Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

The Cartels and the Government: Bishop Vera speaks

Friday, February 4, 2011 |

Raúl Vera López, the bishop of Saltillo, is a tireless advocate for human rights and social justice in Mexico and a relentless critic of President Felipe Calderon and the governing classes, a man cut from the same cloth as the late Salvadoran bishop Oscar Romero and Mexico’s recently deceased Samuel Ruiz.

Raul Vera is now the loudest voice of the progressive wing of Mexico’s Catholic church whose roots are firmly planted in the principles of Liberation Theology, the “preferential option for the poor” that is no longer tolerated by today’s Vatican


The Cartels and the Government

Estado y cárteles: amalgama perversa, Revista Proceso
Arturo Rodríguez

For Raúl Vera López, the Catholic bishop of Saltillo and human rights activist, Felipe Calderón's drug war is in reality a fight between different drug cartels and political and economic groups who want to protect their personal interests through the promotion of militarism and violence.

According to Vera the drug war is a mechanism that subdues civil society, criminalizes social activism and uses as cannon fodder the lives of millions of young people that possess no opportunities or future.

He sees the consequences as similar to those seen in Chiapas, when after the Zapatista uprising in the 1990’s the bishop witnessed first hand the deployment of state sponsored armed paramilitary groups and their crimes that tore apart the social fabric of the Mayan communities.

Vera Lopez, who has called President Felipe Calderón a dictator and his cabinet a gang of fascists in previous statements, warns that organized crime has merged with the Mexican State and that there is no difference between the State police apparatus and the criminal underworld.

Interviewed by the weekly magazine Proceso in the last days of December, the Bishop of Saltillo said that the deployment of the military as a strategy of Calderon’s war, along with the failure of the judicial system, has degenerated into a chaotic situation in which the government operates what amounts to death squads.

"The government was overwhelmed and is taking desperate measures, with tremendous violations of the law and the legal rights of citizens."

His view is based in part on a history of drug war operations as in the death of Arturo Beltran Leyva on December 16, 2009. Actions such as this, he says, are meant to eliminate the suspects.

The same type of operations occurred with other cartel leaders, such as Ignacio Coronel, last July, and Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen in November.

"There is no serious investigation of these criminals or procurement pf justice by the courts. In Mexico, by law, there is no death penalty. There are, however, de facto extrajudicial executions."

The Bishop argues that if there were adequate and real investigations the government could effectively tackle organized crime.

"But it seems that these operations are meant to deliberately eliminate the criminal bosses so that they cannot denounce their collaborators in the government and law enforcement. The names of their accomplices in the government are meant to be hidden in their graves."

(There is a speculation some kingpins and significant players who “play by the rules” negotiate their capture. Among these are “la Barbie” Edgar Valdez Villarreal who is suspected of being a government informant that was allowed to traffic in drugs and commit murders as long as he paid his “cuota”, and “el Grande” Sergio Villarreal Barragan who as a condition of his capture/surrender received assurances his assets would not be seized. Like Matarili the columnist says “sí alguien tiene palabra de honor son los capos de la droga…Cumplen con los compromisos para no tener broncas, ya que los batos de la autoridad son chuecos, les dicen los plátanos porque ninguno es derecho…”)

From the Bishop’s perspective, Calderon’s war is a mechanism for the protection of interests that, given the failure of Mexico’s political and economic model, is only deepening the injustice and impunity.

Vera Lopez summarizes: "The principal lesson is that the Mexican government, in its anti-narco objectives, is showing signs of serious weakness. The strategy has failed but they do not want to change course. Until now there has never been a serious process of intelligence
gathering to defeat the criminals and their accomplices in the government and financial institutions”


Repression and terrorism

For five years Raúl Vera has questioned the lack of investigations of Mexico’s political and financial institutions to combat drug trafficking, and says these institutions have lost their way and moral authority. He argues that the message sent by the Government is that "anything goes."

"The official line is said that we are at war against organized crime. But is this really a war?" he asks.

"It's a media war, of spectacular images. But it is not well-designed and articulated, consisting of widely publicized government responses to brutal outrages that do nothing to undermine the evil involved.”



“We are talking about a war of revenge. This is not a war of ideals or for an objective but a fight between different factions, not only of cartels but also between political and financial groups that are tied to each cartel.”

The Bishop states that organizations like SERAPAZ, a non-profit citizen’s watchdog group, has monitored an alarming amount of violence, killings, disappearances and torture against members of civil society. He therefore concludes that this is a barbaric conflict not just against organized crime, but also against the society that demands justice.

"We are talking of a government that is growing into more of a military dictatorship that denies basic rights and is turning back the democratic process," he says.

According to Vera there is no real war, because that would call for a formal suspension of legal guarantees by President Calderón who would have to prove that there is a mortal threat to national security.

