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Latin America: Mexico's Drug War Stirs Opposition in the Streets and from the Bishops

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #621)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

As the death toll tops 17,000 since Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on the so-called drug cartels in December 2006, and with no end to the killing in sight, demonstrators took to the streets of bloody Ciudad Juárez Sunday to denounce the killing and the government's approach. The next day, Calderon's drug policies came under attack from an entirely different direction: the Catholic Church in Mexico.

Council of Bishops event releasing report
In Juárez, where more than 2,600 people were killed in prohibition-related violence last year and 15 teenagers were gunned down last week in an incident that shocked the nation, more than a thousand people took to the streets Sunday in a "March of Anger" against the drug violence, with some leaders saying the presence of 6,000 federal troops is only making things worse.

"The army's presence is anti-constitutional and violates citizens' rights. That's why we're asking them to withdraw," National Front Against Repression leader Javier Contreras told the crowd.

Human rights and civil society groups in Juárez and, more broadly, across Mexico, have charged that Mexican law enforcement and armed forces have harassed, tortured, kidnapped, "disappeared," and killed innocent people in overzealous prosecution of the drug war. That won't work, said Contreras.

"You can't fight violence with more violence and breaking the laws," he said.

The protest came just days after President Calderon visited Ciudad Juárez in a bid to placate angry and frightened citizens. He apologized to the families of the massacred teenagers for initially blaming their deaths on gang warfare, said he was sending in 400 more federal police, and vowed to seek community cooperation in setting a new strategy against crime and violence. Still, he was booed by crowds during that visit. He returned again this week, touting a new security plan.

If Calderon is having a hard time placating angry Juárez residents, he's not having much better luck with the Catholic Church. The day after the Juárez protest, the Mexican Church's Council of Bishops issued a report critical of Calderon's drug policies.

In the report, the bishops said that using thousands of army troops to police Mexican cities raises severe human rights concerns. The bishops also pointed at a corrupt judicial system. They said many suspects are paraded before the media in "perp walks" even before being charged with any crime and called on the government to speed up police reforms so the troops can return to their barracks.

The bishops conceded that Calderon's deployment of the military initially had broad public support, but warned it was eroding. "As time passed, the participation of the armed forces in the fight against organized crime has created uncertainty in the population," the report said. "The armed forces have the obligation to respect human rights."

The bishops also harshly criticized the criminal justice system, saying few criminals are brought to justice because of corruption and inefficiency, while at the same time, innocent people are too often jailed because of police tactics. They noted that many of those people arrested and paraded before the media end up being released or charged with much lesser crimes than those announced at the time of their arrest.

The "perp walks" should stop, the bishops said. Authorities must "respect the judicial principle that someone is innocent until proven otherwise, because now we see that detainees are exhibited before the media before they are brought before judicial authorities."

More than halfway through his six-year term, President Calderon faces the threat of seeing his presidency defined by the bloody drug wars his policies have not only failed to stop, but have exacerbated. He seems to have no response except more of the same.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


newageblues (not verified)

unless of course they use the 'right' drugs, like killers alcohol or tobacco or big pharma products. If the Catholic Church (not just in Mexico!) really cared about this violence, they would be very clear on why they think alcohol users should have such vastly superior status over cannabis users, but they have no more interest in discussing that subject than any other fanatical drug warriors. Whatever critique they make of Calderon, they are a very big part of the problem themselves, with their flamingly hypocritical support for alcohol supremacism over cannabis. People who won't explain why they can use alcohol but other folks can't use cannabis have their bigoted little hands drenched in blood.

Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:42am Permalink
pat schreer (not verified)

Once we quit paying these churches that hold back progress in drug laws and other critical areas that cause great harm to us, we will never be free. Demand the government quit showing favoritism to churches and make them pay taxes like everyone else and the churches will soon be out of business and more importantly, out of our business!

Fri, 02/19/2010 - 1:01pm Permalink
JNGII (not verified)

The Drugs are NOT Killing people, it seems to be Lead Posioning and for the Innocent the people that are suppose
too protect them are the perptrators!

Fri, 02/19/2010 - 5:21pm Permalink
David S. Schne… (not verified)

The nonprofits including the churches were given tax free status by issuing them a 501(c)3 charter by the IRS. Since 1950 the Federal Government has had a "Laissez Faire" attitude towards the non profits.

But worry not gentle readers, because it's in the wind; we're moving into a time of State approved religions (plural), because the churches as well as other nonprofits are improperly getting involved in functions properly reserved for the State in this country.

I wonder how kindly Father O'Flehrety and the other members of the clergy who choose to break the law will like being forced to be registerd and licensed by the State...?

Sat, 02/20/2010 - 8:37pm Permalink
mlang52 (not verified)

In reply to by David S. Schne… (not verified)

"because the churches as well as other nonprofits are improperly getting involved in functions properly reserved for the State"

Your statement is intriguing, but do you have the facts to back it up? Which services do you think are Constitutionally restricted to the federal government? Secondly, are you a person that believes our "rights" are actually government granted privileges, instead?

As I understand it, it was the church that took care of the poor, disabled and needy, until the government stepped in to help them out!

Bigots are bigots, no matter whether it is abuse directed at blacks, gays, or members of the Catholic church! I grew up Catholic, and am now Protestant. Not all of them are bad! Just like everything else, there are politics, in that church, that people have no control over. (sort of like a little federal government in itself) Should I condemn all atheists because one of them does something crazy? I would never think of it! You apparently like to generalize and use it as a form of discrimination! Think first!

Then again, I must consider that you can hide behind the anonymous label!

Sun, 02/21/2010 - 2:01pm Permalink

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