Friends question my use of the word “war” to describe what is happening in Mexico. It’s okay to use the word as in “the war on drugs.” That would be “war” as metaphor. But then you would have to ask, the Black Hawk helicopters which the US have given Mexico–some twenty-five in all–with their rockets and gatling guns and machine guns, are they metaphorical or are they real?” And if they are real and, at the same time, the tools of war, and they are deployed against the narco paramilitaries, aren’t we talking about real war?
~ Friday, August 25, 2012, coordinated for about 2:30 PM, there were twenty five (in another place in the same paper, same day: twenty-two) different highway blockades, which included burning cars, buses, and trucks in the Mexican states of Jalisco and Colima.
Unnamed sources said Federal Police had captured a narco-leader in Tonaya, during which episode seven alleged gunmen and three policemen were wounded (same edition, same day: the version was that the seven narco-gunmen were killed). The Government had employed five Black Hawk helicopters and a transport helicopter to move in what I suppose were swat team members and or troops. The troops are usually Mexican Marines, since they–it is said–are the least corrupt of the armed forces.
The blow back (in the style Monterey, Mexico has experienced for some time) came quickly in the metropolitan areas of Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta and, later, in the state of Colima (which lies roughly between Guadalajara and the Pacific Coast).
Blockaders sealed off the entrances to Guadalajara and a major road in the state of Colima, according to León/Guanajuato’s newspaper “AM,” “in order to inhibit the movement of federal police and military.” There were seven blockades in Guadalajara and fifteen more in the “interior” of the state of Jalisco.
When I hear that something is “in retaliation” for something, I have to think there is some kind of war in progress. Certainly, the blockades–pulling people out of their cars and igniting the cars–are terrorist in name: the point is to un-nerve the population. But it is also to answer the power of the central government with its Black Hawk helicopters. In other words, a military act evokes a military response, and the form of the response is guerrilla warfare.
As to how it affects me, a resident of Mexico, now I have to think extra hard about whether I want to make the seven and a half hour drive from Guanajuato through Guadalajara and down over the mountain road through Compostela to Sayulita (where I surf), knowing I can be stopped at any point and lose my car and everything in it, or worse.
So in that regard–unnerving the citizenry–narco-terrorism/guerrilla response is very effective, whereas the Government’s military action seems clumsy and counter-productive because it just makes things worse.
But the Mexican 99% are under attack by more than one kind of terrorism, one can argue.
NAFTA permits subsidized U.S. corporations to dump corn (much of it GMO, as in killer seeds which can not be saved and used by campesinos to replant) on the Mexican market. This drives campesinos off their land–they cannot compete–and into the cities where there is no work for them, and no meaning, or into the arms of the narcos.
Some thirty percent of youth have neither jobs nor educational opportunities. These are called “nimis.” Ni trabajo, ni educación. Neither work, nor education. They too can fall into the arms of the narcos, or end up sniffing glue and commit street crime in the cities, until they either die or fall in with more sophisticated criminals–and then die, or end up in prison.
Going north is hardly an option when the youth have to face robbery and murder, riding the roofs of freight trains north–often for weeks–and where the chance of entering the U.S. is small; where they are treated like criminals if they get through. If they get through, they are treated like second class citizens and are vulnerable to all kinds of extortion and blackmail.
The prices are of eggs, beans, avocados, tortillas, chicken, and milk have shot up and are quickly becoming out of range for the vast pool of the poor.
Capital flees off-shore; there is massive tax evasion. The 1% are not over-burdened by feelings of social responsibility, as in doing anything about all of the above.
The political leaders in the U.S. aren’t going to legalize drugs or nudge their Mexican counterparts toward meaningful social and political action.
So Mexicans–the 99% (60% of those are poor)–are in a pickle. To put it mildly.
~ Saturday, August 26, 2012 ~ Civil War?