The Bishop also conducted an analysis of international law and found that after September 11, 2001, the United Nations Security Council issued U.N. resolution 1373, which defines the characteristics of a terrorist act.

The car bomb attack in Ciudad Juarez on July 15, 2010 and the half dozen other car bomb detonations that have followed fall under the definition of terrorist acts under U.N. resolution 1373.

However, Bishop Vera argues that the government of Felipe Calderon refuses to admit that these are terrorist actions.

"By accepting them as terrorist acts, the government would be obligated to freeze the assets of the suspected perpetrators, and also the financial and business institutions that provide them with services. Public officials who support the groups would have to be prosecuted and the penalties imposed would have to be proportionate to the gravity of the crimes. Of course, none of that seems to suit the government," he says.

What there is, he argues, is a type of conflict very consistent with what exists in the world today (with the war against terror), dismantling the basic framework for the protection of civil society.

And the result, he warns, is a serious crisis of governance resulting from the closure of political space for a civil society whose demands are ignored, where the power vacuum was filled by organized crime, not as an agent antagonistic to political, social and financial institutions, but facilitated by these institutions and senior government officials.

According to Bishop Vera the larger question is if this is not really a war against organized crime, is the failure of the government deliberate and calculated to generate a recomposition of Mexico by a partnership of national and international powers?



Low intensity warfare

"Calderón's war is waged to protect the political and economic power. In Chiapas the government protected the business establishment and never procured justice for the Indians. That is what is happening today, but now on a larger scale and in a similar scheme that extends to the entire country," argues the bishop.

As a witness of what he calls "low intensity conflict" in Chiapas, Vera Lopez continues to demand justice for crimes against humanity against ex President Ernesto Zedillo, his military commanders and politicians involved in the counter-insurgency action, most notably for the massacre at Acteal.

“The consequences of the military deployments in Chiapas was its paramilitarization. The government used civil society to fight their own brothers. The most serious crimes committed there are those of the Mexican government.”

“This process of paramilitarization in Chiapas, and also in Colombia, is now being repeated throughout the country with military deployments.”

"With all the crimes committed, with the cover-ups of acts of violence against civil society committed under the banner of a war against organized crime, the Mexican State has a splendid opportunity to carry out this paramilitarization.”

"In these years it is very clear to see the military deployments throughout the entire country in the context of a classic counterinsurgency strategy.”

"What the paramilitaries and organized crime thugs have in common is that they are young with no future, no identity. Both go from being nobody to becoming someone when they are given a gun and money. And if this isn’t enough, these guns and money come with the protection of the State."

Bishop Vera argues that the source of the current violence is the government because, in addition to allowing paramilitaries and sicarios to act with impunity, the government also protects them.

"And the violence comes mainly from the State because it has left the people in a state of hunger and our youth without opportunities. It is responsible for the violence because after its imposition of the free market, of NAFTA, The State lost control."


"Calderón's war is waged to protect the political and economic power. In Chiapas the government protected the business establishment and never procured justice for the Indians. That is what is happening today, but now on a larger scale and in a similar scheme that extends to the entire country," argues the bishop.

As a witness of what he calls "low intensity conflict" in Chiapas, Vera Lopez continues to demand justice for crimes against humanity against ex President Ernesto Zedillo, his military commanders and politicians involved in the counter-insurgency action, most notably for the massacre at Acteal.

“The consequences of the military deployments in Chiapas was its paramilitarization. The government used civil society to fight their own brothers. The most serious crimes committed there are those of the Mexican government.”

“This process of paramilitarization in Chiapas, and also in Colombia, is now being repeated throughout the country with military deployments.”

"With all the crimes committed, with the cover-ups of acts of violence against civil society committed under the banner of a war against organized crime, the Mexican State has a splendid opportunity to carry out this paramilitarization.”

"In these years it is very clear to see the military deployments throughout the entire country in the context of a classic counterinsurgency strategy.”

"What the paramilitaries and organized crime thugs have in common is that they are young with no future, no identity. Both go from being nobody to becoming someone when they are given a gun and money. And if this isn’t enough, these guns and money come with the protection of the State."

Bishop Vera argues that the source of the current violence is the government because, in addition to allowing paramilitaries and sicarios to act with impunity, the government also protects them.

"And the violence comes mainly from the State because it has left the people in a state of hunger and our youth without opportunities. It is responsible for the violence because after its imposition of the free market, of NAFTA, The State lost control."




Calderón’s "genocide"

Just like the counterinsurgency war against the Zapatistas in Chiapas fractured civil society in that state, Calderon’s drug war has left Mexicans alienated, with no avenues for civic action.

Bishop Vera adds that the current policy is to fragment civil society and create confusion. He witnessed this in Chiapas and sees it currently happening around the country.

