Thursday, May 19, 2011

Different Responses to Different Massacres

Presumably in response to the mass graves found outside the state capital, 100 marines have deployed to Durango.

Mexico has long had a problem with its security policy being determined in large part by media attention, something that always struck me the ignorance of the worsening situation when I lived in Torreón. This seems a pretty good example of the same phenomenon. Because the mass graves in San Fernando were discovered first, because the murders were allegedly perpetrated by an identifiable villain, and because they formed a story of inexplicable cruelty, Tamaulipas announced the creation of three new military bases and the deployment of more than 500 soldiers (not sure of the exact number, because the train deployment didn't include any numbers on the number of troops). But more bodies were discovered in Durango than in Tamaulipas, and the number of murders has recently been comparable, despite Durango having just over half the population that Tamaulipas does. Perhaps there is another explanation for the disproportionate responses beyond the discrepancy in media attention, but I can't think of one, and that's not a good way to make policy.


jd said...

Part of it is the nature of the victims - the "inexplicable cruelty" part of the media narrative has a lot to do with the victims being perceived as largely comprised of random innocents. In Durango, the "narcofosa" seems to have a more literal connotation - they weren't just dug by narcos, but those who ended up in them were allegedly part of the game. Not all of them actually were, of course, but the few stories out there tend to emphasize that it was more related to a battle for the plaza than was the case the victims in Tamaulipas. Not to mention that because of last summer's incident in San Fernando, the storyline was already basically in place for the media, hence the discrepancy.

On the policy level, none of this goes against what you're saying at all - policy shouldn't be driven by media coverage. But in reality - and as any US 'hood movie makes clear - when its troublemakers gettin' what's coming, the authorities shrug; outrage is saved for the perceived innocents.

pc said...

Yeah, perception of the victims probably plays a role. It also helps explain why the 72 foreign migrants massacred in San Fernando in August didn't spur much activity, but this did. They weren't troublemakers, but they were on the margins of the law in the sense that they were illegally in the country, and unfortunately, the government is just less motivated by poor foreigners getting butchered.

RE Durango, I've read that its the result of the Zetas and Chapo fighting, but it's also kind of weird how no one has really dug in and tried to find a little something more.