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Mexicans are tired of the killing. The massacres earlier this year in Uruapan (where 19 people were killed) and Minatitlán (where 14 died) were a mere fraction of the many deadly tragedies that have shattered the nation.
Most recently there was the military confrontation with the Sinaloa drug cartel in the city of Culiacán. The son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán was briefly captured, then released, after an assault by cartel gunmen. More than a dozen people died in the shootout.
What we Mexicans want most is an end to this killing of our countrymen.
The suggestion that some would have preferred more death during the failed operation in Culiacán is wrong. Who would have wanted more people shot, even if they happened to work for the drug cartel?
The problem with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s decision to release Guzmán’s son, though, is that it sets a terrible precedent. What will happen the next time the military goes after drug traffickers? Now they have learned that merely posing a threat to civilians or government troops is enough to get a kingpin freed.
Releasing criminals can hardly be considered part of a serious strategy to bring peace to Mexico. It only reinforces the idea that this is a country where criminals go unpunished.
So what is the president’s strategy? How is AMLO, as López Obrador is known, going to prevent tens of thousands of Mexicans from being killed each year?
A major part of AMLO’s crime-fighting strategy was the newly created National Guard. Composed primarily of former army troops, the National Guard is expected to number roughly 80,000 by year’s end. At the moment, however, it’s clear that the president’s strategy hasn’t resolved the security issue.
Almost a year after being inaugurated, the president can be held accountable for Mexico’s high level of crime, as he rightly acknowledged on Aug. 22, when he said: “I won’t keep on blaming the previous administration and those before that.” Yet López Obrador isn’t attacking the problem with a sense of urgency.
The numbers are terrifying: According to official reports, 28,782 Mexicans were killed between Dec. 1, 2018 — the day AMLO was sworn in — and Sept. 30 of this year. The way things are going, 2019 will be the most violent year in Mexico’s modern history, with more murders recorded than during any year of the previous administrations of Enrique Peña Nieto or Felipe Calderón.
Mexico can’t afford to keep failing in its fight against crime. Yet even as the victims pile up, nothing is being done to improve security or prevent criminals from going unpunished. This isn’t normal, and Mexicans are refusing to resign themselves to the violence. But how many more Culiacáns are needed before real change can happen?
My criticism of the president is by no means ill-intentioned, nor does it result from a neoliberal or conservative political stance. If AMLO succeeds in his fight against crime, the whole country wins. Unfortunately, so far, he isn’t winning. Success, in this case, can actually be quantified, and positive numbers are nowhere to be found. The number of homicide victims in September of 2019 (2,825) was almost the same as the number in December of 2018 (2,892).
The only tangible achievement the National Guard can claim so far is the arrest of innocent refugees on their way to the United States. When people started talking about a new National Guard, I don’t remember anyone saying its purpose would be to arrest foreigners fleeing gangs, violence and extreme poverty. Mexican officials came up with that idea only after President Donald Trump started pressuring them.
Long an exporter of immigrants by the millions, Mexico has now taken on the sad task of persecuting undocumented migrants — from Venezuela and Cuba, Africa and Central America — who want only to continue their journey to the United States. The National Guard has handled this shameful duty very well.
I never imagined that a Mexican official would dare threaten immigrants with Trumpist language. Then I heard the commissioner of the National Migration Institute say: “We are warning all transcontinental immigrants: It doesn’t matter if you’re coming from Mars, we’ll send you [back], whether it’s to India, Cameroon or Africa.” Trump would be proud.
Mexico should not be focused on arresting immigrants. These people deserve our help; our protection and understanding. The real fight, the one that really counts, is the one against violence, and killing, and grief.
No more deaths, please.