Cinco De Mayo 2013: The Enemy Within

When Cinco de Mayo comes around, the first and last thoughts I have about it are, in order, “shit it’s time for some Corona and tacos” and “crazy how the French were in Mexico all those years ago,” and those are informed thoughts. Most Americans stop at the Corona. Most Americans understand the fifth of May as “Mexican Independence Day,” which is kind of off. Just like the “Star Spangled Banner” was actually sung about the War of 1812, not the American Revolutionary War (I could kill freshman in my history class), Cinco de Mayo is celebrated as the day when Mexican forces under Benito Juarez executed and drove out, respectively, the false-Emperor Maximilian I and his French occupiers. They re-established their hold on their nation and people, re-asserting their independence, but not (are you listening first years?) declaring it for the first time.

In the modern day, being able to reassert control over Mexico must be a pretty desirable act for the Mexican government, and, oddly enough, the Mexican people too. Gripped by drug violence, poverty, and corruption the nation of Mexico looks everyday like it’s an occupied state. The military and police scour the streets and countryside fighting a war that isn’t accomplishing anything. Where they fear to tread (read: everywhere) cartels and gangs act with impunity, and escape the law. But the law itself is driven by such a corrupt group that there is no truly righteous law.

It looks, to all observers, like the sovereign nation of Mexico in 2013 is, and has been, the puppet state that it once was. Replacing Maximilian I, the autocrat within, is the autocrat without: money. Overwhelmingly it is United States money at that. The massive demand for illegal drugs from the streets of New York is what the cartels in Mexico evolved around. After the Colombian cocaine heyday in the 1980’s and 1990’s came the marijuana market, and the South American and Central American cartels stepped up to the plate, but moving grass was not like moving blow. Boats going into Miami were not as successful as they once were, and the pipeline through Mexico became cheaper and easier. The handlers in Mexico between the powerhouse cartels in Central America were no slouches though, and like any middle-men they realized there was more in it for them if they flexed a bit. Fast-forward to now, and the drugs trade in the Americas is dominated by the Mexican syndicates. They control production, they control the movement, and ultimately they control the government.

Some may say the Mexican people invited the cartels in, others the Mexican government, and others the United States (they’re all very valid), but the root is money. Yet, who can blame anyone for wanting to be wealthy? Life ain’t necessarily happier because you’re rich, but it’s definitely better to cry in a Mercedes Benz S600 than a Toyota Tercel. Even further, who can blame Mexico and Mexicans for wanting money? This is a country that at its best is a third-world country, and only ten minutes away from from San Diego (that’s the 8th largest city in the world’s richest nation, in that nation’s richest state). It’s an hour from the rest of the south-west United States. It’s not Afghanistan, but drive an hour away on their side of the border and you’d see the people there live the same existence they did a century ago; they just do it new clothes.

And that’s the big inherent problem. Almost 150 years since the Mexicans kicked the French out, their nation’s independence has been subjected to the troublesome US dollar. When poor people did what poor people do and scramble for money, those who rose up with the most in hand were those who became politicians, and racketeers (not sure if there’s a difference, but I’ll check on that). Then they self-perpetuated. Money and power in your hands means you’ll do almost anything to keep it, and those same racketeers and politicians hopped in bed with each-other to keep it that way. So the dollar planted in Mexico sprouted into a tree of corruption and crime.

But that changed some years ago. Richard Nixon in the United States, really as an extension of Cold War era containment policies, recorded the words “the War on Drugs.” Since then America has been pursuing everyone from subsistence poppy growers in Afghanistan, communist rebels in Columbia, and even its own CIA-plants in Panama to keep white kids sober. In Mexico, politicians came under more and more pressure to join the campaign and ultimately, under Felipe Calderon, the Mexican government took some serious Ben Franklins to fight a running war in their nation against drugs. The politicians that once kept the money-making drug runners safe jumped ship. There was more money in pro-American cooperation, basically.

