Fue el Estado

Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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47 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    I admit I have trouble wrapping my head around it. That is often the case with violence, but this violence seems so utterly senseless: a local politician wanted some peacefully protesting students out of the way so that a political rally she was going to head could go on, so she had the police “take care of it,” which involved them shooting a bunch of students and then handing the rest to the cartels so that they could essentially get rid of them and make the whole thing go away. Then the government at all levels tried to make it look like these were students who were themselves wrapped up with the cartels somehow, not so much to deny that the local cops and politicians had been involved, but to suggest that maybe they deserved it. I wouldn’t believe it if it were a movie script, as the level of corruption and evil just seems too cartoonish. That the blood on their hands is so real, and so innocent, makes me understand why thousands and thousands have taken to the street.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Chris says:

      “I wouldn’t believe it if it were a movie script, as the level of corruption and evil just seems too cartoonish.”

      That’s where I’m at- there’s corruption and then there’s corruption so pathological it boggles the mind.Report

    • NobAkimoto in reply to Chris says:

      On some level it just gets to the point of a state failure so profound that it really is impossible to fathom the degree of failure.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to NobAkimoto says:

        Yeah pretty much this.

        I’m reminded of the cynicism that results from similar situations elsewhere: southern Italy, certain oblasts in Russia. The government is so obviously useless to the point of being dangerous, so citizens take their issues directly to the crime lords, who then provide their own quasi-feudal/patron-client kind of hierarchy because at least it’s some kind of order, some sort of functional power structure.

        I’ve tried to suggest to colleagues that Mexico isn’t the Wild West, that there’s lots of industry and propulsion into the 21st century underway. This is going to make that a much harder case to prove up. What a horror and embarrassment to Mexicans everywhere.Report

  2. Rufus F. says:

    The line in the Washington post article that’s hardest to fathom is: “According to the government version of events, police then handed over the students to a drug gang, Guerreros Unidos.” That’s the official version! So, according to the official version, a busload of peaceful student protesters was arrested, which you know isn’t totally surprising, and then the police turned them over to a drug cartel, ostensibly to be murdered, which is fishing terrifying- and the point that the government is apparently contesting is that the Mayor ordered the police to do this, but the rest is out in the open!Report

    • Chris in reply to Rufus F. says:

      My impression was always that the police got in over their heads, by killing a few of the students, so they took the remaining students — who were at this point essentially witnesses — to the cartels to fix the problem. I don’t think the plan was to kill all of the students, but once they’d killed a few, the police were on a path that they couldn’t get off. That is, if they had just let the living students go, even the level of corruption in that part of Mexico wouldn’t have saved at least some of them, and perhaps their bosses, from prosecution. Better to just make the problem go away entirely.Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    The cartels that are currently wrecking havoc across Mexico apparently share very close connections to many Mexican politicians and officials at the federal, state, and local level. Its why they can get away with so much shit. Its sort of like how the Mafia and other organized crime groups had or still have deep relationships with Italian officials but the criminals in this case are bit less restrained in their behavior than the Mafia.Report

  4. Mike Schilling says:

    This is terrorism pure and simple. There is no explanation for that kind of brutality other than as a message to anyone else who might think about getting in their way.Report

    • What I thought of was the assassination of Giacomo Matteotti in Italy in 1924, where it wasn’t ever clear if the orders came from above or it was a group of fascists acting independently, but the end result was by January of 1925, there was no more pretense about Italy being a democratic republic anymore.Report

  5. James K says:

    It things like this that make me thing there needs to be a (non-lethal) version of Dragon Age’s Right of Annulment for law enforcement.

    The idea would be to have a mechanism to completely shut down, a law enforcement body, for when the corruption is so extensive that the only solution is to fire everyone who works there and start over.Report

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  7. Damon says:

    If I’m not mistaken this has led to protests and riots. Seems like the mexican populace needs to be a bit more assertive…maybe storm some barricades and string some politicians up. Then go after the cartels.Report

  8. Glyph says:

    I hope *this* is the breaking point but I am pessimistic. Mexico has seemingly been in a state of near-anarchy for years now. Maybe because this time the student victims appear to have been completely uninvolved in the drug trade, and there were so many, and the perpetrators are so clearly linked to the government, it will mean something this time.

    And lest anyone think I am blaming this problem on Mexicans, I’m not.

    This corruption and violence is, in large part, the poisonous fruit of Prohibition 2.0, stupidly built in the USA and exported around the world.

    From 2011:


    As Mexican President Felipe Calderon was unveiling a new campaign and TV program Tuesday to draw wary tourists back to his country, a gang dumped 35 bodies at a busy intersection in the tourist zone in the coastal city of Veracruz.

    From 2012:


    For most of us, Mexico is reduced several times a week to a sickening barrage of horror flick headlines. Thirty-five bodies left on the freeway during rush-hour in a major tourist city. A person’s face sewn onto a soccer ball. Bodies found stuffed in barrels of acid. Heads sent rolling onto busy nightclub dance floors.


    The bodies of 23 people have been found hanging from a bridge or decapitated and dumped along the border city of Nuevo Laredo, where drug cartels are fighting a bloody and escalating turf war.

    Authorities found nine of the victims, including four women, hanging from an overpass leading to a main highway, said a Tamaulipas state official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to provide information on the case.

    Hours later, police found 14 human heads inside coolers outside city hall along with a threatening note. The 14 bodies were found in black plastic bags inside a car abandoned near an international bridge, the official said.

    From 2013:


    Authorities have found seven severed heads stuffed in plastic bags on the edge of a highway near the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco state prosecutors said on Wednesday.

    The gruesome discovery about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the country’s second-biggest city is a reminder of the criminal violence still plaguing Mexico, despite assurances from the government that the murder rate is falling.

    More than 60,000 people died in violence linked to warring drug cartels during the 2006-2012 presidency of Felipe Calderon.

    In 2014, reports of Juarez’ recovery may have been exaggerated:


    Four years ago, on the night of June 25, 2010, a group of my friends were murdered. The night of their killings, they had invited me to go out with them, but I made other plans and stayed in.

    I was working as a correspondent at the EFE news agency at the time. That night, I was called in to cover the story without realizing at first the victims were my friends.

    “I am being told that five young people were just murdered in a bar in your city,” the editor said, who was calling from Mexico City.

    It happened at around 10 PM at a bar near my house. The local government in Ciudad Juarez had installed patrol cars, plainclothes officers and surveillance cameras, and called the area of nightclubs and bars, Corredor Seguro Gómez Morín — it was therefore officially a “safe corridor.”

    But I found out that these efforts weren’t worth shit. I learned that no one was safe, anywhere, in Ciudad Juarez.


    • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

      I should add: I use the word “anarchy” in my first para to refer to a state of constant violence, fear and instability. I mean no offense to the good and peaceful anarchists I know are readers here who would rightfully point to the role thoroughly-corrupted government(s) play in this whole mess.Report

      • Citizen in reply to Glyph says:

        Faction has created death and chaos.

        Commoners with guns has created freedom:

        “All popular war is violent,”Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        You were who I was thinking of 🙂Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        The story in Michoacán is more complex, but illustrative of the problems in much of Mexico. The Zetas essentially took over control of the region, but became more and more violent, and a local faction of the Zetas — La Familia Michoacána — broke off from the larger cartel and formed their own group, Los Caballeros Templarios Guardia Michoacána, the Knights Templar, which fought off the Zetas and took control of the region. They then acted essentially as the local government, ostensibly with the blessing of the locals. They, in turn, became more and more violent.

        The locals started stashing weapons and ammunition, and after months of preparation and planning, launched an uprising against the Knights, essentially taking over most of their territory with “citizen militias,” locally known as “autodefensas,” from multiple little towns, though the Knights still have some areas of control. As soon as the uprising started, the federal government, which had done shit to that point to control either the Zetas or the Knights (because they were paid off, I’m sure), came in to save the citizens from the cartels and disarm the militias. That didn’t go over well for obvious reasons. So for much of the last couple years, the militias have been clashing with the Knights and evading/fighting the federal government.

        Now that the Knights have been expelled from most of the region, a bunch of smaller drug-producing groups have popped up (Michoacán is meth country) and the drug trade, and violence, have resumed, just with different actors, and not surprisingly, it turns out that the autodefensas probably got their weapons and ammo from a rival cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación), and it may only be a matter of time before a cartel runs the area again, with little the federal government can do.

        Hard to draw any lessons from this about human organization and government in general, except that the drug war is a cancer that will corrupt any insitution.

        Pretty good story on the uprising in Spanish, if you can read it:


        Also, the Knights Templar are perhaps the strangest of the cartels. They actually seem to see themselves as a medieval military order.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        The Templars are like a weird combo of cartel and cult. But that’s not all the craziness…

        Check this:


        After the first alleged death of Nazario Moreno, leader of the La Familia Michoacana cartel, on December 9, 2010,[5] a split between the cartel leaders started, some of the cartel co-founders, Enrique Plancarte Solís, Servando Gómez Martínez, and Dionisio Loya Plancarte formed an offshoot of La Familia calling itself Caballeros Templarios (or Knights Templar)

        FIRST alleged death? Hmmm, let’s read up on this guy….


        On 9 December 2010, the Mexican federal police surrounded the village of El Alcalde in Apatzingán, Michoacán with more than 2,000 officers. Reportedly, Moreno González was at a local festival handing out Christmas presents to the villagers when he was tracked down by the authorities.[32][33]

        As the police troops drove into town, gunmen of La Familia Michoacana blocked the entrances with more than 40 burning trucks and cars. La Familia gunmen also surrounded the state capital of Morelia in an attempt to prevent the police from receiving reinforcements.[34] The shootout lasted about two days, and at least 11 deaths were confirmed.[A 1] During the gun battle, the gunmen managed to carry out the bodies of their fallen comrades up the hills. The government reported at the time that Moreno González had been killed, but that the cartel took his body away.[36] This triggered rumors that he was alive and leading his cartel. However, the Mexican government denied such claims. Elías Álvarez, the commander of the 2010 police operation, said González’s grave was in the mountains.[37] 2014 reports from the Mexican government stated that Moreno González was possibly injured (but not killed) during the shootout.[38] For four years, the drug lord took advantage of the government’s mistake to fall off the authorities’s radar and continue to command the cartel behind the scenes.

        Holy shitaroni. Breaking Bad starts to look positively pedestrian.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        Yeah, it’s very very weird. The cartel cultures have developed into something very bizarre, and with very little local control (and locals not particularly keen to give them information), to the outside world, including the Mexican government, the regions they control end up looking like medieval dark forests from which all we hear are rumor, legend, and myth. Perhaps Knights Templar is an appropriate name for a group in such a place.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Assuming that account is at all correct, it shocks me that we even think of Mexico as being “at peace, but with some serious crime problems” rather than “in a state of civil war”.

        Taking 2000+ men to surround a town that has been barricaded with 40 burning cars and trucks isn’t a ‘police action’, it’s a ‘battle’; and not the kind US police are always talking about.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        If you can bring yourself to visit Live Leak, you will find plenty of videos of “police actions” by the Federales and Mexican army against cartels that look very similar to battles with large scale, mechanized movements by both sides (usually the cartels are in tactical withdrawal, using vehicles to maneuver and block the advance of the government forces).

        Most of the videos I’ve seen have been from northern Mexico, and here we’re talking about central and southern Mexico, so it would make sense to say that much of the country is in a state of war. It’s not just one war, though.

        Apparently the government may have reached an agreement with 4 of the 5 major cartels, though, which is supposed to bring a relative amount of peace to northern Mexico, where the cartels have been at war over border crossings.Report

      • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

        check out the link I posted below. It’s not just about drugs. and yes, it is a civil war.Report

      • Citizen in reply to Glyph says:

        Decentralizing meth rents is tricky.

        I would hope decentralizing extortion on the lemon trade would lead to better profits for commoners.Report

  9. zic says:

    I think it’s time to face up to the reality that our war on drugs and our war on terror have both failed, and in that failure, merged.

    Time for a war on war?Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to zic says:

      The drug warriors are not going to give up the ghost and admit that the American war on narcotics has anything to do with the instability in Central America. Another aspect of American life that is creating this instability is the ease of getting guns in the United States, most guns and rifles used by Mexican and Central American cartels were purchased in the United States and brought back over the border.Report

      • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Purchased with US dollars, that we gave them for the drugs, when we outsourced all our drug manufacturing.

        Bring manufacturing back home to the US, where it belongs!Report

      • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Another aspect of American life that is creating this instability is the ease of getting guns in the United States, most guns and rifles used by Mexican and Central American cartels were purchased in the United States and brought back over the border.

