Mexico and Echoes of the Past

Mexico’s current troubles are also their old troubles

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A recent New York Times article lays out the facts from Mexico’s investigation into the deaths of 43 disappeared students from Sept 2014. It belies a place where law has little meaning: the students hijack multiple buses, and the local police open fire on them. Multiple one-sided gun battles erupt. Innocents are targeted and shot. Survivors are hunted, and shot; in one case, beaten to death. Two years later, a report. I do not expect much to come of any of it.

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Student insurgents, 1968

Mexico has long had troubles with their indigenous population and low-level insurgencies, with corruption and local power brokers delegitimizing the state, and with assassinations and oppression. The modern drug gangs are only echoes of this tumultuous past of failed federal governance, the newest iteration of an old problem… and also its most successful and powerful. Whereas previous revolutions might have turned parts of Chiapas into an anarchic collective or persuaded students they could change the world before being smashed and sending everyone else home, the drug gangs have managed to pervade most of Mexico and transform the entire nation at a very high level into a state only in the sense that it can exercise power against the relatively powerless, with every other major entity co-opted along the way.

 

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Zapata’s revolutionary army on the march, sometime between 1910-1920

This very long-running battle within Mexico between government and governing has, for the next decade or more, been finally sundered. Forty-three aggressive activist kids were murdered by police in cahoots with drug gangs with a follow-on coverup that must inevitably go higher than wherever this one investigation is going to end.