Mexico is in full spiral of violence. The war between criminal groups does not stop in Michoacán, leaving behind a trail of murders, shootings and blockades for the control of drug trafficking on the Pacific coast. The indigenous communities of Chiapas, in the south of the country, are at the mercy of extortion, threats and looting, while the formation of civilian self-defense groups has not stopped the exodus of thousands of people to flee the conflict. The satiety has also taken its toll in Oaxaca, where 22 elements of the National Guard were held by residents for three days. In Tamaulipas, on the border with the United States, a narco-grave was found this week with the remains of at least 21 people, such as the four mass graves that have already been found in Quintana Roo, the tourist jewel of the Mexican Caribbean. Everything, this week. The president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has attracted attention in his press conference this Friday about the situation in the central state of Guanajuato and has demanded that local authorities do something to combat the escalation of violent homicides. But the news about the last peak that has stained the country red come from the four cardinal points.
Questioned by the crisis, the president has ruled out fundamental changes to his security strategy and seeks to create a common front with the governors under the promise of pacifying the country: a widely desired pacification, but which has not come after more than 15 years of war against drug trafficking that has spread by governments of three different parties. López Obrador has given a turn to the discourse on violence compared to his predecessors: he no longer focuses on communicating the capture and dejection of the cartel leaders, but on sending messages of conciliation. “Hugs, no bullets” is the motto of his mandate to synthesize this discursive shift, which contrasts with the omnipresent role that the Army has given in the public life of the country: from taking charge of security tasks to assuming the distribution of the vaccines against covid-19.
The events of recent days, however, have brought the issue to the center of the presidential rostrum at morning press conferences. In the middle of his term, the president has recognized that much of his legacy will depend on his ability to appease the country. “If we do not finish pacifying Mexico, no matter how much it has been done, we will not be able to historically accredit our Government,” admitted López Obrador after the meeting with the governors last Wednesday.
After the elections of June 6, which gave way to the configuration of a new political board in the country, 16 of the 32 governors were summoned to analyze the plan to combat insecurity in the National Palace, the official residence. The approach came first with the governors of his party, Morena, to sign the commitment to reduce intentional homicides in 50 municipalities of the country, although no further details have been given. The assistants declared that they observed the statistics, began conversations with the Security Cabinet and said that they were urged to participate in the state tables that monitor the crime incidence on a daily basis. The pact that the president seeks is not closed only to his allies. López Obrador has said that he will meet with the rest “little by little.”
The great absentees have been Silvano Aureoles and Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, the opposition leaders of Michoacán and Tamaulipas, two of the main hot spots. At the express question of the press and after a long history of clashes, López Obrador has affirmed that, for the moment, the doors of the National Palace are closed for both of them. “I do not want fast debates or spectacle to take place,” said the president. “We must respect the presidential inauguration,” he added.
Cabeza de Vaca, in charge of Tamaulipas since 2016, has been on the presidential target for several months, accused of money laundering and organized crime. The governor, a “confessed criminal” in the eyes of the president, has not faced justice, despite the fact that the Chamber of Deputies stripped him of his political immunity in April, because the local Congress stopped the process, in a controversy that it reached the Supreme Court. “There is a legal matter and I do not want it to get mixed up,” said the president about his refusal to meet with the governor of Tamaulipas.
In the background of the political confrontation are the demonstrations of force of organized crime. In addition to the grave that was found in Reynosa, this same week an armed commando broke into the offices of the State Prosecutor’s Office and freed a Gulf Cartel boss amid shootings and blockades in that border city, the same place where there were killings. random civilians by drug trafficking less than a month ago. And travel alerts have come from the United States, but also from the neighboring state of Nuevo León in the face of reports of murders, clashes with long weapons and disappearances. At the umpteenth peak of violence in the state, in a crisis that has lasted for more than 15 years, Tamaulipas will not sit at the president’s security table.
Michoacán is the same case. Aureoles, from the Party of the Democratic Revolution, has assured that organized crime groups were involved in the elections that gave Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla, Morena’s candidate for governor, as the winner, and stood outside the official residence at the end of June of the president with a folder in which, he said, he had the evidence to prove it. “With all due respect, I send him to tell the governor of Michoacán that I cannot receive him because there is a lot of politicization and I don’t want to get involved in those things,” said the president in one of his morning conferences. The president opened the door to perhaps calling him when the results of the votes and challenges were resolved in court, although Aureoles is just over two months away from leaving power.
While the distant possibility of a meeting is being discussed, the news from Aguililla, the last war front between cartels, gives an account of the siege and protests of the population over a territory that, for all practical purposes, has become ungovernable. The dialogue tables proposed by the Government have had to be suspended due to the lack of security guarantees and the attacks against the Army and the local police, the roadblocks and the curfews have not stopped. And the violence has spread to other parts of Michoacán, with the attack with Molotov cocktails by gunmen dressed in civilian clothes on government offices in Tarécuaro, a town with fewer than 7,000 inhabitants.
It remains to be seen the scope of the plan that the president wants to finalize and how many opposition governors he will be able to add. The most important thing will be if, beyond the speech, the wave of violence will give way from the actions led by the federal government, a task that López Obrador says he has assumed as one of his main political challenges. “They laugh, they make fun that I said ‘hugs, not bullets,” said the president, “we are going to show that it works.” The president assures that the results will arrive “little by little”, although the tragedies, more and more recent and daily, continue to put the strategy in question.
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