REPORTING FROM MEXICO: This morning I read, on the Internet, a commentary written in the Austin Statesman by Arnold Garcia Jr. about the effects of the Mexican drug war on a long-term basis. Although the commentary is somewhat accurate, there are two noticeable mistakes in his article. My counter-commentary is as an American that is actually living this very minute in Zeta controlled territory since this war started in 2005 (actually I have been here for a decade). I am not writing this article in the comfort and protection of the United States.
#1 Mistake. "Mr. Presidente Calderon's unpopular drug war"
In sells there is the "3-repetition rule", which states that if you get someone to repeat the same thing at least three times, they will grow to believe it. I have been living in Northern Mexico and I have yet to meet a person that is against this war. Yes, Javier Sicilia is against the war - his son was killed in it. Yes, some activist do not like the war, but that does not mean it is unpopular because as a whole, Mexicans support it.
People know that past governments allowed the cartels to get strong through pay offs and corruption. It was time that someone took the cartels on. They first time that Mexican Navy Helicopters flew over our city, the people went out to the streets in every block to see them overflying the area. Entire businesses stopped working and the workers would be pointing at the sky happily. People would report how immediately ZETA activity that day had severely decreased because of the numerous helicopters over flying above. To believe that if the Calderon government would not have taken on the cartels there would be no insecurity in Mexico is like believing that if Hidalgo had kept his mouth shut in 1810, Mexico would be doing great under Spanish rule. Yes, some people that are ill informed oppose the war, but those who are living the bondage of the Zeta rule - hate them.
#2 Mistake. The PAN Party does not support President Calderon's war.
You have got to be kidding! The only important figure in the PAN that has stepped up to the plate to denounce the war is former President Vicente Fox, which has as much say so in Mexico as Bill Clinton in the Obama administration. That hardly counts as "THE PAN". The PAN has defended President Calderon in the Mexican Congress tooth and nail. As a matter of fact, Enrique Pena Nieto the defacto PRI presidential candidate, through his tour in Washington D.C. this past weekend, stated as part of his 3-step national agenda to continue to the war on drugs.
In summary, people need a reality check. If you live in Zeta controlled territory here in Mexico, you want relief. People do not trust the city and state police but they do trust the Army and especially the Marines. They want the government to protect them, not to step back and relinquish the cities and states to the complete dominance of the cartel.
It is absurd to me how people, even Mexican-Americans, back home will attempt to explain how Mexico is to those of us that live here. Let Mexicans solve their problems here and if you are back home in the comfort and safety of your city - you got problems of your own to deal with such as the 9% unemployment, Obama Care and the next presidential election.
Effects of Mexican drug war lasting, far-reaching
Arnold Garcia, Jr., Commentary
Ever since the narco war in Mexico bathed the republic in blood, U.S. academics, as well as political and economic interests nervously have followed developments in the armed struggle between the cartels and the Mexican government.
The outcome is far from certain as Mexico approaches the 2012 presidential elections. The winner of the six-year presidency will inherit a war that not only strips Mexico of its security, but of capital and the talent that generates it.
Weary of constant kidnapping dangers and paying off narcos — like their U.S. mafia counterparts, cartel capos call their shakedowns "taxes" — Mexican business people are taking their money and ideas out of the country. That, despite a relatively healthy Mexican economy. There was a conference in Austin last week to lure Mexican businesses to Central Texas. As the drug war drags on, organizers of such events should find more Mexicans willing to listen to the pitch.
Mexican officials have been worried about talent and youth lost to immigration since the 1990s when they fretted about the loss of younger, able working class of people.
The recession in the United States and the adoption of strict anti-immigration measures in some states has slowed that immigration.
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, "The number of new immigrant arrivals from Mexico has fallen off steeply in recent years. According to ... (an) analysis of Mexican government data, the number of Mexicans annually leaving Mexico for the U.S. declined from more than 1 million in 2006 to 404,000 in 2010. ... On the U.S. side, declining job opportunities and increased border enforcement may have made the U.S. less attractive to potential Mexican immigrants. And in Mexico, recent strong economic growth may have reduced the 'push' factors that often lead Mexicans to emigrate to the U.S."
If the researchers are right, the U.S. is trading working class immigrants for entrepreneurial ones, though the number of business people immigrating northward won't be near the magnitude of immigration wave to hit the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s. The longer the drug war drags on and the more narcos function as de facto governments along the border and in western Mexico where marijuana and poppy fields flourish, the more incentive the business class has to weigh options, if not weigh anchor.
The vacuum created by the flight of legitimate businesses will broaden opportunities for the cartel bosses who have big profits to launder, and with that money, they can attain even more power. That increased clout will keep drugs moving north and intensify competition for the routes to the U.S. market, Interstate 35 included.
Unless, that is, the next Mexican president can figure out a way to broker something that resembles peace in the six years he or she is president.
President Felipe Calderón's unpopular drug war works against his National Action Party, or PAN, keeping the presidency in next year's elections. The Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as PRI, loyalists see the election as a chance to regain the power they lost when Vicente Fox was elected president in 2000. He was succeeded by Calderón.
PRI won this month's gubernatorial election in the state of Michoacán, one in which the drug trade is extensive and drug traffickers are influential. Luisa María Calderón, the president's sister and the PAN candidate, ran a close second but lost. Jubilant PRIstas point to the election as a sign of things to come.
Talk politics in Mexico, and sooner or later someone will mention the good ol' days when the PRI ran things and narcos knew their places. It is the same kind of nostalgia that has some in that country remembering with affection the 35-year reign of Porfirio Dìaz. There was order then, the line goes. That order disintegrated into a revolution that lasted 10 years and in which millions of Mexicans either died in, or fled the violence.
Whoever wins the 2012 election might be tempted to make something that looks like peace with the cartels. You can bet the terms of such a deal won't include that the drug traffickers hold going out of business sales.
Calderón gambled on enforcement and arguably made matters worse. Whether his successor will have the inclination — or the freedom — to seek other ways of stemming the flow of drugs north is matter very much to be seen. And we here in Texas should be more than mere disinterested observers. Border fences — even if electrified — won't slow them down. With the kind of money the narcos have at their disposal, they can hire a division of electricians.
A recent book on the narco war and its implications is ‘El Narco' by Ioan Grillo (Bloombury Press).