War and Rumors of War

By Mark Krikorian on March 16, 2010

Things aren't quite spinning out of control yet in Mexico, but it's not looking good, as seen in this weekend's murder of three people associated with our consulate in Juarez, right across the river from El Paso — three among 100 people killed over the weekend in what has turned into a war against the state itself. Juarez and Nuevo Laredo are already practically little Baghdads on the Rio Grande and I don't think the cartels are any longer interested in restoring the status quo ante. In fact, one of them, La Familia, seems to have turned into a social movement and even acquired something of a political cast; William and Mary professor George Grayson writes:

In contrast to Los Zetas and other Mexican capos, leaders of La Familia exhibit a religious fervor that approaches messianic zeal.... It claims to administer "divine justice" to rapists, robbers, corrupters of youth, and the like. It has even harshly disciplined teenaged graffiti artists.... La Familia boasts that it enjoys grassroots support because it assists campesinos, constructs schools, donates books, prevents the sale of adulterated wine, and employs "extremely strong strategies" to bring order to the Tierra Caliente.... When arrested, the brigands told law enforcement agents: "We are neither kidnappers nor gangsters (rateros). We come to restore order and help those whom you cannot."... La Familia stalwarts use evangelical appeals to recruit members from the 700,000 Michoacanos (out of a population of 4.2 million) who live in hard-scrabble poverty. They concentrate their message of rehabilitation, empowerment, and self-renewal on drug addicts, alcoholics, and juvenile delinquents. In order to forge a cult of true believers, the syndicate castigates the use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. In short, it provides a new family and sense of community for the downtrodden and disenfranchised, whom they brainwash into committing savagery to satisfy supposed commandments from heaven.

Sounds a little like Hamas or the Taipings, neither of which is good. This might be a good time to take another look at Glynn Custred's long piece from last summer on worst-case scenarios in dealing with Mexico, including military intervention. This is the kind of thing that could blow up in Obama's face and define his presidency through something he didn't anticipate and has no interest in.