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President Calderon inspires fear and loathing in Mexico

October 23, 2011

The dubiously elected President Felipe Calderon was busy this week, seeking to simultaneously undermine the main opposition party and a popular peace movement in a futile effort to justify his disastrous approach to Mexico’s drug-trafficking problems.

President Calderon: PRI will entertain drug pact

Amid continued criticism of his militarized campaign on organized crime, President Felipe Calderon angered the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) last weekend by suggesting the opposition party would consider a deal with Mexico’s drug cartels if elected next year.

“There are many in the PRI who think the deals of the past would work now,” said the president in an interview with the New York Times last weekend. “I don’t see what deal could be done, but that is the mentality many of them have. If that opinion prevails it would worry me.”

Calderon’s comments allude to the PRI’s dubious history of tolerating the cartels’ activities in order to ensure peace throughout the party’s unbroken 70-year rule. Having finally been thrown out in 2000, the PRI is now favorite to return to power in 2012.

Asked whether a priista candidate might fall into a corrupt relationship with organized crime if he were to win the presidency, Calderon replied, “it depends on who it is. There are many in the PRI who agree with the policy I have, at least they say so in secret, while publicly they may say something else.”

PRI politicians have dismissed Calderon’s comments as “absurd” and “irresponsible,” demanding the president either prove or retract his comments, which amount to a “dirty campaign” against the main opposition party ahead of next year’s general election.

A presidential spokesperson clarified Calderon’s comments on Sunday, explaining that while not all of the opposition would consider a deal, “other priistas, such as as the former governor of Nuevo Leon Socrates Rizzo, have publicly stated the benefits of forming agreements with organized crime.”

Diego Peterson, a renowned columnist in the local daily El Informador, believes Calderon’s comments regarding the PRI were uncontroversial and have been widely exaggerated. Had they been made in a national paper instead of the New York Times, he argues they would never have attracted the same attention.

Although the PRI vigorously denies such claims, the party has frequently been accused of making secret deals with drug capos while it was in power. A prevalent climate of impunity and corruption grew steadily under the PRI until it got out of hand, culminating in the kidnapping, torture and murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Enrique Camarena in Guadalajara in 1985.

Ordered by the boss of the Guadalajara Cartel, Miguel Angel Felix, the kidnapping was reportedly carried out in broad daylight by corrupt police officers. The case provoked a strong reaction from the U.S. government, which launched the largest DEA homicide investigation ever undertaken and put great pressure on the Mexican government to crack down on organized crime.

It was not until the election of Calderon in 2006 that a war on the nation’s cartels became the government’s central security strategy. Calderon has been outspoken of late in defending this controversial strategy of deploying the Mexican Army to combat organized crime.

This has widely become considered the defining policy of his presidency. For many Mexicans, Calderon’s only legacy will be the spiralling violence that has already claimed over 40,000 lives during his five years in office.

“It’s possible some will remember me for that,” he admitted. “But if Mexico triumphs as I am sure it will, if Mexico subdues the criminals and reconstructs its social fabric, there will also be those that remember me as the president who dared to take on the criminals.”

Although Calderon was unable to say the country is safer now than when he took power, he affirmed that “Mexico will be safer … and if I had not acted the situation would have deteriorated even more.”

Felipe Calderon clashes with peace movement

President Felipe Calderon denied Mexico has become an “authoritarian state” under his tenure during a meeting with representatives of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity at Mexico City’s Chapultepec Castle last Friday.

“If this were an authoritarian state believe me we would not be having this dialogue,” the president said in response to criticism from Javier Sicilia, a former poet and journalist who has been transformed into a national peace activist since the murder of his son in March.

The meeting, which lasted nearly six hours, marked the second occasion Calderon has entered into a dialogue with the peace movement, the first being in late June.

Sicilia, who heads the movement, was scathing of the president’s policies, arguing that militarization of the country in the name of national security is threatening the civil liberties guaranteed in the Mexican Constitution.

“Your decision, Mr President, that the military assume responsibility for national security, requires at the very least a road map defining the limits of their presence on the streets, now that there are serious risks of the military weakening Mexican democracy and undermining civil power.”

But the president remained steadfast, affirming that the Army will remain on the country’s streets until the police are “trustworthy and effective.”

“The atmosphere of violence and horror, which grows day by day, is contaminating the discourse,” said Sicilia, who warned of “a greater threat, of which we the citizens disapprove: that of authoritarianism and its most brutal facades: militarism and fascism.”

Sicilia also accused the government of fostering the growth of violent paramilitary groups. “Besides generating more violence and terror, your actions are provoking a surge in paramilitary groups, which … consider themselves authorized to operate, killing more Mexicans with impunity.”

Calderon denied these allegations, declaring “it is not the case that (paramilitaries are) tolerated, much less that they are supported, I can assure you.”

Finally, Sicilia said the government is ignoring the victims of its war on drugs and expressed concern that the current strategy will lead to an “endless war.”

“The government is not the obstacle to peace, the main obstacles to peace are the criminals,” retorted Calderon.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ahmed Hamada permalink
    October 23, 2011 02:30

    GREETINGS MR. TUCKER

    Needless to say it proved futile trying to locate your email online, then again, it must be nice knowing that the internet is not the chaotic privacy depraved haven everybody thinks it is 🙂 so I’m leaving this comment on your blog in hope that you will read it within the next 24- 48 hours, and hopefully you will since your blog entries are fairly updated

    My name is Ahmed Hamada and I am a PhD’s student at VCU, a film maker and a former journalist for CBNC-Arabic. I am currently working on a class-related story -although potentially publishable- that come down to a 3 minutes short video piece. Recently, a new legislation has been president by American Democrat candidate Ron Paul that is supposedly trying to end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana, and I chose to cover this subject due to its controversial nature. I am trying to get a medical perspective as well as a political and a social one. However, I would also be interested in knowing how this topic ties to the situation in Mexico from a journalistic point of view, and what would -in your opinion- the indirect consequences for this legislation be in Mexico. I would be grateful if you could grant me a 30 seconds to 1 minute phone interview at any convenient time for you next week since my deadline is at the 28th of October “Friday”. I do apologize for the short notice but your contribution would be a great addition for my video.

    Many thanks

    Ahmed M. Hamada

    Email me at Ahmed.Hamada83@hotmail.com

  2. October 24, 2011 03:51

    Hi there Ahmed. Just a quick message for now to say I’ve read your comment and would be happy to speak on the phone. Will send you an email tommorrow so we can arrange when to chat. All the best, Duncan.

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