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Feb. 19 2010 - 7:03 pm | 241 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Teen massacre a turning point for Mexico? Dunno …

The Los Angeles Times has a story by Tracy Wilkinson arguing that the most recent bloodbath in Ciudad Juarez will finally galvanize Mexican society and cause it to root out the drug cartels:

The January killing of 15 young people has created a furor and left some wondering whether it’s a tipping point, a moment when Mexicans overcame their fear and fatalism to confront the violence.

The slaughter last month of at least 15 young people with no apparent criminal ties has galvanized the Mexican public in ways not seen here in more than three years of bloody drug warfare and has forced the government to enact long-resisted policy changes to combat violence.

I don’t know. I had the same thought after a cartel-linked grenade attack killed eight innocent civilians and injured hundreds attending a public Independence Day celebration in downtown Morelia, President Felipe Calderón’s hometown. There was a huge outcry, a show of unity, and promises of bold, fresh action.

But the drug killings and violence only accelerated after that and continued to spike through 2009. President Calderón has shown up again and again in Juarez since the massacre. He has assured Mexicans the government has the problem in its cross-hairs.

There is a chance, of course, as optimists would have it, that this is the last spasm of violence before the problem begins to attenuate.

But Mexico’s drug violence is a symptom of a wider corrupt culture tied up with decades of one-party rule (which only ended a decade ago), in addition to slow economic growth that keeps too many young people out of honest work. So, it could take years before there are real results to crow about in the battle against cartels. And unless demand for drugs in rich countries slows, the trafficking will just move elsewhere when (if) Mexico gets it under control.


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    Readers, thanks for your eyeball time, please send tips, corrections, complaints, rants, etc. My email is ballve [at] gmail.com. I was born in Buenos Aires and raised there and in Atlanta, Mexico City and Caracas. I've written and reported on Latin America for almost a dozen years. I started out as an Associated Press reporter and editor in the agency’s Brazil and Caribbean bureaus. In 2007 I co-founded El Sol de San Telmo, a community newspaper in Buenos Aires. I am now a contributing editor for the nonprofit New America Media, Americas correspondent for Amsterdam-based Research World magazine (publication of the international association of market and public opinion researchers), and a 2010-2011 Lemann Fellow at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

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