And You Call This “Change”?

Mexico City Downtown

Now, after a massive control shift in the congress to the Democrats, we have the exact same thing going on. Re: The Merida Initiative. Tell me: What has changed?

As far as structural legal matters, I can speak for Mexico on this issue. This year, México launched a massive structural change in the legal system in México, which involves a presumption of innocence along with open public trials. Something that the people in the US would believe to be basic legal rights is now being implemented in México. It is in the process of ratification by the various states now. But what foreigners (read the US) have to realize is that México and the US evolved from completely different situations. One from Napoleon code law and the other from English common law.

As to the relationship between the Mexican military and the civil sectors, there is some history to look at. Even a short historical review will reveal that many Latin American countries have a history of military takeovers of their governments. But have you noted that México has had no such takeovers? México, almost alone, has avoided any military takeovers. The reason is that long ago, México came to an agreement with their military. The military would stick to military matters and only military maters. The civil government, on the other hand, would stick to civil matters and neither would cross the line. And criminal prosecutions would respect that line. Abruptly changing this delicate balance would be dangerous. But it should also be noted that efforts to improve respect for human rights in the military are in process in México right now.

My point here is that the dimwitted politicians in the US have no idea what they are dealing with here with their unilateral demands. A little common respect is in order. And more to the point is what difference has the change of control to the US congress made? The demands of changes to the Merida Initiative have come from the Democrats in the congress, not from the Bush administration.  Looks like the same old arrogance except under a different trademark. My advice: Learn something about your neighbors before trying to shove something down their throat.

An example of this attitude is the new requirement that the Mexican military would be subject to civil trials. This happens to be prohibited by the Mexican constitution. I wonder if anyone asked Sen. Chris Dodd, D/CN, at the recent meeting between Mexican and US law makers in Monterrey this question: How many times has the United States amended their constitution because a foreign government demanded it? But one cannot imagine Dodd, chief pinhead of the US delegation from the US to understand this.

Speaking about México’s drug war in general, there is a book titled Bandit Roads, by Richard Grant that just went to press in England. It tells of a journey taken by Grant down the rural Sierra Madre Occidental. It tells of a vast area, 900 miles long, that no tourist ever sees and most Mexicans are completely unaware of. And it illustrates just how deep and dangerous the problems that the Calderón administration faces in the Mexican war against the US funded dope problem here.

I have written columns back to 2003 listing all kinds of statistics showing the costs to society of the drug problem in the US. But people are not aroused by numbers it seems. On the other hand, when the casualty rates skyrocket, attention develops. But Grant brings up a number that should attract attention:

We know that México’s largest foreign income is oil, second is “remittances” from Mexicans living in the US to their families, and third is the tourist industry. Grant points out that the “real” first source of foreign income is the dope business. His $50 billion dollars a year figure is low, as it was already $60 billion in 2004.

That’s a bunch of money. You can buy whole countries with that.

But back to the main point . . . Once again the Gringos come off as bumbling, uninformed and arrogant to boot.
What has really changed? And what can we expect after November?        

Richard N. Baldwin T., a ( contributing columnist, lives in Tlalnepantla, Edo de México. E-mail at: [email protected]