Maybe somebody thought that the cartels could be dropped so quickly there wouldn’t be a problem. Wrong. Maybe somebody thought that the immense U.S. wealth and power would save the innocents and punish the criminals. Wrong. Maybe somebody thought anything Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama said about caring for Mexico was anything more than empty political gesturing. Wrong. In 2013 their protracted “War on Drugs” has not worked, does not work, and will not work. What is worse, the nation of Mexico is slaved to the U.S. Dollar by their criminals (am I talking about politicians or the cartels? You see what I did there?) on both sides of the argument. You pander to it to fight drugs, and you pander to it to sell it.

So why is this article called “The Enemy Within?” It’s a good question, seeing as the entire thing up to this point is how money from outside Mexico has eroded its base and disfigured it. I’ll explain:

Today a young lady named Andrea Benitez walked into a restaurant called Maximo Bistrot and demanded to be seated. When she was told there were no tables available, she threw a tantrum. Mam, you’re going to have to calm down. She spouted the “do you know who I am?!” and all that jazz. Yeah okay, I feel really horrible for you. She also threatened to call her father. Yeah, okay bitch, you’re soooo important, now go away. And then her father’s workers showed up and closed down the restaurant…

Not what you were expecting? It turns out her father is Humberto Benitez Trevino, the federal district attorney for consumer protection. His men happened to show up and close the restaurant down for “administrative reasons” right as his daughter was throwing a bitch-fit (quick work and decisive results, amigo!). Right. Senior Humberto apparently is less of a responsible parent than he is a responsible public servant. Luckily, for our side justice does get done. The bitch’s mouth couldn’t keep shut and she said, not in so many words, that she had gotten it closed down. The rest of the Twitter-verse, which consists of strangely normal people, responded like Geppetto from Pinocchio and ultimately the restaurant got re-opened. But that’s not it. Almost two years ago Paulina Nieto, daughter of President Enrique Pena Nieto, flew to the internet (bad choice lady) to call his critics “plebs” and “idiots” before his campaign shut her down. Even more, amongst all these are the collection of Youtube videos (the internet is really great for this stuff) of the privileged in Mexico being grade-A assholes. In one of these a guy knocks the teeth of a parking attendant across a parking lot because of his poor customer service skills. Oh wait, nope, the attendant just wasn’t allowed to leave his post. My mistake. I must have figured some people need reasons to act inappropriately.

It isn’t odd for a social divide to exist in a nation, but it’s definitely telling in a nation that is lacking any structure whatsoever. The elite dance all over the lives of the poor with some trumped-up ego. By the way, these elite are the politicians, and these poor are their constituents (that’s representative democracy in action!). Now, when someone doesn’t represent you, whether you have practical choice in the matter or not (you don’t), you at least think of finding somebody else. As a plus, sometimes there is reciprocity. Bad presidents like Nixon get booted, bitch-daughters of politicians get backhanded on Twitter, and people stop caring about Kim Kardashian. But when abuse starts raining down from the top on the assumption that someone is better than you you what do you do?

That one should be obvious. The average lifespan of an anti-cartel official in Mexico is measured in days, and with the way the upper-crust acts there is no doubt as to who the people are supporting. When was the last time the Mexican police went out of their way to protect the innocent over their corrupt paymasters? Mexican cops extort more than their cartel rivals. Furthermore, this is a country where the violent, greedy and ruthless criminal cartels have a better humanitarian track record than the government. Hospitals, schools, stadiums, churches and wells are on the construction docket of the syndicates, while the government shuts down restaurants because they can’t get tables. Cartels definitely don’t (by definition they can’t) impose the Mexican government’s conception of law and order, but they at least, and definitely do, propagate their own.

The real government of Mexico belongs to those it has outlawed, because the day-to-day running of a proud nation has been won by those that can actually govern. The interests of the people, like anywhere else, are peace and happiness, and the only ones to deliver time and again are the anti-heroes. It’s incredibly sad that that’s what they’ve become, but it is the truth. The government’s war on both sides of the border has done nothing to make safe anyone or anything, and is contrary to the idea of peace, period. Like the French over a century ago, the government no longer represents the nation, the servants have become rulers, and their sense of Imperial righteousness pervades ad nauseum.

So when does Mexican Independence show up again? I’m not sure, but the more I watch the more it looks like I’m looking at a civil war.