“Look at the cases of the activists Marisela Escobedo and Susana Chavez murdered in Chihuahua. Look at the violent suppression of the independent SME electrician’s union, an action designed to devastate a civic organization. Also contrast the 112 year prison sentence imposed on the campesino rights advocate Ignacio del Valle with the 15 year sentence imposed on the army soldiers who brutally raped 13 female sex workers in Castanos, Coahuila.”

(The prosecution of the army rapists in Coahuila was due to the pressure placed on the authorities by Bishop Vera, for which he received death threats from the military.)

After the killing of 72 migrants in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, last year, the Bishop condemned the neglect of the Mexican government in addressing the problem of migration, and contends this is evidence that shows the complicity of government officials who contribute to the impunity prevailing in the country .

"In Chiapas the murders we documented were from the counterinsurgency strategy, and now the murder, kidnapping and abuse of migrants are a migration management strategy designed by the State. These 72 executions are in no way isolated, they have been occurring for more than two years."

"These are crimes against humanity that should be charged against the government because it is responsible for dishonestly administering immigration policy, full of complicity and failures by the authorities, which goes against all principles of human rights."

For the Bishop the thousands of killings reflect the failure of Felipe Calderón.

"They repeatedly announce that they will eradicate organized crime, but look at all the dead. We are living through the destruction of this country, its death."

"This is genocide in a fake war and I think the president is close to being denounced."



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Estado y carteles

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14 Borderland Beat Comments:

Ernest1 said...

These are all very nice and pretty words and I largely agree with them. However let's put this is some larger perspective about how the Mexican people actually see the Catholic Church as a whole.....

PAN too closely associated with Catholic Church, says bishop
FRIDAY, JULY 31 2009 TOM MARSHALL

The auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Guadalajara, Jose Gonzalez, has warned that the Catholic Church “urgently” needs to dispel the perception that it is closely linked to the ruling National Action Party (PAN).

A recent study carried out by the Catholic Church showed that many Mexicans are put off the institution because they believe it is too heavily linked to President Felipe Calderon’s right-of-center party.

Banishing these fears won’t be easy. Mexican Roman Catholics were fundamental in the creation of the PAN as a reaction to the government’s anti-church policies that resulted in Mexico’s 1926-1929 Holy War.

The bishop also revealed fears that the church will be “dragged down” by the internal wrangling that has engulfed the PAN in the aftermath of the July 5 election. The PAN performed poorly and lost its majority in the federal Chamber of Deputies....

this article continues at ...

http://guadalajarareporter.com/news-mainmenu-82/national-mainmenu-86/25162-pan-too-closely-associated-with-catholic-church-says-bishop.html

Anonymous said...

So i just saw on the news that hell froze over...... 9 degrees and snow in Juarez?!?

Anonymous said...

He makes some good points, however the Church is just as bloody as all of them.
they are looking after their interests as well,
i doubt he is doing it because he has such a good heart.

Anonymous said...

and ernie has agreed with somebody..double deep feeze..yer right hell has surely frozen over...

jus kiddn there now ..don't get all mad n stuff

but seriously..is this man looking to become a martyr?..is has already been proven the clergy is not protected from reprisals

"L"B

the land of ZOG said...

they have been an effective tool ,of the international moneylenders,spreading religion the greatest enemy of mankind,making people into docile animals while extracting their last bit of wealth, they should give back the gold stolen for them by the spanish ,religion turns people into sheep, and protects then from the wolves only as long as they behave,mexico is being beaten to the ground and will serve the chosens or suffer untill it does

Resilient Tucsonian said...

"Mexico’s Catholic church whose roots are firmly planted in the principles of Liberation Theology, the “preferential option for the poor” that is no longer tolerated by today’s Vatican"

It is not tolerated (or was ever tolerated) because liberation theology is a code word for Marxism which is an evil. The Church does not stand for the theft of someones property to be given to another (the basis of socialist governments like Mexico's). Church teaching preaches the NATURAL rights of man which man has because those rights enable him to fulfill duties he has from God. Anyone who preaches that these duties and rights come from government, and can be taken away by government, is not preaching Catholic teaching. This bishop is part of the problem down in Mexico and until the Mexicans realize that it is not the government's job to protect them, then they will continue to be slaves to the government and the cartels despite their "liberation" theology.

Anonymous said...

