In a quick repudiation of two searing US reports (one which I discussed in “Bad News for Mexico”), the Mexican government has denied that Mexico is a “weak and failing state”, claiming that the drug violence the reports underscore is confined to select cities (mostly close to where I live, great) and that the war is being won (albeit slowly) against the cartels.
Although the government’s claims to progress against the narcos are iffy, it does appear that the narcos have calmed down in the last month or so. Rumors are circulating and the latest is that narcos’ business interest has trumped their blood interest, and that a truce has been reached between the Chapo and Beltrán cartels to allow business as usual in supplying drugs to Mexico’s northern neighbor. We’ll see. As damaging as drug use is, I prefer by a thousand times that business continue uninterrupted and people are not shot in the process.
Though Calderon’s government may be off on the source of decreasing (?) violence, it is right to attribute partial responsibility to the US for the existence of violence at all. It’s not breaking news but it doesn’t hurt to remind people that the US is both the biggest consumer of Mexican drugs and the biggest producer of the guns involved in drug-related violence (95% actually). Sure, guns don’t kill people, people kill people, but guns make it a heck of a lot easier. It would really help if the US lent Mexico a hand and actually curbed drug use and made it harder for the narcos to acquire arms. It’s cute that the ATF of the U.S. Department of Justice organizes “small arms trafficking training for Mexican officers” to each year show 40 Mexican officials how to identify gun smuggling and stop it, but it would be more fruitful for the US to directly tackle the easy availability of guns (2nd amendment) and their removal from US territory.
Hah, France is not alone! A few-weeks old article from the L.A. Times reports that the US is inaugurating a policy to collect DNA samples of immigrants and criminals, clearly because the two are the same?! This policy marks a troubling tendency to conflate immigrants and criminals, a tendency which we see played out in our rhetoric. Immigrants who cross without documents are “illegal immigrants” in even mainstream supposedly left leaning publications. The implication is that they are not only in the US illegally but that their personhood is illegal — they are illegal people. It is upsetting to see the lexicon being mirrored more and more in the treatment of immigrants. This DNA measure is just the latest. Immigrants are shot by border patrol (allegedly in self defense against the “dangerous” generally unarmed intruders) and jailed for entering illegally. When will America start to understand that immigrants are coming not to commit crime, but for the same reason the growing ranks of unemployed Americans read the Classifieds?
Remittances to Mexico dropped in 2008 for the first time on record. Experts are saying that the falloff in remittances, Mexico’s second income earner after oil, is due largely to a heightened crackdown on undocumented migrants and the deepening recession, with many unskilled workers especially affected by slowdowns in the construction sector. The implications for Mexico, like most developing countries, are bleak. Many families and entire communities depend on cash transfers from abroad, and the decrease in remittances, coupled with worldwide recession and increases in food prices, will probably translate into more poverty before there can be less poverty.
More general thoughts on remittances in a future entry…