Thursday, November 25, 2004

All posts were moved (11/2006) to

The lynching

As everyone who watches Mexican television -- or follows Mexican news -- already knows, three Federal Policemen were lynched, two burned alive on national television Tuesday. The local police did not intervene and already everyone is accusing everyone else. 33 participants were arrested yesterday, but foreign reports are just coming out now... and, predicably, even the New York Times (Lynchings of Policemen Ignite Outrage at Violence in Mexico ) misses a lot of the story. Foto: Jorge Carballo/El Universal San Juan Ixtayopan Pueblo is 139-4-A on my Guia Roji... about as far geographically and culturally as you can possibly get from downtown Mexico City. I've been out that way, but never in this particular pueblo ... it's a rural traditionalist community slowly being surrounded by suburbia. For those looking for the "real Mexico", communities like this are part of it. They are part of the time-warp you sometimes find in Latin America, where traditionalism and moderity exist side by side. The traditionalists are a bit lost in the modern world ... and as in other traditional communities in transition, drug abuse, alcoholism and violence are realities. The victims were federal narcotics cops which -- the reports that an unnamed mother suddenly fingered these guys as kidnappers" (as in the NYTimes report), or as child molesters, makes me think this was a "setup" by narcotics dealers. Parents anywhere in the world will fight for their kids. I lived in a U.S. city where a neighbor of mine was badly beaten before being rescured by the police because he was mistaken for a wanted child molester (the poor guy fit the general description and happened to take his second car -- the same kind the molester was known to drive -- to pick up his kids after school). In the "real Mexico", justice can be kind of rough. I'd argue it was the media and the conservatives that laid he groundwork for this. Conservatives -- PAN and Televisa, etc. -- have seized on every incident of missing children and schoolyard drug dealers (not acceptable, but the kinds of things that happen in any population this size) to push their political agenda, and undermine the legitimacy of the leftist DF administration. The local government -- meeting parental demands for security -- makes a big show out of school security. School kid now wear badges including not only their photo, but that of the person authorized to pick them up after school. And the teachers-- and school security personnel -- have to check the kids in and out. Picking up one's kids is a tense situation, and people are wary of outsiders -- like federal plainclothes cops hanging around watching the school. Add that this was a very closed community under threat by outsiders, where even the DF police are "outsiders" ... this was a perfect opportunity for and any narco wanting to get rid of the feds. I'm certainly not going to justify barbarism, nor claim "well, that's life in the big city"... but it wasn't "mindless savagry" or some dark soul of Mexico on display either. Some of the reports I've read give the subtle sense that Mexicans are savages. Not at all: human beings who feel threatened are savages.