Mexico Routing for Stricter U.S. Gun Control

Will stemming the tide of guns in the U.S. help save lives across the border?

 

It’s no small news that the U.S. is currently fighting a political war over the rights of people to own and use guns in the country.  This age-old struggle has reached a head and is causing quite the stir.  But the debate over what we do here in the states has attracted some outside voices in the form of the Mexican government.  Statistics show that approximately 70% of the guns that make their way into the hands of Mexico’s criminal organizations are bought from sources in the United States and now that the gun control debate has become serious again, Mexico is asking that we tighten up our laws in order to help protect innocent lives in their own country.

Since pretty much anyone can buy and sell guns as they please, or at least easily circumvent the laws currently in place, weapons make their way across the border on a regular basis.  Gun dealers in the U.S. seem to care little for whom the guns end up going to or how many innocents will be killed with them.  And these aren’t just typical guns that any household gun owner or hunter might have.  We’re talking military-grade assault weapons.  Another statistic shows that there was a definitive rise in the number of deaths in Mexico following the expiration of the U.S. assault weapon ban in 2004, further emphasizing our role in their war against the cartels.

This isn’t the first time that the Mexican government has tried to make their displeasure known, but for the most part all requests to tighten controls on guns in the U.S. have been ignored.  Opposition to stricter gun controls says that what we do here in the U.S. would have little bearing on the violence and that cartels would simply go someplace else to buy their weapons.  Those in the middle say that the relaxed attitude towards guns in the U.S. has contributed to the problem but that the main issue lies in the corruption that is rampant throughout the Mexican government.

The question has to be asked, however, of whether we need to consider our neighbor’s problems when dealing with our own laws.  Can we consider ourselves to be responsible people if we allow tens-of-thousands of innocents to be slain with our guns, simply because they’d be dying with someone else’s guns if not ours?  At what point do we decide that human lives are indeed more important than guns?

Medical care help for drug war victims

Mexico fighting the drug war at both ends.

The Mexican government has spent plenty of cash during their war with the drug cartels that seek to keep Mexico under their thumb.  But often, the real victims of the war get forgotten, those who have lost relatives or themselves been harmed during the more than six-year-long conflict. 

They are generally left to fend for themselves and in many cases are even persecuted by Mexico’s police forces.  This has caused quite a stir with human rights groups.  Now, with a new president in power, the government is looking to correct some of this collateral damage by offering up much-needed medical care to those who have suffered.

The new law will attempt to assist victims by paying for their medical and psychiatric care, as well as setting up a fund for potential future reparations and organizing a national registry of victims.  Rejected by the last president for its loose and unstructured nature, the law has been embraced by the new regime.

With tens-of-thousands of innocents dead because of the continuing war against the cartels, it’s good to see the government finally stepping up and doing more than just exchanging bullets with their enemies.  It also serves as a powerful political move for the new president, one that many are inclined to disagree with but one that will also pan out with the citizens of Mexico come next election time. 

And even though critics of the law have some issues about where the money for the new programs will come from, at least it’s a step in the right direction.  As long as the act is not just symbolic, it could serve as the first stage of recovery from the many long years of conflict.

Gun swaps in Mexico

A new way to battle against the heavily-armed criminal elements.

The biggest problem that the country of Mexico is experiencing in recent years is, of course, the presence of massive amounts of violent crime.  The cartels are responsible for much of this, including the deaths of tens-of-thousands of innocents, but the country has more common crime from less connected criminals as well.  There is already a war being waged to reduce the power of the cartels and return control of the country to the proper government, but now they’re also looking at getting rid of some of the other violence by initiated a gun swap.

Starting at the end of last year, the government began offering to exchange people’s guns for items such as bikes, computers and cash.  In that time, they managed to collect more than 1000 guns, including (believe it or not) a grenade launcher and several grenades.  The first run was so successful that they’ve extended the program for another week in hopes of getting even more guns off the streets.  In addition to collecting guns, they’ve also offered to trade out children’s violent toys for new ones in hopes of steering them away from a future life of crime.

The program started in a district of Mexico City known for having the most violent crimes.  Since then, the extension has relocated the collection to yet another problem district.  If it continues to be as successful as it has been, it may be that they opt to extend the program further and perhaps even to other regions of country beside the capital.

