Thursday, March 11, 2010

Irresponsible journalism (but boy does it sell!)

I just want to rant quickly about two terribly reported news stories I heard/read today.

The first, from Al Jazeera. Correspondent Franc Contreras reports on the "new front in the war on drugs" – Reynosa. It's the latest front, or one of them, but it's hardly "new." Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo were the focal point of a war waged between Chapo and the Gulf cartel between 2003 and 2005. It then quieted down when Chapo's people left, but it remained a front. The army was deployed there during the Fox administration, and has been there since. There have been ridiculous shootouts in the city since 2006, and many reports of Zeta extortion. I last went there in early 2009, and everyone told me "All is calm." Which here in the drug war, essentially means everything is about to get really bad. The new news in Reynosa, as Contreras does point out, is that reporters are getting kidnapped/killed. But that does not make it a "new front."

I'm very used to reports like this from correspondents who are new to the issue and looking for a "new" angle, but Contreras is a good reporter and a veteran here in Mexico; I expect better context and choice of words next time.

The other report is from Reforma. Front page headline reads: "Narcos intensify executions in DF." Fair enough, given that there have been 46 narco-executions since December, compared to 31 in the same period last year.

But... La Barbie's push through nearby Morelos and the apparent interest in Mexico City aside, haven't we heard this before? In 2008, there was a lot of talk about the cartels making a move for Mexico City. "The cartels are operating here," top officials said after some major arrests back then. There was also a botched bombing attempt, attributed by many to the Sinaloa cartel. There were also some narco-mantas, or banners. A beheading or two.

Back then, Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard rejected talk of bringing the army onto the streets of the capital, while a PGR source told me that there was no way the cartels would seriously make a move on Mexico City. After all, he said (and I'm paraphrasing here), there's nothing of interest for them in the capital. Their dealers work here, to be sure, but there are no smuggling routes, no territory to control, too many already established criminal gangs to try to co-opt. The big attraction of Mexico City is the fact that it is so big one can be totally anonymous – hence the reason most of the major narcos have homes there. But they don't bring their battles with them when they come visit, they want to lie low.

There's another reason for that: 70,000 police, all of whom are far superior to their provincial counterparts (in spite of corruption also existing in Mexico City). And they are not already in the pockets of the narcos.

Which brings me to my last objection to the Reforma story: an expert is quoted as saying: "Although the [authorities] deny it, Mexico City could become another Ciudad Juarez."

Seriously, how? In what way? I'm going to seek an explanation from said expert, but in the meantime, I welcome any evidence that might back this statement up. At risk of assuming anything before I know the whole story (he may have been slightly misquoted), what he said is absurd.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't see the Reforma piece, but yeah that's ridiculous. For a million different reasons, that's not going to happen.