Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mexico Under Siege

Yesterday, Deborah Bonello of MexicoReporter posted a video along with photos of the "Peace March In Mexico". The post is about the thousands of protesters who have taken to streets across Mexico to express their anger and indignation about the increase in kidnappings and murders in their country. The protests are also a means to call upon the government to take further action to quell the violence despite the fact that many protesters fear little will change.

Mexico currently has a kidnapping rate that rivals conflict zones such as Iraq and Colombia . Mexican official statistics report a 40%increase in kidnappings between 2004 and 2007, it's believed that figure is much higher because kidnapping victims often don't report their crime to the police authorities.

Today, President Felipe Calderon submitted a report to Mexico's Congress claiming progress from his war against organized crime that began some 21 months ago. Calderon's crime initiative deployed some 40,000 of Mexico's soldiers and 5,000 federal police to border states and large areas of the country infiltrated by drug cartels. Since Calderon launched his crackdown against drug cartels, an estimated 4,100 people have died. Marc Lacey's report "Mexico: Gains Against Drugs Claimed" for the New York Times he wrote:

He said that, in 21 months in office, his administration had rounded up
many drug kingpins and seized more than 11,000 weapons, from pistols to
missile launchers.

Drug cartels routinely unleash urban battles in their never ending power stuggles. They fight over lucrative trade routes to increase their market share and employ weapons, such machine guns and grenades. Mexican officials describe such battles between drug cartels as the "equivalent to military small-unit combat". The harsh reality is that for some time now criminals in Mexico are better equipped than the local police and military units they combat. The LA Times published an article on August 10, 2008 on how weapons and ammunition flow unchecked into Mexico from U.S. Border states.
More than 6,700 licensed gun dealers have set up shop within a short
drive of the 2,000-mile border, from the Gulf Coast of Texas to San
Diego -- which amounts to more than three dealers for every mile of
border territory. Law enforcement has come to call the region an "iron
river of guns."
American made weapons flow into via the use of "straw buyers" which drug cartels employ along U.S. Border States to purchase and smuggle automatic weapons into Mexico. The constant flow of weapons into Mexico is made possible in part due to the large amounts of cash that illegal drug sales produce for drug cartels in the United States. The cost of such weapons if of little concern to drug cartels whose business had grown into a $65 Billion Dollar business as early as 1998. Thus a vicious cycle ensues; Mexico sends the U.S. illegal drugs and America sends Mexico illegal weapons, routinely caught in the middle are the victims of drug violence on both sides of the border.

A High Profile Kidnapping

The governments difficulty to combat drug cartels and crime was brought sharper into focus when Fernando Marti, 14 years old, was kidnapped. Marti who appears in the image below with his parents was the son of a
wealthy businessman. He was kidnapped at a bogus checkpoint set up by criminals dressed in police uniforms.

(Agencia Reforma)
The kidnapping and death of Fernando Marti, shown last year with his
parents, Alejandro and Matilde Marti, sparked national outrage. His
family reportedly paid the abductors millions of dollars to try to
bring the 14-year-old home.
What troubles so many is the fact that Marti was kidnapped despite efforts by his family to take necessary precautions. Marti was kidnapped from the families bullet proof sedan along with his bodyguard and his driver. The Marti family waited in agony for their son to be released after paying a reported $6 Million
Dollars in ransom money. Marti's decomposed and bullet riddled body would later be found in the trunk of a stolen and abandoned car. Calderon would attend Fernando Marti's funeral while and investigation would later reveal that Federal Police officers were involved in the kidnapping.

Police involvement in criminal activities makes President Felipe Calderon's efforts that much more complicated. The government has the arduous task of combating what many see as pervasive corruption within local and federal police authorities. The corruption amongst police, even if limited, has instilled fear among Mexican citizens, who often fear local and federal police, as much as they fear criminals.

Taking to the Streets

Mexican citizens have taken to the streets to publicly express their outrage and to demand their government take further action, but sadly many admit that combating rampant crime and violence from drug cartels is a problem that will require considerable resources that Mexico can ill afford.

The rash of kidnappings has not only affected citizens throughout Mexico, but has also impacted tourists who are often kidnapped in what is considered as "Express Kidnappings". In such crime tourists are kidnapped and forced to draw money from their bank accounts via Automated Teller Machines (ATM's) and often released unharmed. Mexicans are increasingly not only calling on their government to step up enforcements, but also to raise the penalty on those who commit such crimes, especially when it involves children.

Economic Crisis Coupled with Future Uncertainty

The Mexican government is under pressure to demonstrate results from their offensive against organized crime and calm the uncertainty felt by a large segment of it's citizens. How effective Calderon's administration will be at combating drug cartels and crime has yet to be determined. Pres. Calderon has a full plate before him, aside from combating crime and drug cartels, an economic crisis, he is also wrapped up in a battle to reform Pemex, the state-run oil company which provides the lions share of revenue to his government.

Mexico's growing economic crisis is further impacted as its second largest source of revenue, remittances from Mexicans living and working in the U.S. continues to decline, mostly as a result of the United States declining economy. Prior to 2008, the level of remittances had steadily grown year-after-year and as of 2006 had surpassed tourism to become the second largest source of revenue for Mexico behind oil exports.

Calderon's term as President of Mexico end in 2012 so he has a years ahead to work on fixing many of Mexico's troubles. However, the unfolding presidential campaign in the United States could spell further trouble for Calderon, as an Obama or McCain administration responds to public pressure to fix the illegal immigration problem. Mexico's civic unrest may increase once the U.S. Congress reforms our immigration policy and sharply curtails the number of Mexican migrant workers who are allowed enter and legally work into the United States. As it currently stands Mexico's inability to create jobs results in many of it's citizens voting with their feet, leaving Mexico and seek a better life across the border. How Mexico will be impacted when a greater number of it's citizens can no longer easily, albeit illegally, migrate to the United States is a problem, given Mexico's current problems, that has not popped up on President Calderon's radar.

1 comment:

artsmission said...

This is an amazing work. Please continue to pray for Mexico. I hope that both the US and Mexico can find programs in which will stimulate them bother socially and economically.