While the collection of random guns may not stop the cartels, which rely on their guns for business and can certainly afford their own bikes and computers, it does potentially free up more law enforcement.  Any reduction in violent crime is a good thing for Mexico right now.  With their high body count due to cartel activity, every life saved is truly important to them in showing the world that they are not going to sit back and accept the conditions that have plagued their country for the last decades.

Outgoing Mexican president wants to change the country’s name

As his last gesture, President Calderon seeks to distance Mexico from its U.S.-dependent past.

The arrival of a new president in the country of Mexico promises the potential for some big changes.  The war against the drug cartels wages on and perhaps this new addition to the government can make some sort of difference.  But although President Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa is on the way out and leaving the country in other hands, he seeks to make one last attempt to change things - he wants to change the name of the country.

 

It’s actually been an ongoing debate, as ridiculous as it sounds.  The full name of Mexico is the United Mexican States.  This was adopted during a time when the country looked to their northern neighbors as an inspiration, the U.S.’s own revolution an example to follow for Mexico’s breaking away from Spanish control.  Nowadays, however, some people think that the name is too close to “United States of America” and that it is giving Mexico an identity crisis.

Calderon tried to do this once before, when he was a congressman in 2003, but it was a no-go on the attempt.  Though many critique him about the name change, saying that it’s a superficial act, he has his reasons.  He wants to remove association with the U.S., give Mexico a stronger version of its own cultural identity and officialize the fact that the country is, in 99 percent of cases, referred to as “Mexico.”  The only time the longer version of the name shows up is in an official capacity.

While the change of name is a relatively small affair, and one that might do more good than harm, the question is whether it will cost the state a huge pile of cash to get it run through the bureaucracy.  Most people in the country will probably not even notice the change unless they examine their country’s seal, but given the state of the war against the drug cartels, every bit of money is important.  Is Calderon simply being nationalistic?  Or does Mexico really need this confirmation of their separateness from the United States?

U.S. legalization of marijuana throws Mexico for a loop

In the face of changing drug laws, Mexico may have an amazing opportunity to undermine cartel profits.

With the recent elections in the United States, there were some changes to certain laws regarding the legal status of marijuana in two states.  Both Washington and Colorado officially made pot available to people for legal recreational use.  

Considering that the drug cartels in Mexico make a decent portion of their money from selling to customers in the U.S., this change could impact them in a significant manner.  Legalization for recreational use means a change in the supply and demand of the U.S, which will require different policies in Mexico. 

 

Studies show two differing opinions when it comes to the effect that pot legalization will have on cartel profits.  Some show a loss of billions of dollars for those in the illegal transport of the drug.  If this is true, then the cartels will take a severe hit in the wallet, which could help Mexico significantly.  Other studies, however, show a minor and almost negligible affect on cartel revenues, which would mean nothing changes.

One solution that Mexico is looking toward is the complete legalization and state control of marijuana throughout their country.  If the government controlled the crop, then cartels would lose all of their customers within the borders of the country and Mexico could then sell to the United States in a limited capacity.  This would have a much stronger impact on cartels than the limited legalization that now exists.

As election years come and go, the U.S. will no doubt see a snowball affect where it comes to pot being accepted as a mainstream drug, so the cartels will eventually lose control over that revenue source altogether. 

A country-wide adoption of marijuana legality in Mexico will speed that process along, providing new money to the government that is taken directly out of the pockets of cartels.  This could be an important turning point in Mexico’s seemingly endless drug war, providing they use this opportunity to their advantage.

Mexico’s iFone kicks Apple in the butt

Another copyright lawsuit from Apple fails miserably

Frivolous lawsuits are everywhere, and America really seems to hold the title of sue-happy capital of the world.  The latest one came from the company Apple as they chose to attack a Mexican communications business by the name of iFone.  We all know that one of Apple’s top-selling products is the iPhone, so it makes sense that they’d try to secure their copyright, correct?  Well, as it turns out, it was one of the worst moves they could have ever made.

Mexico’s iFone company has actually been using their name since 2003.  This is rather awkward for the sue-happy Apple, since they’ve only been selling their product since 2007.  Still, they insisted that they could win the suit and so, in 2009, started the legal procedures.

