Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Should Mexico Call for a Cease-Fire with Drug Cartels?

Mexican writer and journalist Javier Sicilia (C) cries while hugging family members in Cuernavaca April 1, 2011. Sicilia is the father of Juan Francisco Sicilia whose body was found early Monday morning along with six other dead people inside a car parked in an upscale neighborhood of Cuernavaca.


The image of seven corpses of young men and women who had been tortured, murdered and dumped in a car was depressingly familiar in drug war torn Mexico. But unlike thousands of other killings, one victim of last week's multiple homicide in the spa town Cuernavaca had a well-known father and his grief gained national attention.

The journalist and poet Javier Sicilia led a march to commemorate the death of his son and friends, who appear to be an innocent victims caught up in the violence. In the media spotlight, Sicilia said what has been on the mind of many weeping parents. The war on drugs is not working, he cried, the government has to make a truce with cartels. "Drug trafficking goes on. The United States doesn't care, and is not helping us at all," Sicilia told reporters. "The mafias are here. We should make a pact."

The statement sparked a sizzling public debate, which many Mexicans have conducted in private for years: should the government reach out to criminal gangs to calm the bloodshed? President Felipe Calderon, who kicked off a crackdown on the cartels in December 2006, has insisted that he will never negotiate with criminals. But after 35,000 drug-related murders, car bombs and daily shoot outs, much of the public has grown weary of the war. "There has been an important sea change of opinion," says John Mill Ackerman of Mexico's National Autonomous University. "People are no longer buying the story that things have to get worse before they get better." Calderon is banned by the constitution from running in presidential elections next year, but whoever follows him could be open to any new ideas on Mexico's crime problem.

How any truce could look in reality is a tough question. In a follow up news conference, Sicilia explained that by "pact" he meant that gangsters should be urged to avoid hurting the public and respect the prisoners they take. Others suggest that a truce could simply mean a government decision to chase drug traffickers less and give police more time to tackle anti-social crime such as kidnapping and extortion, which are both rampant. However, there is also a debate whether the government should actually allow one cartel to dominate each trafficking route, thus avoiding the bloody turf wars. This notion is so commonly discussed it even has its own terminology — "repartir plazas" — roughly meaning, "to award turfs."

Most historians of Mexico argue that the tactic of awarding turfs was employed during the 71-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI, keeping the country relatively peaceful until the party lost power in 2000. However, PRI leaders deny this claiming that they were simply better at combating crime. Opinion polls show that the PRI is the current favorite to win back the presidency in 2012, helped by many voters who feel it was safer back in the days of one party rule. The PRI's record and policy on drug cartels will likely come under much discussion in the run up to the race.

But many are calling for a change in drug war tactics whoever wins in 2012. Historian Lorenzo Meyer says a public debate about a pact with cartels is long overdue. "The current policy has created violence and chaos that leaves citizens totally unprotected," Meyer said. "A new government could say that there will be no war on drugs in Mexico if there isn't one in the United States. The U.S. government is not stopping drug use, or the flow of weapons or money laundering." American operatives in the drug war have been among the biggest fans of Calderon's offensive. On Tuesday, DEA administrator Michele M. Leonhart praised Calderon for standing firm against cartels while in a conference in the resort of Cancun. Leonhart also emphasized how Calderon pursues "a war without truce" — an apparent stab at Sicilia's comments.

Nevertheless, this year American citizens have been increasingly feeling the pinch of the violence. An American missionary was shot dead in Mexico in January while gunmen slew a U.S. customs agent in February. And on Monday, assailants shot dead two Americans at a border crossing in Tijuana. Motives are unclear in much of the violence that has swept Mexico, including the murder of the seven in Cuernavaca and the discovery on Wednesday of a mass grave with at some 50 bodies in Tamaulipas.

Sicilia's son Francisco was a 24-year old student with no criminal record. According to reports in local newspapers, Francisco Sicilia went with friends to a bar, where they had a loud conversation about the drug violence. Leaving the bar, one of the group reportedly called a family member to say they were being followed. Their bodies were later found in the car next to a note that said, "This is what happens to those who make anonymous calls to soldiers." In the fog of the drug war, the clues point in many directions. Sources quoted by La Jornada newspaper on Tuesday said that rogue soldiers are now suspected in the killing.

