Saturday, August 27, 2011

My thoughts on Monterrey

Just wrote a piece for Foreign Policy about Mexico's latest atrocity, the torching of a casino in Monterrey that left at least 52 dead. Link is in title of the post.


  1. Malcolm, this is truly an outstanding article. I was just commenting today on Twitter about how horrible Calderón's timing was in blaming the US for drug war problems. It screamed of deflection; very similar to how Castro and Chávez are constantly blaming their imperialist neighbor to the north for all their problems, just to cover up their shortcomings. We sell too many guns and use too many drugs, but at least we try to stop the drugs from coming north, and now apparently the guns from going south. Mexico is making no attempt to staunch either flow; yet, it has to be über-secretive whenever the US actually tries to help. Remember, stopping the drug money is like Mexico cutting off its nose to spite its face. Calderón wants and needs to stop the violence, but not drug trafficking and the money it injects into Mexico's economy. The hypocrisy is just staggering, but that's politics for you. Thanks again for a great article.

  2. Sylvia, nobody in Mexico wants money generated from drug trafficking and we do not see it as "injecting money into our economy", quite the opposite, every time the drug lords get money into Mexico it is used to destroy our way of life, to commit more murders and atrocities. But in fact, most of the money stays in the US, with the american drug lords themselves who are the ones brining the poising to millions and millions of drug addicted americans.
    And what President Calderon said was that the US should find a way to either stop their millions and millions of drug addicted from getting their daily doses or to simply develop an internal US industry to supply those dozens of millions of addicted americans with their daily dose of garbage so that other countries are not affected by the criminal trade it generates.

    Mexico tries to stop the flow of everything, not only drugs, but of money and weapons coming from the US, anyone who has traveled in Mexican highways can tell you about the many check points to stop the flow of weapons and money from the US to Mexico.

    You are also ignoring the fact that Mexico has imposed hard banking regulations to stop the flow, right now you cannot deposit or change an unlimited amount of US dollars in Mexico, an individual with a bank account has a limit of 4 thousand US dollars a month, a person without a bank account can only change 1,500 US dollars a month. Mexico has imposed a lot of limits to corporations as well and there is a lot of cooperation with US authorities to stop money laundering activities, many banks are associated with US banks, like Banamex-Citigroup, or Canadian or European banks, so money laundering is harder and harder.

  3. Just to clarify, because there have been various interpretations of my article: I think Calderon is absolutely right to blame the US for drug consumption and gun flow – most of the time. What I take issue with is that he should use certain occasions to highlight his own nation's problems, and focus on repairing them, and use others to focus on US culpability. One shouldn't throw around blame and finger-point on occasions when one's own policies are clearly at fault. Mexico has made a very concerted effort to combat trafficking, there is no doubt in my mind about that. But it also needs to recognize (as Calderon has on past occasions) that corruption, impunity and lack of law enforcement are very serious, deep-rooted issues, and that they were the direct, immediate causes of the Monterrey atrocity.

  4. Thanks for the article Malcolm. I found it very informative and a much needed piece as it actually focuses on the current administration's shortcomings over the past years. I'd be interested in hearing/reading your thoughts with regards to how Calderon will finish his final months in office and how the next administration will continue or change the policies that have been put in motion. Do you have a twitter feed? Thanks again.

  5. Malcom,

    Calderon and many other politicians have long recognized the corruption and the failures that affect our government. Why do you think he decided to use the army to crush the cartels instead of leaving it up to the police forces of the country? precisely because he recognized that they were deeply affected by corruption.

    This is what frustrates a lot of Mexicans today about people like you who claim to know about what's happening in Mexico, you and Sylvia fail to realize that the anti-crime strategy in Mexico is a wide and comprehensive efforts with many fronts, there have been new financial regulations to curtail laundering and to make it difficult for drug lords to use their money in the country, there are police and security reforms being negotiated in congress right now to professionalize our local and state police forces and to obligate them to comply with international and national standards and certifications, there are education and social reforms and programs aimed at rescuing many young men so that they will not enroll in the gangs, there has been an entire strategy to clean many municipal and state police forces around the country, many of whom used to work for the cartels and are now cooperating with federal police and the army and fighting the cartels themselves. Many of those local policemen and policewomen have been decapitated, have been assasinated by the gansters when they no longer reported to them, when they started trying to catch them, there is a history of blood and our police forces are suffering much in this process. It is time we show some respect, I'd like for you and Sylvia to show me some dead police officer who died fighting the drug cartels and gangs that populate Chicago, L.A., New York, Florida, same gangsters who with total impunity and freedom sell their drugs in the streets of hundreds of american cities, under the very eyes of your flashy super police officers who simply turn the other way and don't get involved. I'd like to see just one picture please.

