Mexico today is often compared to Colombia back in the 1980’s-1990’s, when drug lords and their cartels destabilized the country through narco-terrorism and used their wealth to corrupt institutions. However, to be compared to this Colombia is also to understand that the country has the ability to step back from the abyss and take back control of it’s destiny.
But there was another Colombia, one that is largely forgotten today.
In the 1940’s thru the end of the 1950’s, and in particular from 1948 to 1958, Colombia underwent an almost complete breakdown of society and government rule that led to a state of anarchy and murder of the civilian population. This period is known as “La Violencia”.
Out of a population of less than 20 million at the time 200,000 people were murdered by marauding bands of criminals, paramilitary militias and the army.
If Mexico’s government was to lose control of the problem of lawlessness and insecurity in the next decade and descend into a similar “La Violencia”, we are speaking of the murder of 1 million civilians with an average of 5,000 murders per month.
From May to August of this year Mexico suffered on average more than 1000 murders monthly. We cannot even imagine how horrible a 5 fold increase in violence would be.
In a column by the journalist and national security expert, Ana Maria Salazar, a picture of this descent into collective madness was described recently. Here is her brief account:
Mexico in 2024, a look back at the lost decade.
A fictional account by Ana Maria Salazar
How easy it was to blame Felipe Calderon for being the President that precipitated the events that would be the prelude to the "tragic decade" of Mexico, which according to historians began in 2010, ending 10 years later, in 2020.
The last decade not only saw a state of siege in at least 50% of the country, but for most of the Mexicans it became impossible to travel on most roads in the country, and the movement of goods and property also became impossible.
But most importantly, this "tragic decade" will be remembered for the violence suffered by the population during this period.
As organized criminal groups, paramilitary forces and rebel guerrillas obtained the ability to wage war, dramatically violent confrontations against the Government and Society increased exponentially.
The result was that the civilian population became the cannon fodder of this war. In the last decade there occurred daily explosions of car bombs, grenade attacks and armed attacks by gunmen against civilians in public places such as cinemas, restaurants and shopping centers.
Not to mention a 100% increase in kidnappings and extortion.
And as expected, Government violence and human rights violations against the population increased dramatically.
The truth was that Mexico had been a country at war with itself, although the Government and society would not recognize this reality for many years.
This systematic violence against the population resulted in more than a quarter of Mexicans, approximately 25 million people, seeking refuge in other countries.
And although many would argue that the Mexican diaspora began well before 2010 due to economic necesity, after 2010 the outward migration of Mexicans was due purely to violence.
But unlike the last decades of the last century and first decade of the twenty-first century, these Mexicans were unable to seek refuge in the United States as the country literally closed the border.
The U.S. not only built a wall covering the three thousand mile border, but literally shielded the border with troops and technology.
By 2013, every vehicle seeking to enter the United States had to be subjected to a comprehensive review.
The impact on foreign trade was overwhelming, but the reality was that because of the violence, the country's output had fallen dramatically.
Mexico ceased exporting and its economy all but collapsed.
How did it happen that a country like Mexico, with many geographical advantages and one of the largest economies in the world at the beginning of this century, becoming a failed state and one of the most violent countries in the world?
And though many sought to blame President Felipe Calderón for embarking on a "war" against organized crime at the beginning of his term in December 2006, the truth is that at least for a decade before then, criminal organizations had already grown and established a violent presence in different regions of Mexico.
As these criminal organizations developed a violent war making capacity, Calderon had little choice but to act, because the nation could no longer ignore the impact on national security, politics and the economy.
It was easy to criticize the six-year Calderon administration for incompetence, pettiness and in some cases the corruption of officials and policemen, or for the inability to implement a coordinated strategy and policy that showcased the ineffectiveness of the Presidency to contain the crisis.
But the responsibility of the "tragic decade" does not only belong to the rulers.
Historians and sociologists have also found it difficult to explain the "systematic blindness and irresponsibility" of almost all of the political and social actors during this decade.
Some describe this phenomenon as an attempt at collective suicide.
The legislative and judicial branch, together with the political parties, were guilty of not implementing urgent reforms to face the violence. Other actors such as the business class, the Church, trade unions and civil society organizations flatly refused to play a role in finding solutions.
And today, September 16, 2024, celebrating 214 years since the beginning of the War of Independence, the President of Mexico celebrated the culmination of this "tragic decade" by returning to the famous tradition of the "Cry for Independence" in the Zocalo, or main square.
The tradition had to be canceled eight years before because of threats and attacks that were carried out against families seeking to celebrate the national holiday.
Hopefully, the President was not wrong in anticipating the start of a new era in Mexico, and not a return to the Mexico of the lost decade of 2010-2020.