Breaking News

The Soft Hand

November 08
14:21 2019

By: Neri O. Briceño

‘El Salvador President rules out talks with criminal gangs – El Salvador President Nayib Bukele ruled out negotiations with criminal gangs on Tuesday and vowed to go after their finances in a bid to reduce violent crime in the Central American country.’ “We are not open to having a dialogue with criminal gangs. We have not received communications from the gangs and we don’t expect any either. We want the gangs to go without their cash revenues so that it will be very difficult for them to sustain their organizations.” ‘El Salvador’s largest gang, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), has in the past floated the possibility of curbing the violence through dialogue, and representatives of the gang even offered Bukele some public support.’ Reuters, World News, June 18th, 2019.

The senseless murder of nine Americans including three women and six children, two as old as 18 months in Bavispe, Sonora Mexico, by what appears to be criminal drug cartels has outraged the world. The discovery of their bullet-ridden burnt vehicles and charred bodies indicated that all suffered violent deaths in what may be a case of mistaken identity but extremely violent, nevertheless. The group, a breakaway fundamentalist sect of the Mormon faith, long ago made Bavispe their home and have built a prosperous community that is based on agriculture.

US President Donald Trump has urged Mexican authorities to accept American assistance to eradicate drug cartels but Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has motioned that his approach to the drug cartels is rather one of non-violence, diplomacy, non-conflict and peaceful negotiations or as it terms it – ‘hugs rather than bullets.’ AMLO’s new approach was even more obvious last month when Ovidio Guzman, son of convicted cartel leader Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, was briefly arrested during a raid in the northern city of Culiacan but then released when hundreds of cartel gunmen launched a wave of attacks throughout the city blocking roads, burning vehicles and targeting buildings where soldiers’ families live. The action has prompted Mexicans to now believe that this will be the reaction when cartels feel threatened and are even more worried about what the state reaction will be. As Edgardo Buscaglia an expert on organized crime at Columbia University expressed to the World Guardian, ‘what we saw in Culiacan was the parallel state showing itself.’

In the two-step dance of fighting transnational crime and criminal organizations, Mexico cannot be out of sync with other nations in this region. There cannot be a ‘mano dura’ approach from some countries and the soft hand, olive branch attitude from Mexico. The state of our neighbours to the north, long known for its tradition of Mordidas, bribes, kickbacks and a deeply rooted culture of institutional and private sector corruption is almost at the point where the ‘narcos’ rule and operate with impunity. While much of the violence seems to be concentrated in the northern states with lucrative routes for illegal narcotics into the United States, there is no doubt that the power, influence and violence of the cartels can project itself in any part of Mexico.

We cannot on this side take a tactical hard approach, when our counterparts look at the problem as one that some degree of poverty alleviation can solve, because it cannot. The overtures by MS-13 and the virtual seizure of Culiacan has demonstrated that the one thing that the cartel seek the most is legitimacy and acceptance by the state. This is what prompted notorious Columbian kingpin Pablo Escobar to seek political office and MS-13 leaders to try and garnish support for the President of El Salvador. Criminals seeking recognition is nothing strange throughout the world and politics is always a natural path because of the mere dirtiness of that game. Politicians with their craving for power, the trappings of public office and accessibility to massive amount of taxpayers’ monies will do anything to get into office. The combination of criminal elements, politics and politicians is well documented throughout modern history in some of the most prominent examples of democratic countries, so the relationship is well established.

Culiacan must therefore serve as a lesson of where we are heading if we continue on a path of dialogue and respect for what are essentially criminals. As my old granny always said, play with puppy and it will lick your face. Culiacan by the way were not tender licks, but rather hot lead.

It’s all about the people!

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