo versus whoever happens to be serving as Secretary of Education. In this most recent edition, she accused Alonso Lujambio of being more worried about the 2012 elections than carrying out the educational reform that Mexico truly needs. This is an example of what I believe psychologists would call a projection; Gordillo has proved a consistent foe of a thorough, enduring, and genuine educational reform, but no one has been better at reading the tea leaves and preparing for political changeovers. Which is why Mexico's public educational system is a mess, yet Gordillo remains where she is.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Second Consecutive Post in which a Politician Comes Off as Less than Brilliant

From Greg Weeks, the always entertaining Sue Myrick wrote an implication-heavy, evidence-light piece about links between Hezbollah and Mexican drug gangs. Despite her best scare-mongering efforts, said links do not, as far as we know, exist.


Via Politico, opponents of SB1070 should get a kick out of this:


Wow, even beyond being a borderline tax cheat, Floyd Mayweather seems like a great guy.

Corruption North of the Border

For as much as you read (and read and read) about violence and corruption related to the drug trade in Mexico, examples of it in the US --which of course there are, though rarer and less spectacular-- provoke very little attention in the US media. (This is a perennial complaint among Mexican commentators.) For instance, I saw nothing about the sentencing of former Customs official Martha Alicia Garnica, who last week received 20 years in federal prison for drug and related charges, on any of the major websites, yet her corruption makes the existence people like Chapo possible.

Update: I have since noticed that Daniel Hernández wrote a post on the sentencing for La Plaza a couple of days ago. Whoops.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On the Assault Weapons Ban

Diego Valle runs the numbers and comes away thinking that the spike in murders in Mexico is not so closely related to the expiration of the assault weapons ban, as Felipe Calderón claimed before Congress earlier this year. Though I would not be able to support it with the reams upon reams of data that he is, I kind of suspected as much.

Another Survivor

The PGR says that beyond the Ecuadorian who walked 20 kilometers with a bullet wound in his mouth, there is another survivor of last week's immigrant massacre, who has provided important info and has been in contact with authorities in his country. With two survivors and 72 dead, the total number of migrants at the time of the killing would seem to be 74. However, the Ecuadorian claims there were 76. So, is his memory faulty (which would be understandable), or there still two more survivors out there?

Chapo's Fault

La Barbie is blaming Chapo for breaking the peace and sparking the long-standing war among different trafficking organizations, especially in Juárez. He also said that the Zetas don't respect deals made with other gangs, and that "even their mothers don't love them".

I wish every arrested kingin delivered as much gossip as this guy; it's like a narco beauty parlor.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Empty Blustering, or a Sign?

It's hard to know whether Manlio Fabio Beltrones' call to return the tranquility of the past that the PAN governments have lost is just an easy way to lash out at Calderón, or if this is an indicator that he would be more accommodating toward organized crime* were he to arrive to Los Pinos in 2012. If it's the latter, is that reflective of his entire party's approach, or just his own predisposition? Peña Nieto said the opposite a few weeks ago, but of course he could have been fibbing.

*I hasten to add that, for reasons I've explained before and will surely explain again though not now because it is late, the much-longed-for narco-government pact likely couldn't hold, and would be too politically risky to guide policy for any length of time.

More La Barbie Nuggets

The recently arrested trafficker made an appearance in Felipe Calderón's Informe. Indeed, according to Carlos Loret, Valdez Villarreal saved the president's state of the nation report. Valdez Villarreal also admitted to helping hide El JJ, the man who allegedly put a bullet into Salvador Cabañas' head. Villarreal says that the forward and the trafficker (who was a friend of his from Laredo) were friends, but the former was in a bad mood the night he was shot, which led to the angry confrontation and the shooting. Now, he says, JJ is living in Colombia. Lastly, Valdez Villarreal said that he participated in a summit of drug leaders late last year, which included el Chapo, el Azul, Heriberto Lazcano, Mayo Zambada, and other industry heavyweights. This summit was aimed at hammering out a pact to carve up the nation's territory and reduce violence; it was demonstrably not a success.

Crazy Priests

I always kind of cringe when Mexico gets described as a deeply conservative Catholic nation, as that doesn't really square with my experience. Largely catholic, yes, and conservative too in some ways, but "conservative catholic" calls to mind an image of Mexico as a modern day outpost of the inquisition or something like that, which papers over the essentially modern and commonsense approach to religion that I saw most of the time. But maybe if so many of the most recognizable clergymen weren't bent on making crazy comments left and right, that erroneous image would disappear. For instance, Onésimo Cepeda, the bishop of Ecatepec, offered his opinion of modern Mexico with the statement, "El estado laico es una jalada", which roughly translates to, "The secular state is a bunch of crap". As I mentioned before, that sentiment doesn't represent the nation at large, but casual observers can be forgiven for drawing mistaken conclusions about the nation with guys like Cepeda running around.

Of course, the go-to source for priestly insanity in Mexico is, as of a few weeks ago, Aguachile.