Marc

I agree that much of this conflict is fueled by social economic inequalities that exist in Mexico; Lower ranking sicarios, gangsters are joining and killing each other for practically nothing. Why does this go about?
How can a developing country have the richest man in the world without underhanded collaboration of the ruling classes. In Mexico just about every major business is a monopoly government collaborates in keeping the status quo of monopolistic protection for the super rich in Mexico; in this, the government is just violent as the sicarios - drawing blood, sweat and tears from the lower class of people, forcing them to migrate to U.S. is they are going to have any hope of bettering their lives. For there to be any real social justice in Mexico, there needs to be an equitable distribution of wealth, real competition of businesses vying for customers, this will drive prices down and keep employees on their toes for better ideas. Another issue that is driving social chaos is "Free Trade" exportation of local agriculturally produced goods and the importation of of the same. Mexico's farmers can not compete with the modern and much productive agricultural methods of developed countries, this is detrimental to Mexico's small farmers. Laws must be passed for businesses to pay a liveable wages for their workers - no I'm not speaking of pay to be equal to U.S. but a livable wage to be able to support a family. When read and see the chaos in Mexico it is as if the authorities are not serious about stopping the violence, Mexico's form of government is illegitimate as it is, much more then a solution at the point of the barrel of a gun needs to be implemented.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean it is "Not the Governments job to protect you?"
i heard plenty of you Gringos crying over this issue on 911

Anonymous said...

Respect, Bishop Vera ! Right on the money, sir.

Matanzas said...

@ Gerardo,
thanks for bringing Vera's opinion to our attention. He's a great guy, very consistent in his critics of the Mexican social politics -or lack of, from PRI to current regime.

@Anon 10:40,
gringos suffer of bipolar disorder. Specially in Tucson, AZ.

Ernest1 said...

Where was the Catholic Church when Hitler and his allies rose up? And where is it now? The Catholic Church nowadays will pretend that it somehow opposed Hitler and the other fascists when in reality the Catholic Church mainly cooperated with fascists around the globe. Today it continues pretty much on the same track.

This RECENT history is important simply because it illustrates that Liberation Theology has always only been marginally tolerated within the Catholic Church.... at best. Today, just as yesterday and always, the mainstream Catholic HIerarchy provides no real opposition to the powers that be, but instead covers for their wealth and power 'theologically'.

Where has the Church been in Chihuahua as hundreds of young women were disappeared and tortured? Did they really ever make even the slightest attempt to demand that the government really stop those atrocities, that now has morphed into even greater tragedies? No, I don't think so.

I'm afraid that the Catholic Church's Human Rights record is not even just really thread worn but more like totally rotten. This bishop of Saltillo still has to preach against abortion rights and even birth control in general. This bishop has to continue to support a church based on male dominance through its own clergy or he would be run out of it. He is a leader in a church that helped create the very same PAN government that today he hints at as being mainly just a dictatorship of the powerful over the weak.

I am not in anyway saying though that the Protestant Evangelist Churches would be a better alternative to the Catholic Church Hierarchy, because they simply would not, nor have been. The Poor will not ever have a real ally in the Catholic Church though, words of a few nice bishops to the contrary. That's just really the truth of the situation.

Anonymous said...

@Gerardo
I'm so disappointed in you, how can you for one get an article from Proceso?? If anyone who knows about Proceso is for one its anti-Calderon, even if the President does something good, every day its all about conspiracy this or that, or "his failure" for this or that...its one thing to critize it another to make it openly know you hate the guy...so much for ethics in journalism. Whats worst this magazine was even listed by el grande as taking bribes to take sides on cartels. How patheic!!! Second its the Catholic Church for real, they have no freakin morals to talk.

Resilient Tucsonian said...

"February 4, 2011 1:29 PM
Ernest1 said...
Where was the Catholic Church when Hitler and his allies rose up?
"

Many thousands of priests and religious died in the concentration camps. Israel named a street after the Pope at the time. Would they have done that for a Nazi Collaborator?

Get your facts straight and read some real history rather than ant-catholic propaganda.

Ernest1 said...

'Resilient Tucsonian' tells me to read up on some history, which is something that he himself obviously has not done.

The Catholic Church were major backers of the world wide fascist movement of the '30s... and afterwards, too. The current Pope was even in their youth movement of the Nazis at the time, and has now made 'saints' of the Catholic Church out of many Catholic priests and bishops that were major backers of the Spanish, Portuguese, Croatian, and other national fascist movements of those years.

This is not 'anti-Catholic propaganda' but real actual history.

'Many thousands of priests and religious died in the concentration camps. Israel named a street after the Pope at the time. Would they have done that for a Nazi Collaborator?'

Yes, they might well do just that.

People of all sorts got swept up into concentration camps but that still does not mean that the Catholic Church was in opposition to the Fascists during WW2 times. They weren't. And it is also well known that the Zionist leadership at the time also held talks with the NAZIs in how they might work together in getting European Jews to Palestine, where the Arabs could be robbed of their lands and properties, and subsequently were.

You want 'history', Resilient Tucson? You got it. I think it a very ignorant person who knows nothing of how the Catholic Church were most often backers of Far Right Wing political groupings, including those who were fascists.

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