The Security Cabinet of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has granted an unusual press conference, with all its members, to explain the chaos generated by the drug trafficker for four days last week. Organized crime besieged from Tuesday to last Friday, for hours, entire populations of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Baja California and Ciudad Juárez, in Chihuahua, with roadblocks, burning of businesses and vehicles, buses and gas stations, in addition to the murder at close range of a dozen innocent neighbors. “The federal security strategy is working,” has been the mantra repeated by all Cabinet members. As if the citizens had not observed five corners of the country in flames, with no more authority or uniform than that of the assassins. “It’s just criminal propaganda,” the group of officials has concluded.
The images of entire towns in the country set on fire and cornered by drug traffickers have exploded this Monday in the president’s office. Security continues to be one of the great pending tasks of his government, which inherited extremely high levels of violence from his predecessors in office, and which has only been able to contain the upward trend in the number of homicides. But Mexico supports unsustainable data for a country that is not officially at war. They kill at a rate of 100 people a day, more than 100,500 have disappeared, of them, more than 33,000 during the current Administration. The dead and the displays of power by the narco accumulate in front of the National Palace. And the Cabinet has tried this Monday to put out all the fires, literal and figurative, of the image of a country with a government parallel to the State.
The Cabinet has concluded that drug attacks against the population are a response to the results of the federal security strategy. That crime is weakened by the tasks of the Government and therefore seeks to draw attention to “send messages that they are strong by way of advertising,” explained Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval. An official explanation that does not calm the victims, the cornered population, and only sends a political message to their opponents. The group of officials has not clarified how it is possible that if organized crime is diminished, it has the capacity to subjugate entire municipalities in this way, nor if the multiple attacks had some kind of relationship. If the results are as effective as they point out, why should the population pay the consequences of the narco’s anger without an authority preventing it?
The Undersecretary of Security, Ricardo Mejía, has announced 36 arrests for the attacks last week. Many of them will be prosecuted for federal crimes, carrying weapons for the exclusive use of the Army and drug trafficking. General Sandoval has added a list of hits against drug traffickers throughout the country so far this year, which add up to kilos of cocaine, fentanyl, marijuana and methamphetamine seized, in addition to long weapons. Although none of these amounts has managed to curb the power of drug trafficking, as the attacks that began on Tuesday of last week have shown.
Secretary Sandoval explained that it all started with an almost improvised operation in a Jalisco municipality, Ixtlahuacán del Río, last Tuesday. The soldiers of the National Guard and the Army detected a strong movement of more than 20 vans with armed men and decided to go after them. Without knowing where they were going, the military got into the lion’s den, according to the official version. A meeting between capos of the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). They were shot at. After the clash, an alleged criminal was killed, according to the officer, and six more were arrested. No trace of the capos, who presumably met or were going to be at that meeting — the general has not clarified it, because they found out after the confrontation — Double R and Apá, two of the Jalisco leaders who maintain control from the central area of the country.
After the attack in Ixtlahuacán, the terror of drug traffickers spread to more municipalities in Guanajuato and Jalisco, the area of influence of the cartel bosses who had attacked the Army. They burned 28 shops, set fire to 19 vehicles, barricades were installed on the roads. Chaos and panic once again absorbed the two States, which have been enduring the horror of drug violence for at least five years.
More than 1,500 kilometers from there, on the northern border, Ciudad Juárez burned with the same voracity two days later, on Thursday. The only common denominator is that the power of drug traffickers in that area was going to do the same, without an authority preventing it. In this case, the fuse was lit in a state prison, where two local gangs, supported by the big cartels — Sinaloa and Juarez — clashed, killing two inmates and leaving more than twenty injured. The misrule in the prison spread to the streets of Juárez hours later, with a pattern similar to that of Jalisco and Guanajuato: burned down premises, gas stations and Molotov cocktails against grocery stores. But in this border town, organized crime also gunned down nine citizens who had nothing to do with their internal fights.
The next day, at the eastern end of the border, in Tijuana, Tecate and Mexicali, the narco also flaunted his dominance. 25 cars were set on fire, including private individuals and public transport buses. Panic spread among the thousands of citizens trying to get home after work. The streets of these cities became a theater of war, as had previously happened in Juárez, Jalisco and Guanajuato. A show of force by organized crime that contrasts with the Government’s explanation of a “weakened” crime. “It was an effect of attracting attention, of seeking that the authorities attend to this and generate a feeling that there is a lack of security,” explained the Secretary of Defense.
It became clear to the citizens of these five states who ruled their cities, at least during those hours. No criminal leader has been arrested nor has any gang been dismantled. No action has been taken to give citizens guarantees that something like this will not happen again on their land. Nor has any member of the Cabinet assumed responsibility for the fact that thousands of citizens have once again suffered the terror of drug traffickers at the doors of their homes. The “criminal propaganda”, if so, has issued a more effective message than any government measure.
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