Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Fall of Mexico

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Phil Caputo has a very interesting article in the latest issue of the Atlantic Monthly. The blurb:

In the almost three years since President Felipe Calderón launched a war on drug cartels, border towns in Mexico have turned into halls of mirrors where no one knows who is on which side or what chance remark could get you murdered. Some 14,000 people have been killed in that time—the worst carnage since the Mexican Revolution—and part of the country is effectively under martial law. Is this evidence of a creeping coup by the military? A war between drug cartels? Between the president and his opposition? Or just collateral damage from the (U.S.-supported) war on drugs? Nobody knows: Mexico is where facts, like people, simply disappear. The stakes for the U.S. are high, especially as the prospect of a failed state on our southern border begins to seem all too real.

His article begins:

Poor Mexico. So far from God and so close to the United States.
—Porfirio Díaz, dictator of Mexico from 1876 to 1880 and 1884 to 1911

Those famous words came to mind when another man named Díaz offered me an equally concise observation about the realities of life in the country today: “In Mexico it is dangerous to speak the truth. It is even dangerous to know the truth.”

His full name is Fernando Díaz Santana. He hosts two AM-radio news-and-commentary shows in the small Chihuahuan city of Nuevo Casas Grandes. A stocky, broad-faced man in late middle age, he projects an air of warmth, openness, and intelligence. As he tells me that it’s dangerous to speak or know the truth, the half-rueful, half-apologetic expression in his eyes makes it plain that he’d rather not keep his mouth shut and his mind closed.

He’s received text messages from listeners cautioning him to be careful of what he says on the air. He takes these friendly warnings seriously; failure to heed them could bring a death sentence like the one meted out to Armando Rodríguez, a crime reporter murdered by an unidentified gunman in November 2008 in Juárez, the violent border city across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. The fear of suffering a similar fate is a powerful incentive for self-censorship, for training a naturally inquisitive mind to acquire ignorance.

“So now we give just the objective facts,” Díaz says as he sits facing me in a stuffy, windowless rear room of the radio station, in Nuevo Casas Grandes’s central business district. He and the co-host of his afternoon show, David Andrew (pronounced Da-veed An-dray-oo), explain that the “objective facts” are those reported by the police or city hall or some other official source. Though the accuracy of such facts is often questionable, no questions dare be asked. “We say nothing more,” Díaz adds. “As long as we don’t get too deeply into a story, we are safe.”

I am reminded of Winnie Verloc, the character in Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent who “felt profoundly that things do not stand much looking into.” …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2009 at 11:10 am

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