We do not need conspiracy theories to explain the Criminal War in Mexico. The recent text of Kurt Hackbarth “They Got Filthy Rich off Cocaine Trafficking and Killed Leftists. Now AMLO Must Make Them Pay” is just another case of an opinion piece that relies on conspiracy rather than facts to explain the Mexico situation. The main hypothesis of Hackbarth, that replicates arguments by other journalists and writers, is that Mexico’s Drug War was a by-product of a shock doctrine for Mexico’s natural resources. This idea creates a narrative that underscores the real influence of the United States drug policy towards Mexico and its disastrous consequences.
In a nutshell, any conspiracy theory that uses Mexico’s war on drugs as a shock doctrine operation does not pass the basic chronological sequence of events in Mexican Politics. For example, Hackbarth argues that one of the objectives for creating a doctrine atmosphere was privatize pensions. But the last pension reform in Mexico was in 1997, when workers were moved to individual bursarial private pension accounts, known as AFORES. The bureaucratic pensions reform in Mexico during the Calderon government was just the continuation of these reforms. Violence in Mexico rose dramatically mid-2007, almost at the same time as the bill promoted by Calderon. So, the “atmosphere” wasn’t there.
In the case of the repression against the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME) after the disappearance of the state-owned company Luz y Fuerza del Centro is another case that does not fit the Hackbarth argument. He quotes an article by David Bacon about the SME. This article has no information whatsoever about the connection of this event with the Mexican Criminal War. But also, this case poses contradictions in the shock doctrine narrative: the article talks about the labour cooperative of SME workers, a cooperative that could only be possible with the energy reform made by Peña Nieto’s government that permitted other business rather than the state-owned electric company CFE.
Indeed, this social welfare and economic reforms that have happened in Mexico are part of the so called “structural reforms” that the right-wing parties pushed forward since the government of Miguel de la Madrid since 1982. Way before the onset of the Criminal War in Mexico. Even so, as historian Froylán Enciso has documented, the anti-narcotic policies enforced in Mexico and pushed by the United States government date way before the times of neoliberal reforms. For example, the nationalist government of José López Portillo implemented the Operation Condor in the “Golden Triangle”, a zone of drug production between the states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Sonora. This operation happened between September 1975 and August 1976, with several human rights violations against poor communities in Sinaloa. And just to remember, during the government of López Portillo was implemented the so called “Dirty War” against Mexican communist guerrillas in Guerrero state.
My argument is that neoliberal reforms, activist repression and human rights violations against left wing militants in Mexico preceded the Mexican Criminal War and are not part of the same historical process. The Mexican Criminal War has been driven mainly for three reasons: first, the existence of the international treaty regime of drug prohibition; second, the constant pressure from the US government towards Mexico to implement this regime and even increase further policies against Drug Trafficking Organisations (for example, the changes in Mexican security policy after the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena in 1985); and third, the early reaction of president Calderon to the request of governors for military intervention in several states hit by rise in violence.
Undeniably, the case of imprisonment of Genaro García Luna, former Public Security Secretary under Calderon, is a demonstration of the corrupt power of organised crime in Mexican politics. The severity of the accusations by the Eastern District of New York Attorney Office against García Luna shows the widespread corruption in the Mexican federal government by organised crime. But this is a result of the trials made by Attorney General’s Offices against drug cartel leaders that have been extradited to the US by the Mexican Government. The influence of the United States government into the Mexican Public Security Policies is clear. Gladly, the new head of the Financial Unit of the Secretariat of Finance in Mexico, appointed by President López Obrador, has put new pressure against corrupt politicians.
The Mexican Criminal War is part of the long chain of unintended consequences of the War on Drugs deployed by the governments of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The intervention of the DEA in Mexican drug enforcement endeavours has been widely documented. Beyond the motivations of the US governments behind the drug wars, the consequences in the United States and Mexico had been taken by the most vulnerable populations. In the case of the US was the black population. In Mexico, as in every war, young marginalised male population has been the most affected. As demographers have proven, the thousands of homicides that have happened since 2007 reversed the increase of life expectancy in Mexico and in several states the lifespan of men has been reduced.
By using the shock doctrine argument, the consequences of the drug wars in Mexico are forgotten and the role of Drug Trafficking Organisations hugely underestimated. International non-governmental organisations have pointed out that the Mexican Military and The Zetas (Los Zetas criminal organisation) have committed crimes against humanity: forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and massive killings. The Ayotzinapa Students disappearances are just a fragment of the humanitarian crisis happening in Mexico. Currently, mothers and family members search for their loved one in clandestine graves all over the country. There is no need to put a conspiracy to explain this suffering. The need is to understand in its terms how this suffering came to happen.
From a Marxist analytical perspective, Criminal Wars must be studied and understood as parts of the capitalist system in a rigorous and empirical way, far from the fog of conspiracy. Young male in organised crime function inadvertently as a reserve army of labour. Homicides, disappearances and human rights violations are the consequences of protection racket of the revenue of illicit markets made by the enforcement of the international regime of drug prohibitions. Illicit markets are still markets, violent and cruel ones. Unfortunately, Mexico is just one more country that suffers the consequences of ideas and policies, yes inbred from inside by early prohibition, but enforced from outside.