Sicilia says there are no words to describe the grief of losing a son. "This pain has no name because it is unnatural," Sicilia wrote in an open letter addressed to politicians and criminals. "From this suffering, from this indignation that these deaths have caused, we are f----- sick of it."


  1. Drug trafficking goes on. The United States doesn't care, and is not helping us at all," Sicilia told reporters. "The mafias are here. We should make a pact."

    are you kidding me? the U.S. has given so much money to Mexico it is ridiculous. And help? we offer and your too proud president Calderon says Thanks, but no thanks! Too much pride and corruption is what keeps this mayhem in mexico continuing.

  2. It's making pacts with these devils and looking the other way that has made Mexico the hell that it is today. They will continue to kill each other and innocents will die as a result. Allowing the cartels to exist and become part of the culture and society is why it is the way it is. Make a pact with them and you are making a deal with the devil. You will be selling your souls and the souls of your children.

  3. They need to send in death squads and kill every narco criminal in Mexico...

  4. That would take the cake,Mexico surrenders to the Drug gangs, what kind of idiots are these people?? Weak gutless people do not need to be in leadership positions or make decisions,stick to poetry. Just what does it take to motivate the Mexican public,or are the majority of the Mexican people alligned with criminal conduct, Hell I am wondering.

  5. Before the PAN took over, Mexico's states had much more autonomy. Their Federal Government had little to say about what happens in each state. Things were safe, calm and peaceful. Calderon overstepped those boundaries with the Army and Federal Police and now has create great imbalance throughout Mexico and like most politician, refuses to realize he is wrong. Only a fool doesn't negotiate with what is more powerful than himself. This is a worldwide phenomenon.

    Mexico must award plazas and do much more. They legalized small quantities of drugs a year ago. Now totally legalize drugs in Mexico and set everything into motion with awarding plaza's to cartel that will be legal distributers, make other cartels legal supplying corporations of specific drugs be it marijuana. cocaine, heroin, and/or amphetamine. Tax the hell out of it and use the revenue to pay police enough that corruption is not a necessity. Then they can focus on reducing extortion, kidnapping, rape, murder and violent acts.

    It doesn't stop there though. The US has to change it's mindset of locking up every drug addict for 10 to 30 years via get tough on crime platforms from politicians. We legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes in 17 states. We made a class II narcotic (Methadone) legal for heroin addicted soldiers coming back from Vietnam in the late 60s as an alternative to heroin use. We can figure a way to make substance use controlled, taxed and not through the loss of more blood in Mexico. This will happen some day and most of us know this but currently many cannot see outside the box that we actually win the war by saving dollars.

    I paid more than $24,000 in taxes this year and I am pissed about it. I'm just a working middle class lug. It cost $35,000 per year to house an inmate. At any given time any of these 4 states can have the largest prison system (Texas, California, Florida, New York). Larger than any other prison system in any "nation" in the world. Just in 4 states our prison system is 4 times bigger than any other nation. I ask, "are Americans that bad", or do we have a twisted vision of what is crime really is?

    Our politician are so afraid that if we legalize drugs in the US, it might turn our system upside down. As if it isn't already upside down. The need for huge police forces would diminish, probation and parole officer would drop, judges, jailers, prison guards, the same. Wow, you talk about a way to balance a budget, here it is Albert (lol, my favorite blues artist).

    The US has to do there part because even if we sent special forces to Mexico to clean it up, and they did, the need for illegal drugs in the US has not been resolved so, along will come more cartels. Tourism is gone in Mexico so with the exception of oil production, drugs are number one. The US must make huge strides to change the way it thinks.

    Screw it! I surrender, legalize the stuff and reduce my taxes please. Politicians wake up, grow some balls, quit kissing babies and your wives' asses and "solve this bullshit!"

    Just one simple mans opinion.


  6. It is the right time for the US to consider legalizing drugs and put an end to all the criminal activity involved in drug trafficking? Time to research the topic extensively and look at our failed drug war policy.

    Giving the criminals an opportunity to dictate the laws of a country is not the right answer. Decriminalization of drug use and therefore shipment of these drugs into the US and elsewhere has to be decided on reasonable grounds. What are the benefits and drawbacks?

