Mexico’s Deadly Narco-Politics

Written on October 13, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Democracy & Human Rights, Op Ed, Security

IGUALA, Mexico — STUDENT protesters in rural Mexico have long dealt with heavy-handed police officers. But on the black night of Sept. 26, students who attended a rural teachers’ college realized they were facing a far worse menace in this southern city. Not only were police officers shooting haphazardly at them, killing three students and several passers-by; shady gunmen were also firing from the sidelines.

The next morning, the corpse of a student was dumped on a major street. He’d had his skin peeled off and his eyes gouged out. It was the mark of drug cartel assassins.

Soldiers and federal detectives detained two alleged cartel hit men, who confessed they had conspired with the police to murder students. They led troops to pits on the outskirts of Iguala containing 28 charred corpses. Forensic teams are working to identify the bodies. A total of 43 students went missing that night, many last seen being bundled into police cars.

When I went to the grave site on an eerie hill, it still stank of decaying human flesh. I had just been interviewing some of the students’ classmates at their university, mostly teenage sons of poor farmers, who are idealistic, committed and frightened. I have covered cartel violence in Mexico for over a decade. But as I inhaled the stench of death on that hill, and saw photos of the mutilated student on the road, I felt as never before that I was covering an act of pure unadulterated evil.

Why drug cartels want to slaughter students may at first seem inexplicable. But it is a symptom of a systematic process that has been taking place in Mexico for years. Drug cartels are taking over chunks of government apparatus, from local police forces to city and state governments. Sometimes, they control the officials; other times, cartel members themselves are the officials. I call it state capture. A student I talked to had a more visceral term for it: narco-politica, or narco-politics.

It’s a terrifying concept. Being ruled by corrupt and self-interested politicians can be bad. But imagine being ruled by sociopathic gangsters. They respond to rowdy students in the only way they understand: with extreme violence designed to cause terror. They stick the mutilated body of a student on public display in the same way they do rival traffickers.

The market city lies amid hills of marijuana and opium fields and is the fief of a brutal cell of traffickers who call themselves Guerreros Unidos, or Warriors United. After the discovery of the massacre of the students, federal soldiers took control of the city. Twenty-two police officers were detained for working with the cartel. In a brazen move, the Warriors put up banners calling for the release of the officers.

The Iguala police chief is now on the run with an arrest warrant behind him. The Iguala mayor has also fled town as the state moves to impeach him. An intelligence agency report linked him to the Warriors, the Mexican media revealed. His wife has also come into the spotlight. One of her brothers served prison time for trafficking and two others were killed in a gangland shooting, according to the intelligence report. Who knows how high this trail of corruption may lead?

Read more…

By Ioan Grillo, Published on Oct. 9 in http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/10/opinion/mexicos-deadly-narco-politics.html?_r=0


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