Tuesday, May 31, 2011

guns on the highway

They came out of nowhere.

Well, not exactly "nowhere."  I knew where they came from.  The airport access road.  But they were driving so fast it seemed as if they had just appeared.

A white SUV with tinted windows.  With a military jeep in front and back.  And in each jeep, four soldiers in full combat gear with automatic weapons at the ready.

And, as I said already, speeding right along.  The highway between the airport and Manzanillo is a two-lane road posted at 54 MPH.  But this convoy was going between 70 and 80.  And I fell in behind.

For the next twenty miles, cars scattered in front of us.  The same drivers who ignore ambulances paid far more attention to loaded rifles.  The convoy zipped onto the toll road at Manzanillo.  I peeled off into town.

The purpose of all that raw power?  I can only guess.  A politician?  A general?  A drug lord deported from the United States and transported from the airport under arrest or protection?

I never got close enough to the SUV to get any impression.  Nor did I take a photograph.  I thought raising a camera over the steering wheel might be taken as an act of aggression.  One of the soldiers had me fixed in his sight the moment I pulled up behind his jeep.

But it was a stark reminder of the world in which we live.  My British friends often laugh at the mafia don protection the Secret Service supplies on presidential visits overseas.  But there is a reason for it.  There are far more people who would like to down the president than the queen.

And the same is true in Mexico.  The war between the Central government and the drug lords is having visible effects on Mexican society.  Military checkpoints.  Convoys.  And now this little gem.

The three major parties are considering nominating a single candidate for the governorship of Michoacán because there is fear that recent outbreaks there will make an election in November next to impossible to conduct.  In the president's home state.

During my month away from Mexico, I was once again surprised that people were solely interested in Mexico's perceived violence.  When I would attempt to put the violence into the context of my life there -- that it touches me in almost no ways -- they were not interested.

And maybe we expatriates do minimize it.  If it is not affecting us, we feel safe.  I am not so certain whoever was in the SUV felt very secure.

But it is just another factor in my choice to live here.  I can't do much about it.  In fact, I can't do a thing about it.

What I do mourn is that a Mexican president who chose to use arms to support American drug policy is watching a lot of what he admires about his country disappear before his eyes.  Proving, once again, that good intentions in enforcing bad policies simply lead to tears.

And that is truly a tragedy.


Felipe Zapata said...

Ain't no solution short of legalizing drugs. Maybe one day we'll wake up totally to that fact. Sadly, we've been snoozing now for 40 years.

tancho said...

The basic difference of crime and violence between the US and Mexico is that in the US when you are in trouble you can call 911 they will probably show up, too late to help you, down here, you know better than to call anyone except a friend and take your own responsibility for your security.
Seeing the army down here doesn't bother me in the least, but take a visitor from the US and they go nuts. Just like they can't understand why a guard in front of a bank has a assault rifle, as opposed to where the rent a cop NOB has a gun without any bullets in it......NOB
I like Felipe, believe that the war on drugs is and should have never been conceived. But now like the penal system NOB is a money making machine and will probably never be dismantled.

Steve Cotton said...

As you know, I fully agree with you.  But after decades of telling a fib, it is difficulty for politicians to now change course.

Steve Cotton said...

The Army presence in Mexico is reassuring to me.  But I am accustomed to seeing military forces after living overseas.  Europeans banks have long been protected by well-armed guards.  Italy is a perfect example.

Perhaps the budget problems The States are now facing will cause some reassessment of drug laws.  We simply cannot afford a system that locks up that many people where the cost of the crime is so low.