Monday, November 16, 2009

UN Peacekeepers, Narcosatanism, and Citizen Fronts: Political Discourse This Week in the Most Violent City in the World

Several indicators of frustration reaching desperation levels leaked out in public pronouncements over the past few days in Cd. Juarez, nearing the end of another bloody year.

The most interesting of these was an announcement by two business groups, the Cd. Juarez Association of Maquiladoras and the Juarez branch of the National Chamber of Commerce, Services, and Tourism, that they would submit a request to the Mexican government and to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to approve an appeal to the United Nations to bring a UN Peacekeeping group to Cd. Juarez to deal with the violence.

There is absolutely no chance the request will be acted upon (it would be an unacceptable embarrassment for both Mexico and the U.S. government), but the public announcement about it sends an unmistakable message to Mexico City, Chihuahua, and municipal officials in Cd. Juarez, that the business community is willing to plead publicly, to a world audience, that it is impatient for results. According to reports several thousand (conventional wisdom suggests about 6000 this year) businesses have closed due to the violence.

A more serious potential challenge for authorities is the initiative announced over the weekend by Citizen Observatory, the Association of Maquiladoras, and the National Chamber of Commerce, to convene a broad Common Front Against Violence, composed of a broad spectrum of civil organizations. Norte (click here for story) reports the Front hopes to "deliberate" about the results of public action so far against the violence, and forge a consensus about possible solutions that will be presented to federal authorities.

Should this broad Front materialize it could take on a life of its own, making and breaking a lot of political careers in Chihuahua and, possibly, shake up the major political parties. A low-key whisper campaign about the formation of what amounts to vigilante groups has been around for several months but has not materialized. This represents a different civic approach to the violence, but it poses a potential threat to the established political class since, so far, political parties have not engaged with citizens to sort out their responses. It is tough to be a public official in Juárez these days. This adds, deliberately, to the pressure.

Finally, the Bishop of Cd. Juárez, José René Blanco Vega, weighed in yesterday, as reported in Diario this morning (click here for story), asserting he believes the viciousness with which some of the women have been killed may be signs of a satanic cult. Referring only in part to news reports that two sisters, Maria Concepcion Guardado Flores, 15, and Maria Guadalupe Guardado Flores, 14, who were kidnapped from a party in San Isidro last week, tortured, incinerated, and dragged to an empty lot, the bishop suggested he thought some of the killers belong to a satanic cult that makes offerings to the devil. "We know that many traffickers are 'narcosatanists' (narcosatánicos) and there are indications a satanic cult has been torturing women," he said. Those who sell drugs "make pacts with Satan seeking power and they make human sacrifices, acting completely contrary to our Faith and love of God. We should firmly denounce these acts because they are the actions of agents of evil."

For several years now there have been rumors of a satanic cult responsible for the deaths of some of the Murdered Women of Juárez. Evidence is pretty sketchy at best for this proposition, and among the many women murdered this year in narco-related violence, satanism is pretty far down the list of likely motivations. Most people in Juarez are killed for pretty mundane reasons. There are a lot more men than women who have been found tortured to death this year, including many teenagers, but few rumors about satanic cults surround them. The real story in Juárez is not whether a few of the women-killers may have engaged in satanic rituals; it would be surprising if men who make their living killing others did not ritualize their activities. The real story, still largely untold, is how it came to pass that the War on Drugs ended up in Juárez with trigger men, representing various factions of Mexican society, on a shooting spree that will claim 2500 lives this year alone.

What is fascinating about these three reports is not so much their face value as serious calls to action, but precisely the air of unreality that hangs over them. These expressions reflect the agony of civic leaders in a society under severe strain, with little hope for short-term relief, aching for a better day.

No comments: