May 7, 2018

Mexico's proxy wars, the death penalty and gun ownership


Mexico's proxy wars, the death penalty and gun ownership

PRD officers discuss political violence and election options. 
Violence in Mexico continues unabated as criminal bands run amok, roaming communities with a kill list in hand, kidnapping, mutilating, murdering, increasing the specter of terror wherever they operate, too often with permission of local authorities they collude with or intimidate.

Recently, the Mexican news daily El Financiero reported the assassination of Liliana García, a candidate for city council of Ignacio Zaragoza, Chihuahua. She was running as a member of the left-learning Democratric Revolutionary Party (PRD). Candidate killed

Residents reported that a group of heavily armed men who shot Garcia to death also burned properties and a vehicle belonging to a mayoral candidate and another official in the same community. 

In light of the attacks, PRD officers considered asking election officials to postpone the upcoming Ignacio Zaragoza municipal elections, Norte Digital reported. PRD mulls election delay.

Eduardo Aragon Caraveo, founder of the Social Encounter Party (PES) in Chihuahua City, a second murder victim, was reported missing on May 4. His body was found the next day in the trunk of his vehicle. His feet and hands were tied, and he had been shot multiple times, police said.

People who know Aragon said he was an academic with a PhD and a church worship leader who was trying to serve his community.

Mexico's La Jornada newspaper reported that Aragon also led an alliance that supported the candidacy of the left-leaning Manuel Andres Lopez Obrador, who is on his third run for president of in the July 1 election. Aragon Caraveo murdered

A third politician, Abel Montufar Mendoza, a congresisonal representative candidate, was shot to death May 8 in the state of Jalisco. He was a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and was on leave as mayor of Coyuca de Catalan
to run for representative. 

Investigative magazine Proceso said that Montufar previously had reported threats. Another candidate murder

Over the past 12 years, more than 100 (mostly low-level) politicians - representing all major and some minor political parties - were murdered across Mexico, according to Mexican press accounts. This is stunning. It's something you might expect to see on the eve of a national revolution, although it's not an ideological battle that we're witnessing. 

According to published accounts, unknown assailants have also killed on-duty and off-duty police officers, Catholic priests, and human rights and environmental activists.

Authorities claim that everything is under control. Tell that to the families of literally thousands of people - mostly young adults - who disappeared throughout Mexico and whose whereabouts remains a mystery. Some of them were last seen when they were detained for questioning by security forces.

At this juncture, "proxy wars" is probably the best and most evident term to describe how Mexico's unusual violence has evolved in recent years.

Mexico's "proxy wars" apparently involve organized crime using corrupt police and corrupt politicians/government leaders to eliminate real or perceived threats to their operations; and in parallel fashion, these proxy wars also involve corrupt politicians/corrupt government leaders using organized crime elements, including corrupt police, to take out their political rivals, often ahead of elections.

What's at stake? For the warring factions, it has to do with securing and protecting lucrative crime territories, such as for drug-smuggling and human-trafficking, and having in place the "right" politicians who will do the bidding of crime lords and higher-level corrupt officials.

It's a dangerous time to be a police officer or a politician in Mexico. Actually, anyone who steps foot in the country is a potential victim. The most that anyone can do, justice advocates says, is to file a report with police, which simply gets added to the growing stack of similar complaints.

Death penalty and new gun laws

Since Mexican authorities appear unwilling or unable to take on the marauders, they can at least give their citizens a fighting chance.

Candidate Lopez Obrador was criticized for suggesting an "amnesty" for lawbreakers as a means of achieving a lasting peace in the country. He took a lot of heat for this proposal, especially because he failed to articulate exactly how such an amnesty would work and who would benefit from it.

Instead of coddling criminals, who savagely kill entire families in brazen public attacks, who extort small businesses into oblivion and who peel away Mexico's Pemex infrastructure, the authorities need to consider adopting the death penalty for the worst of the worse. Right now, people are getting away with murder because they can. Mexico needs better disincentives to deter serious offenses. Its legal system also needs credible investigations and prosecutions with sentences that match the crimes.

The Mexican congress also should quickly pass laws that make it easier for citizens to obtain firearms to defend themselves. Mexican citizens have a right under the nation's constitution to own firearms for self-defense in their homes, hunting, and sports, but there is scant public information on how to obtain weapons permits and where to legally buy them.

In fact, many people in Mexico assume that it is illegal for regular people to buy and own firearms, and that only criminals have the luxury of protecting themselves with guns and rifles. We know from police seizures that criminal gangs are armed to the teeth with all sorts of illegal firepower, including military-grade weapons. It's time to level the playing field.

The Digie Zone

[PRD courtesy photo is of the political party's news conference following reports of the violence in Ignacio Zaragoza, Chihuahua.]