By: Billie Greenwood
The U.S. corporations reap the profits; Mexico reaps the corpses.
Sixteen Mexican youth were gunned down at a high school party by multiple, heavily armed killers, who reportedly filed away in silence. A horrified world views photos of Sunday morning streets running red with innocent blood. And the neighboring United States watches silently, with widened eyes, wondering: "How do we respond to this? How should we respond?"
Clearly, violence in El Paso's twin city has escalated to an unbelievable level. Known in 2007 for the murder of women, the city of Juárez now claims a dubious record: first in the world in homicides per capita with 2,600 assassinations just last year. And with 227 assassinations already this year, 2010 stands a good chance of topping anything we've seen yet.
Expressions of sympathy and wishes of solidarity may be appropriate. But words not backed by deeds are only empty words. What does a neighbor do in the face of such savagery? What now, United States?
Human rights activist Carlos Marentes, native of the border cities of Juárez /El Paso, suggests that reconsideration of the Merida Initiative, the U.S. package of drug war aid to Mexico, is a good place to start. "The Merida Initiative is the main source of revenue for the war," asserts Marentes.
But, doesn't Mexico need this assistance more than ever now?
"Juárez is frozen in a climate of fear. The citizens can not differentiate between criminals and authorities. For most of the people, they are one and the same. They are acting together."
According to Marentes, the climate of violence in Juárez is a direct result of the drug war, an anti-trafficking initiative of the BushBushBush Administration. This strategy functioned conveniently for the U.S. because the casualties occurred on foreign soil (Mexico) thereby keeping the U.S. public largely unconcerned and uninvolved.
Through the Merida Initiative, the U.S. provides resources--a pledge of $1.6 Billion--to strengthen the Mexican military. But increasingly the war casualties are innocent civilians. Mexican authorities, who once asserted that the fatalities were related to the drug trade, can no longer deny that violent crime has ended the lives of many ordinary citizens, including children, journalists--with already 3 three reported 2010 deaths--and human rights advocates.
Ironically, a recent story in the Mexican El Universal reports that 70% of Merida Initiative resources remain in the United States as profits from contracts for military and intelligence equipment. The U.S. corporations reap the profits; Mexico reaps the corpses.
As early as July 2009, Human Rights Watch called on the U.S. Department of State to disallow Merida funding until alleged Mexican military human rights offenses are tried in civil, not military, courts.
This cry was reinforced this weekend at the National Latino Congreso, held in El Paso. A number of the resolutions they approved addressed the violence. One is particularly noteworthy: it "vehemently urges" the U.S. to tie Merida Initiative funding to demonstrated respect for human rights in Mexico. It was sponsored by the coalition Mexican Journalists in Exile (PEMEX).
The people of Mexico survive in a state of on-going grief, frozen by the paralysis of mourning. Bizarre and ruthless warfare, operating on several levels, has spun out of control. U.S. funding is fueling the fire. U.S.-manufactured weapons are killing and intimidating the innocent. U.S. demand--consuming 25% of the world's drugs--drives the dynamic.
Merely shaking a finger at Mexican corruption, or sending a sympathy note about Mexican violence is not enough now. These responses are easy, but they are not honest. The U.S. needs to consider its own role in the Mexican bloodshed.
Senseless savagery will continue unabated if we don't.