        Maybe, but the truth is that we don’t really know. See this link: http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110209-mexicos-gun-supply-and-90-percent-myth#axzz3JRBxVhnf

        The bottom line:

        To really understand Mexico’s gun problem, however, it is necessary to recognize that the same economic law of supply and demand that fuels drug smuggling into the United States also fuels gun smuggling into Mexico. Black market guns in Mexico can fetch up to 300 percent of their normal purchase price — a profit margin rivaling the narcotics the cartels sell. Even if it were somehow possible to hermetically seal the U.S.-Mexico border and shut off all the guns coming from the United States, the cartels would still be able to obtain weapons elsewhere — just as narcotics would continue to flow into the United States from other places. The United States does provide cheap and easy access to certain types of weapons and ammunition, but as demonstrated by groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, weapons can be easily obtained from other sources via the black arms market — albeit at a higher price.

        There has clearly been a long and well-documented history of arms smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border, but it is important to recognize that, while the United States is a significant source of certain classes of weapons and ammunition, it is by no means the source of 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican cartels, as is commonly asserted.


      • Citizen in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Mexico is a example of what happens when gun laws restrict most types and special caliber firearms to military and law enforcement (i.e. cartels)Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        it’s also an example of where multinationals regularly flout local laws.Report

      • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Not to mention Fast and Furious.Report

      • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Your link doesn’t suggest that we don’t really know. It just says that if we got rid of the pipeline from the U.S. to Mexico, they’d probably get guns from elsewhere, it’d just cost them more.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @chris I don’t think that’s correct. Also from the link –

        According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

        This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008 and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.

        The piece goes on to explain how the weapons submitted to ATF for tracing are far from a random sampling, and that weapons that Mexican authorities successfully trace themselves (a class that seems to amount to “firearms legally purchased in or by Mexico”), as well as many/most weapons with serial numbers removed, are not submitted to ATF for tracing.

        And of the firearms submitted to ATF, almost half are untraceable by ATF. It’s not clear why they would be wholly untraceable by ATF if Mexican authorities generally don’t try to trace firearms without legible serial numbers, but it’s probably safe to assume that a good chunk of them (if not most) are weapons that were manufactured in either countries of unknown origin or in countries with crap recording at the time of manufacture, etc.

        What the GAO report shows is that 68% of the guns turned over to ATF that could be traced in at least some manner were of American manufacture, about 19% were of foreign manufacture but for which there was a record of importation into the US, and about 13% were of foreign manufacture without any record of legal importation into the US.

        Again, these are only about half of the firearms actually turned over to ATF by Mexican authorities to trace. To disregard the part turned over to ATF but deemed untraceable by ATF is terrible statistics – a large chunk of those firearms are almost certainly not randomly untraceable by ATF, especially if they have serial numbers – ATF surely has a pretty good idea of which firearms it’s going to have difficulty tracing and which it will be able to successfully trace.

        Note also that the 87% figure for Mexican-seized guns successfully traced by ATF to a US source is almost identical to ATF’s success rate at tracing more generally: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/29/gun-crime-tracing-weapons-difficult_n_2572908.html

        This would seem to confirm that the ATF is pretty selective about the Mexican-seized guns that it attempts to trace.

        To be sure, it’s likely that a substantial portion, and probably at least a plurality, of Mexican cartel guns have some sort of a US origin, but the reality is that we don’t have any real backing for that conclusion. To the extent we assume – as the GAO report does – that the US is such a logical choice as a source for Mexican black market firearms that it would make little sense for cartels to look elsewhere, we’re ignoring an awful lot of inconvenient truths about black markets and firearms more generally.

        Specifically, it’s not as if the drug trade itself is anything but global, nor is it exactly legal anywhere, nor is it exactly devoid of violence anywhere. The cartels get their raw cocaine from South America, where there are surely plenty of firearms floating around, and their methamphetamine from Asia (ditto). If you’re smuggling that into Mexico to begin with, it’s not exactly difficult to add some guns to the mix. I might add that to the extent firearms are smuggled in from South America, there’s a pretty good chance that some/most of them would wind up registering in an ATF trace as having an American-origin, not because of a private sale in the US but because of American military policy in the late 20th century.

        None of which is to say that the US isn’t the primary source for cartel weapons, just that we don’t have the hard data to say so definitively, and that it’s almost certainly the case that the actual percentage is quite a bit lower than the 90 (or, more recently, 70) percent figures typically thrown around.

        Last but not least, it’s probably worth mentioning that the bulk of the heaviest weaponry seems to come from sources other than the US: http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-mexico-arms-race15-2009mar15-story.html#page=1Report