  7. You cannot legalize drugs in Mexico without legalization in the US.

  8. Legalize drugs in the US,cut welfare to dopers,force the dopers to attend rehabilitation,or no dope,let them kill themselves,instead of F ing up the rest of us. THIS HAS BEEN DONE IN PORTUGAL,they claim success,overal drug use down,crime down,Is this true,they say so.

  9. Anon 4:48 have you even thought about all that stuff you typed? Really, legalize it? Award routes to cartels? Make distribution centers?

    You have oviously not thought out the big picture here. What do you think will happen to Mexico's status world wide if they were to turn it into one big Narco State (which is pretty much is atm)?

    Do you think the rest of the world is just going to stand idly by and let the Mexican goverment become the worlds largest distribution center of substances that are illegal in the rest of the planet?

    How do you think this will affect trade/diplomatic relations with Mexico? The neighboring countries will likely permanently close the borders and it will more than likely have to deal with huge enbargos on their products by the international community. Most countries will probably cease all trade relations to Mexico and impose sanctions against it.

    I'm sure giving up rolling over and letting the Narcos have the country seems like the best way, but it isnt. Its just the easy lazy way.

    What Mexico needs is a revolution from within to weed out its own black heart and replace it with something Mexicans can be proud of. As it stands now Mexico is just the biggest failed state in the world. Somalia 2.0

    Is it possible? Who knows, the way things stand now it looks like everyone there is content to pass the blame around and do nothing until they too become victims.

  10. actually the money that the united states gives to mexico is actually going to american defense contractors. for example,the US gives mexico money and mexico spends it on helicopters(made by US defense contractors), armored vehicles ( made by Us defense contractors), weapons (made in USA), military and police training (defense contractors), surveilance equiptment (mexico doesnt make that stuff, it can only come from the USA). So yes the USA has given lots of money to mexico and other latin american countries but it just goes right back to the big American corporatins. War is money and as long as the US government can make money than it doesnt care how much collateral damage will happen, all they care about is $$$$$$ signs. People say mexico is full of coruption because cops, and the military let narcos pass loads of drugs through checkpoints,but if they dont let them do that than the narcos will execute them and there whole family (plata or plomo) so they dont have many choices. But the real coruption lies with the big defense contractors and big corporations and US banks who launder money and think of skeems to make more money. If you really think about it there is a lot more sh!t than what the press tells the public.

  11. 2012: PRI wins the election. Few like them but most despise Calderon and his buddies for their incompetence and denial (remember 2008 in the US...) and the fact that he won a contested election (remember 2000 in the US...)

    2012: Very quietly secret deals will be made with selected cartels, the feds are kicked out states' boundaries, the army goes back to the barracks.

    2012: Clean up of street crime, extortion, kidnapping thugs by the cartels leasing the plazas (think massive narcofosas)

    2012: MX is another Colombia, just another drug producing country with peace at home and a respected president

    2013: half of the US population is in jail, the other half staffs the courts and Halliburton is building prisons. I buy its stock and retire in Mexico in a sunny beach house near a peaceful and fun Acapulco. T_R_C, there will always be a room for you my friend.

  12. @Mantanzas, I almost bought $10,000 worth of Halliburton stock when Bush and Chaney were elected in 2000. It was I think $32 a share. I just wonder how many times it has doubled, or quadrupled and split time and time again from that point. Would of, should of, could of, is the story of our lives huh?

    I'm down bro. Never been there (Acapulco) but I think I could fit in nicely.

    Maybe we could put together a small market News Paper directed at the Tourists and sale lots of advertising. Publish it weekly and enjoy life.


  13. "Drug trafficking goes on. The United States doesn't care, and is not helping us at all," Sicilia told reporters. "The mafias are here. We should make a pact."

    Is this typical Mexican thinking? Since when is the United States responsible for pacifying every narco-state and criminal empire in the world? Why don't the Mexicans take up arms and win their country back for themselves?

  14. Mexico will not legalize drug trafficing because there is too much money at stake. Too many people are getting a piece of the pie and Calderon gets his too. There are casualties in every business unfortunately for Mexico theirs are innocent citizens.


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