A little research (YouTube “Mexico’s Black Hawk helicopters”) shows that Mexico already has about 25 UH-60L and UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters. A Memorandum of Understanding exists between Sikorsky Aircraft and Aeroservicios Especializados (ASESA) to “jointly explore assembly and service opportunities in support of Black Hawk helicopters.” Black Hawks were operational and present during the confrontation between narco fighters and government forces (including Federal Police) in Apatzingán last week, west of the Morelia–Lázaro Cárdenas route, in the state of Michoacán. Armed men set up various roadblocks. They stopped a bus and a trailer truck and firebombed them. Another reliable source said it was twelve vehicles in all. The most recent source talks about three different events (some put the figure much, much higher), all of the shootouts being with the Familia Michoacana, a group which, in my opinion, is half narco and half political, as in challenging the government for power. In one account, when the Army arrived gunmen fired on them from areas above the highway. (Read “Jorge and the Santa Muerte” at www.sterlingbennett.com to get a feel for the social pathology at play.) Other sources say it is unknown who the shooters were. The narcos have morphed into what I would call para-military; besides enforcing the drug routes, they hold territory and regional power. Of course they fade away when the government applies military power, but when the government leaves and the real situational power returns to control the area. In my opinion, the Black Hawk helicopters are evidence that the “drug war” is becoming a real war. Since all sides seem to be from the same country, it may not be unreasonable to refer to the events as events in a civil war.
On Friday the 24th of August, an event occurred on a road southwest of Mexico City, at Tres Marías, near Xalatlaco, which may indicate an escalation in U.S. military involvement in Mexico. A Mexican Marine officer and two U.S. officials were driving in a heavily armored black SUV with U.S. diplomatic plates. They were ambushed and then pursued by some eighteen Mexican Federal Police–some of whom (some say all) were dressed in civilian clothes. The pursued officials telephoned for help. Their car came to a halt, riddled and disabled. The eighteen shooters approached the car firing as they came–execution-style, I would think. Six uniformed federal police arrived, one of them shouted out a code (clave), and stopped the original shooters but not before the latter had riddled the car and wounded the two U.S. officials.
The officials, it has been revealed since, were CIA agents on their way to a government (Navy) firing range to teach weapons handling and marksmanship. The CIA you will know, if you’ve been watching their widespread hunt/kill special forces operations in Afghanistan, are also now military, and these two “officials” may be part of the militarization of the ongoing struggle in Mexico. As Richard Grabman points out in The Mex Files (Google), “The two most recent U.S. Ambassadors here — Carlos Pascual and Anthony Wayne — were widely touted for having Afghanistan experience.” So now we have weapons flowing down from the North through unregulated guns sales to straw men, as well as weapons systems (Black Hawks and CIA trainers) also sent south under the Plan Mérida to combat those who receive the smuggled weapons.
I read recently that U.S. weapons sales had risen something like 27% over the year before. Good for U.S. weapons sales, bad for Mexico.
One wonders whether the pursuing Federal Police, some five cars in all, on instructions from a cartel (or the Mexican Government?) were targeting the CIA agents. Twelve of the attackers were arrested and are being held in Mexico City–although there were eighteen. Their lawyers are saying the defendants thought they were dealing with a stolen car (with diplomatic plates) that they thought might be involved in a kidnapping incident which had just occurred in the area (Milenio reports). They also say the US CIA driver had no permission to be in the U.S., only a visa from or to Afghanistan (a doubtful claim, in my snap judgment); that the attacked car has been “disappeared;” and that the two CIA have left the country without giving required evidence.
Here’s how I see it now (until the sequel continues): the police may have thought they were pursuing a stolen car, or they were corrupt and had orders to kill the agents; a couple CIA characters (one was in his 49, one 50) got exposed, even though this kind of training has been going on for years–but maybe not by CIA; this embarrasses everyone because historically Mexico (and all of Latin America) is sensitive about US interference; the U.S. is concerned about instability south of their border; Plan Mérida goes ahead with more Black Hawks (and their support), more CIA or other maybe private agents; there is continuing interest in drones (they say Calderón has already given permission for unarmed drone flights); continuing pressure by US weapons manufacturers to sell weapons, hence Black Hawks and other sophisticated, expensive equipment–a Devil’s gift–which the US tax payers pay for.