    So we know about that. But that doesn't free the US from their responsibility anyways, and President Calderon is right, because we are addressing the problem, we are cracking down on the drug lords and criminals, but when we finish, other criminal organizations will start shipping and are now probably doing so, from other countries, from Central America, from Peru, Bolivia or even from as far as Kenia or Algeria, as long as the US remains the largest illegal drugs market in the globe, you will get the stuff from somewhere, rest assure. And Calderon's right again when he suggested that the US government should find a way to start producing their nasty stuff at home and supply their millions and millions of drug addicted americans, that way no country like Mexico or Colombia or Brazil or any other nation.

  6. Jose Angel
    I agree with many of your points, and actually I have written many pro-Calderon articles in the past, to the point that some of my readers believe I am in the pockets of the PAN :) My book is actually very pro-Calderon, and his anti-organized crime efforts (and especially his anti-corruption drive), due to my research on the ground for three years there.
    I do however have a problem with the communication of the administration, and the lack of clear explanation of strategy. I am not a Mexican citizen, but I know too many Mexicans – and have interviwed hundreds, if not thousands – who are in a complete state of anxiety not because of the narcos, but because they have no idea what the government is doing. This is a problem that must be resolved, and in my mind, could be resolved. The police reforms are stalling in Congress – not because of Calderon but because of political opposition – but that still reflects badly on the president, rightly or wrongly.
    As for the US, there is absolutely no doubt that the US must do more. I've always argued that drug consumption on the US side is the underlying problem, and argued that the US must do something about it. My point in this article is that Calderon should not have used this occasion to highlight that; he should focus on the issue at hand, give one clear message, and move on to resolve the problems. A monumental task, to be sure, but he is the one who undertook it.
    Lastly, there are policemen in the US who die fighting the drug war. Read the local US newspapers, and you will read about policemen killed in the line of duty during anti-drug raids all the time. It just doesn't make the national news anymore at all.

  7. Malcom,

    I sincerely doubt that the majority of Mexicans have doubts about "the strategy" as you and many other call it.
    The majority of Mexicans today feel they cannot trust their local and state police and beg the federal police and the army to come to their rescue, they know the local governments do not have a strategy at all, and they know perfectly that they are not willing to fight the narcos and the crime themselves, but the federal government has done it and they are leading the way.

    Now local governments and state governments the same are beginning to join the federal forces, precisely because they recognized the federal government has a solid strategy, a strategy with multiple efforts in many fronts, not only at the police level, but at a financial and social and educational level as well.

    The criticism about the strategy comes from the opposition mostly, not from the regular people, it comes from leftists writers, it also comes from writers sold out to narcos, like some people in Proceso magazine and others who clearly have an agenda attacking the federal government one day and the next day again, but say nothing about the dealings and the corruption of many prd congressmen and politicians linked to mafias in the country.

    Just yesterday thousands of federal police and soldiers arrived to Monterrey, as they were entering the city, many people greeted them with joy and pride, thankful, many drivers stopped their cars and got out to greet them as they were passing by. In all kinds of events, the people recognize the army and the federal forces for what they are doing, and one only needs to read the newspapers everyday to find out how many kidnapped persons are being liberated everyday by the army, the marines or the federal police, how many criminals are being arrested or gunned down by them, how many tons of drugs have been seized, how many weapons have been seized.

    We are struggling now, but it is not because of lack of strategy or communication, but rather because Mexico cannot do everything alone, we need cooperation from our neighbors, they need to work at it too, half a million central and south americans cross our territories trying to get to the US border, along with many innocent central americans, there are gangs with them too, maras and others, they add to the cocktail of crime we are suffering in Mexico, then on our northern border we have americans trying to smuggle all kinds of deadly weapons into our territory and dollars, and other things as well and there are millions and millions of drug addicted american citizens expecting their daily dose of poison every single day, from their very rol models like Paris Hilton, who always carries her drugs around with her, to the regular US citizen who thinks it is perfectly and even healthy to smoke a mariguana cigarrete or to consume cocaine, because their government fails to honesty tell them that they are also responsible for the holocaust taking place in Colombia, Mexico and other nations when they buy their drugs, this is not Mexico's problem, this is a regional problem.