Archive for the ‘MEXICO’ Category

MEXICO: MARGARITAS, MAQUILLADORAS, MURDER & MARIJUANA 

1MARGARITAS

Chicago-based celebrity chef Rick Bayless has a cooking show called “Mexico – One Plate at a Time.” Bayless travels the 31 states in Mexico and cooks regional dishes. The show has revealed to Americans the rich complexity of Mexican cuisine. Mexican food is wildly popular in the United States. Millions love chicken tacos, steak burritos, guacamole and corn chips. Who watches NFL games or the Super Bowl without a heaping plate of nachos? Jumbo pitchers of margaritas and shots of tequila provide a pleasant, narcotizing buzz. Mexican food is so completely integrated in to most restaurant menus in the U.S. that Mexican food is American food.

But millions of Americans and Congress have no love for Mexicans. Love Mexican food. Hate Mexicans. The Latinos who staff the vast majority of kitchens in the U.S. and harvest the vast majority of vegetables and fruit are demonized. And deported. President Barack Obama is kicking the undocumented out of the U.S. faster than former President George Bush did. Obama’s immigration reform, prompted only because of an angry, determined immigrants rights movement, doesn’t go far enough. Millions will continue to live in the shadows and risk being detained or deported.

For the government and employers, Mexicans are disposable. Latinos make perfect scapegoats when the economy tanks (“Mexicans steal jobs!”) and like cattle, they are increasingly herded in to for-profit detention centers and then shipped back over the border. Tragically, thousands of Mexicans have died in desert crossings and border patrol police and vigilantes have killed many as they try to enter the United States.

2. MAQUILADORAS

For decades, millions of Mexicans have risked their lives crossing la frontera to find work. Why? The legal economy in Mexico cannot deliver enough jobs and half of the country’s population lives in poverty.

The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 under then president Bill Clinton, was supposed to transform the Mexican economy. It did not. David Bacon, a writer and photographer, explains:

Sold by its promoters as a migration-preventing device that ultimately would produce more and better-paid jobs in all three countries, the North American Free Trade Agreement has displaced jobs and people, weakened unions and ravaged US cities and rural Mexico.”

NAFTA accelerated Mexico’s descent into a brutal, low-wage outpost for international corporations that despise paying taxes and paying living wages. Maquiladoras sprouted up all along the Mexico-U.S. border. Better known as “sweatshops,” the working conditions are Dickensian. The pay is so low it cannot sustain a family.

NAFTA also created the conditions for the narcoeconomy in Mexico to expand exponentially. Thousands of small farmers who grew corn, beans and other staple crops lost their land. The narcotraficantes bought it up on the cheap and planted poppy or pot; two crops that have a lucrative export market composed of millions of American drug users. And thousands of those who lost jobs in the legal economy found employment in the illegal economy. In Mexico, you work or you starve.

3. MURDER

Mexican lives, much like Black lives, don’t matter. That’s why the Obama administration doesn’t talk about the murder of 6 students and the disappearance of 43 of them in Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero. Mainstream media coverage has been marginal. The violence visited upon young Mexican students is different. Because it’s Mexico, our neighbor and partner in the War on Drugs, the NAFTA, and through the Mérida Initiative, also known as “Plan Mexico,” the recipient of $3 billion that are used to train and equip the Mexican military.

President Obama expresses outrage when ISIS beheads captives–it’s “an act of pure evil.” But where is the outrage for the hundreds of Mexicans beheaded by the drug gangs? Heads started to roll in 2006 when Felipe Calderón, Washington’s poster child for the War on Drugs, won the presidential election. They’ve never stopped rolling. Just last month eleven headless bodies were found by the side of a road in the city of Chilapa in the state of Guerrero, an area known for gang violence and poppy cultivation.

In Ayotzinapa, according to survivors, local police and masked men in black uniforms fired on the students killing six and it’s alleged that drug cartel sicarios kidnapped the 43 students. Details of the attack are still being hotly debated. The level of corruption and collusion among state and local police authorities, politicians and the drug gangs makes it difficult to get at the truth.

But it is almost certain that all of the young men are dead. The armed forces of the Mexican state and drug cartel hit men have a “take no prisoners” policy.

Mexico – One Massacre at a Time describes the violent reality in the country. And it is the U.S. backed and funded War on Drugs that has accelerated the rate of massacres. To be sure, the Mexican military has a long history of murdering its citizens with impunity, but the drug war drastically lowered the threshold for “acceptable” murder and mayhem. When a massacre occurs, it’s automatically assumed that those killed were involved in the drug trade and invited their own deaths. The stigma of involvement with illicit drugs is so powerful it legitimates all manner of violence. Who is going to defend the rights of those who work in the drug trade or even drug users? Until recently, Mexican civil society had little empathy for the victims of the drug war. The murdered were either outright guilty or guilty by association.

The drug war in Mexico, unlike the drug war in the U.S., has not resulted in mass incarceration. Instead, it’s resulted in mass murder. Grisly torture and executions are filmed and uploaded to YouTube, beheadings, dismemberment and bodies hanging from busy commuter bridges have become normalized.

The numbers are staggering: 100,000 people killed in drug-related violence and over 20,000 missing in just six years. That’s almost triple the amount of Afghan civilian casualties during the thirteen years of the US-led war and occupation in Afghanistan.

The violence of the drug war has permeated every sector of Mexican society. Prosecutors and judges are murdered. Journalists and photographers are kidnapped and killed. When ambulances arrive at murder scenes they are routinely fired on, driving them away. Hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units have been attacked by gunman trying to kill wounded rivals or rescue fellow cartel members. The sicarios have burst in to drug treatment centers and shot patients dead. In 2010, two-dozen men armed with automatic weapons stormed the “Faith and Life” drug clinic in the city of Chihuahua and killed 19 patients all under the age of 25.

In Tamaulipas, 72 migrants attempting to get to the Mexico-US border were massacred by the Los Zetas drug cartel.

Another horrific consequence of the drug war has been the discovery of thousands of mass graves or narcofosas. All those dead bodies have to be hidden somewhere. In the search for the missing students across the blood-soaked, killings fields in Guerrero, volunteers have stumbled upon one mass grave after another. Identifying the remains is problematic. Mexico doesn’t have a forensic infrastructure so most corpses remain unidentified.

The War on Drugs in Mexico is armed to the teeth by U.S. weapons manufacturers and the Department of Defense via the Mérida Initiative. And if that wasn’t enough firepower, 6,700 federally licensed gun dealers are concentrated along the border of Mexico. On average, there are more than three gun dealers for every mile of the 1,970-mile border between the countries. These American, state supported “gun nuts” have the blood of the Mexican people on their hands. All of these death dealing stores should be shut down.

4. 
MARIJUANA

Mexico is the top supplier of marijuana to the U.S. and the drug cartels make billions exporting it to American consumers. It is a market to die for. But that appears to be changing as more Americans are buying homegrown weed. A marijuana grower in Sinaloa explained: “Two or three years ago, a kilogram [2.2 pounds] of marijuana was worth $60 to $90. But now they’re paying us $30 to $40 a kilo. It’s a big difference. If the U.S. continues to legalize pot, they’ll run us into the ground.”

The legalization of marijuana in four American states–Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Colombia-is a game changer. The hypocrisy of the worlds’ top drug cop legalizing marijuana for recreational use in its own backyard while enforcing prohibition in Mexico should give Mexicans the courage to demand legalization of marijuana.

But legalizing pot is not enough. All drugs must be legalized and regulated. Only then will the violence related to drug cultivation and consumption end.

© Copyright, Helen Redmond. May not be reprinted without permission.

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