We often hear the Russia-haters accuse Vladimir Putin of murdering journalists:
when Oliver Stone recently challenged the veracity of that unproved charge,
he was booed
by Stephen Colbert’s audience of trained
seals hand-raisers. Yet we hear
almost nothing about the one country where journalists who report on official
corruption are routinely killed, and in such numbers that the death toll makes
Russia look like a utopian paradise – Mexico, where more than one-hundred
reporters have been slaughtered by the drug cartels and their collaborators
inside the Mexican government. The killers are rarely found, let alone punished:
as of 2012, 98%
of homicides in Mexico went unsolved. I doubt the impunity rate has improved
much since then.
On May 15, Javier Valdez was sitting in his car on a crowded street in Culiacan, capitol of Sinaloa province, in broad daylight, when suddenly at least two gunmen appeared, forced him out of his car, and pumped at least thirteen bullets into him. Valdez was an award-winning journalist whose reporting on the intersection of the drug cartels and the Mexican government had won him the Committee to Protect Journalists’s International Press Freedom Award. He was a national correspondent for La Jornada, a major paper out of Mexico City. He was also the founder of Riodice, a weekly newspaper out of Mexico’s drug-ridden Sinaloa province, the home of “El Chapo,” and the epicenter of the violent war between rival cartels that is threatening the stability of the Mexican state.
The import of this latest assassination was underscored by Marcela Turati, a journalist and friend of the deceased, who told The Intercept:
“We thought Javier was untouchable. He was one of the most internationally recognized journalist in the country. How do we protect ourselves if they are able to kill the most visible with impunity?”
But who is doing the killing – is it just the narcos? Valdez didn’t think so. Time and again he pointed to the politicians who use the cartels as their bankers and hit squads. As Valdez told Al Jazeera’s John Gibler:
“That’s why it is ‘organized crime,’ because they have people inside the Mexican state – people inside the governmental apparatus – working for them, because the police form a part of the criminal structure, because they have an army of hired killers, because they have financial operatives and business people – whom no one bothers, by the way – also involved.”
The essence of the problem besetting our neighbor to the south was succinctly summarized by Valdez in an interview with a Mexican reporter:
“I fear the government more than I fear the narco. There’s drug trafficking because there is no government … the principal problem with practicing journalism is la autoridad [translated as “the government”]. The political class is the child of drug trafficking. Intolerant, dangerous, powerful, colluding with organized crime, every type of criminal.”
“What we have in this country today, then, is both anarchy (the failure of the state to enforce the laws) and, at the same time, tyranny – the enforcement of laws by the state for oppressive purposes; the criminalization of the law-abiding and innocent through exorbitant taxation, bureaucratic regulation, the invasion of privacy, and the engineering of social institutions.”
Under anarcho-tyranny, ordinary citizens are victimized by both criminals and their enablers in the political class. Francis was writing about the US, but his analysis exactly describes the current agony of the Mexican people. I’ve written about that agony in this space repeatedly over the years, making the point that the emerging crisis requires at least some acknowledgment – to no avail. The Mexican mess is studiously ignored, both by our own politicians and Mexico’s elites, and, as bad as things are getting, luckily for them there’s a convenient diversion readily available to take the focus away from the corruption and channel the anger of the Mexican people toward an external enemy: Donald J. Trump.
While Mexicans are preyed on by the narcos, journalists are routinely tortured and killed, and the grinding poverty of the nation’s working classes drives them northward in search of sustenance, Trump is the major issue in Mexican politics today. The leading candidate in Mexico’s presidential election, the “progressive” Andres Manuel Obrador, has just written a book, Oye Trump, detailing his recent anti-Trump tour of the United States: he attacks Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto – whose poll numbers are in the dumps – for not “standing up to Trump.” Rather than confront Mexico’s actual problems, which have been driving its citizens to flee the country, it’s much easier for Obrador to whip up Mexican nationalism and posture as the defender of the nation’s ‘dignity.”
The US sends $3.6 billion to Mexico annually, ostensibly to help them fight the “war on drugs.” But this money is going into the pockets of 1) the corrupt Mexican political class, which makes the reign of the narcos possible, and 2) our own corrupt political class, i.e. the numerous contractors who, as The Intercept points out,
“[R]eap enormous profits from contracts on everything from Black Hawk helicopters to armed vehicles, intelligence equipment, computer software, night-vision goggles, surveillance aircrafts, satellites systems, and more. Additionally, weapons companies benefit from direct sales of arms and other equipment, which net another billion each year for the weapons contractors.”
This is the swamp that Trump vowed to drain, and yet still it bubbles and floods the land, spilling over the Rio Grande while its denizens feed and multiply on both sides of the border.
So what’s the solution?
Libertarians would say: legalize drugs! Except it isn’t that simple. For this would legalize the drug cartels themselves – born in criminality, and bathed in blood – and legitimize the criminal networks they have established. While I am in favor of legalizing drugs, I’ve got to admit that it is very far from a panacea. The issue is separate from the question of the cartels: after all, the Mafia in America didn’t disappear because alcohol prohibition was lifted. Aside from that, the political reality is that drugs aren’t going to be legalized – either here or in Mexico – any time soon.
Some problems don’t have solutions, and this may be one of them. The accumulated stupidity and venality of the Mexican and US authorities over past decades has created such a toxic brew of social decomposition and political dysfunction that we can only await the coming explosion with a mixture of fear and hope – hope that our leaders will force their gaze away from the far horizons of the Middle East and focus on the rising crisis right here on our own southern border.
So you think Russia is a threat? You’re worried that the borders of Afghanistan are insecure? All this pales before the real threat that is growing south of the Rio Grande, a gathering storm that will inevitably spill over the border and impact life right here in the United States.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.