Mexico’s Drug War

I tend to leave this subject alone, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, there’s not much I can add to the international news coverage that isn’t already easily available. Secondly, because a lot of that news coverage can often give a bit of a twisted, one dimensional and tunnel vision view of Mexico to people who wouldn’t know better, and I don’t particularly want to add to that. Thirdly, because, happily, the drug war is far removed from life at Chez Denness, and not something I either want to become involved in, or involve itself in my generally tranquil life.

I would also stress that the reports on Fox, CNN, the BBC and elsewhere shouldn’t deter anyone from visiting Mexico. Perhaps I wouldn’t recommend overnight stays in the northern border towns, but then I wouldn’t recommend that for any country anyway. Dover, in the UK, for example is not a place that I’d want to spend any longer in that necessary. I’m sure the good people of Dover would disagree, but the limited time of a holiday could definitely be better spent further inland. But, still, the drug war is an issue. It exists. It’s not going away.

I often talk to friends, family and students in Mexico City about the drug war and Calderon. He is certainly not the most popular figure in the country, although this dislike is more universal with regard to the economy, although his policies in combating the drug trade also elicit fairly strong responses. Although he does have some support amongst those I meet. The arguments tend to be more in how the war is prosecuted. I personally feel that events are dictating his policies rather than the other way round. And the only analogy I can make of the economy is that it’s like he’s caught in the whirlpool of a flushed toilet, desperately trying to prevent the last few pesos being sucked into the sewer.

We’ll have to wait and see how history views Calderon. Traditionally, history is not kind to Mexican presidents. Traditionally, Mexican presidents have been thieving crooks! But in the meantime, here’s an interesting podcast from the BBC, who dared send a reporter into the midst of the battle.


Regreso al Futuro

Around Mexico City there are a number of old glass and steel buildings, put up in the 50’s and 60’s. The most famous being the iconic Torre Latinoamericana, a major landmark in the city, which was finished in 1956. The metalwork looks weather beaten and scratched, the glass is stained and dull with age. But it has a presence, as do the other steel and glass buildings. It has a feeling of solidity, having survived several massive earthquakes relatively unscathed. It harks back to an age gone by. To an forthcoming new era of prosperity and stability. It has stood and seen the comings and goings of numerous presidents, Rivera and (nearly!) Kahlo and many other makers and shakers. The building in my photo is, I suspect, much more recent. Or has had a good facelift.

I’ve read a few books, old books, telling of life in Mexico City in that decade. My favourite, despite its literary shortcomings, was a book called Mexican Jumping Bean, by Pepe Romero, probably published in the 50’s or soon after. It painted an enchanting picture of a lively art scene, life, inspired citizens going about their daily business. The 1960’s brought the Olympics and the 70’s and 80’s the World Cup, twice. Golden times indeed.

Of course, the past is always golden. The student massacre of ’68 is still spoke of in hushed and sorrowful terms, but it was so long ago. The economic crisis brought about by the December Mistake in the mid 90’s hurt, but it’s just so not ‘now’, when there is a current economic crisis to worry about. The fact that the effective dictatorship of the PRI party, lasting 70 years from Revolution till the end of the century, stifled democracy in the country is just so very yesterday. Perhaps it was, as it has been referred to, the ‘perfect dictatorship’.

It seems to me that Mexicans want those golden years back. I don’t blame them. The days gone by are always golden when compared to the troubles of the present, no matter how trifling the problems of the present are. Not that Mexico’s current problems are trifling, but still. Every student, friend and stranger I ask, tells me that the PRI will win the next election, probably with the present governor of the State of Mexico, Peña Nieto, as president. I am reasonably surprised at how much support they are getting. People who voted PAN (centre-right) and PRD (left) at the last election seem to have abandoned those parties en masse. It would mark quite a comeback for PRI after their complete implosion and capitulation in the 2006 presidential election. But enough. I’m waffling.


Bring Out The Barricades

It’s started.  A little early if you ask me. The elections are a few weeks away yet. But nonetheless, members of the PRD, specifically those supporting some dame named Clara, turned up outside the big IFE building last night at about 10pm. IFE being the body overseeing elections in Mexico. The centerpiece was an old VW camperwagon, adorned with Clara posters on every spare panel, with the obligatory loudhailer attached to the roof.

There were a few other vehicles too, and about twenty followers, keen to add noise to the loudhailers indecipherable distortion. Although what was being said was not of great importance. The fact that the speaker was clearly angry was the real point.  It didn’t take long for a group of them to decide that traditional means of protesting should be employed, and the cars and people manoevered themselves into place, and Eje 3 was blocked.

It brings back such fond memories of 2006, when the election was won by PAN’s Calderon, much to the distress of Obrador and his PRD supporters. Then they camped outside the IFE building for months, screaming, shouting and going through countless packets of Duracell in keeping their loudhailers in use. There were far fewer people last night, but they stayed long enough and protested loud enough to keep us awake into the small hours.

Which political party do I support, or think most highly of, in Mexico? None as of yet, but should any include in their manifesto a plan to ban loudhailers, car horns and general screaming from the hours of 10pm to 8am, they’ll get my support. Are you listening Green Party? I could easily overlook your Death Penalty Plan. What’s a few hangings if I’ll get a good nights sleep…