The result was that Apple lost and lost big.  They ended up almost losing all their rights to sell iPhones in Mexico, but lucky for them the two names are categorized under different classes so they’ll probably be able to do business as usual.  They will, however, be doing business a little worse for wear, since iFone is countersuing them for all the hassle.  If iFone wins, it could mean quite a pile of cash for them.  They could even end up with a portion of the profits that Apple’s made over the last few years from selling the iPhone.

It’s hard to say whether this is a win or a loss for Mexico in general.  Since iFone may be getting a good settlement, there’s the chance for expansion and an increase in jobs in the country.  If something goes further awry and Apple isn’t able to sell the iPhone, even for a short period of time, it could be a big pain for many companies in Mexico that rely on sales of the product to keep them going.  At the very least, Apple has hopefully learned its lesson about suing over copyrights in Mexico, or at least when they have no grounds.

Mexican villagers turn vigilante

When the government can’t protect them, they pick up weapons and fight back on their own.

The situation between drug cartels and government forces is a violent and often chaotic one in the country of Mexico.  Tens-of-thousands of people have been killed so far and many more will likely die before the problem has achieved resolution. 

Some groups of people, left by the government to fend for themselves, have decided to take matters into their own hands.  When they can not get the government to send in soldiers to protect them, they simply pick up their own weapons and fight the drug cartels themselves.

Some places, in response to ongoing cartel activity in their regions, are putting up barricades, arming themselves and setting up patrols to keep the enemy from getting into their villages.  People who travel into these towns are being stopped and searched, to make sure they aren’t there to do harm.  Local police forces are being told to go away, the villagers knowing that Mexico’s cops are notorious for having a very high level of corruption.

Despite their best efforts, it’s unlikely that villages will be able to hold off the cartels if those organizations decided to take a serious interest in suppressing them.  It might not be the best thing for cartels to do, considering all their other problems, but it’s still a possibility.  So why would villagers turn vigilante and risk their own lives?

There are many reasons, not the least of which are the crimes the cartels have committed against these people in the past.  They have been terrorized, their friends and family have gone missing, and multiple cartels have turned their homes into a war zone.  Representatives of these vigilante villagers have said that they will only stand down when the Mexican government sends soldiers there to set up a base of operations and protect them.

Meanwhile, the rest of village life goes on as usual.  People farm and shop and live out their lives, all the while existing within a potential war zone.  Until the government figures something out, they will have to fend for themselves.  From the look of things, they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it thus far.  Maybe the best way to win the war against the cartels is to give weapons to all the people who have a vested interest in fighting them?

Zetas Cartel Leader Gunned Down on Accident

A simple search turns into a firefight and a stroke of luck for government marines

 

It looks like there may be a resounding victory for the Mexican government in its seemingly endless struggle against the drug cartels.  The leader of the Zetas cartel, Heriberto “The Executioner” Lazcano is dead at the hands of government marines.  The Zetas are currently the largest and most powerful cartel in the country and this blow to their leadership may help in bringing them to a quicker end.

Lazcano was one of the most wanted men in Mexico, so much in fact that the U.S. had offered $5 million for his capture.  What makes the story even more interesting is that the killing was unknown for some time, as no one knew who he was.  The marines responsible were trying to search a group of suspicious people at a baseball stadium, but the standard procedure turned to violence when the people started throwing grenades.  The marines fired back and killed a few people, one of them being Lazcano.  They might never have known it was him if not for the fact that some armed men later broke into the funeral home where the body was being stored and stole it.  Police then decided to check the body’s fingerprints and discovered the truth.

This comes at a time when the drug wars are heating up rapidly.  The city of Progreso, where the firefight occurred, has gotten so bad that they can’t even keep a police force there.  No one will offer to work in law enforcement and thus government marines are expected to keep the peace.

This one lucky break has the potential to be devastating to the Zetas or reinvigorate them.  The next in command is a man named Miguel Angel Trevino and he’s known for being even more brutal and violent than Lazcano was.  There’s a chance that there will be a struggle over the power vacuum left by the former leader’s death, which would not only keep the Zetas busy for a time, but would also significantly reduce their numbers in the ensuing violence.  Hopefully it tends toward the latter, as retaliation from a stabilized Zetas could be very bloody.

Mexican prisons can’t hold prisoners in

Drug cartels use threats and bribes to make sure the prison doors are open when they need their soldiers back.

Mexico’s war against the drug cartels rages on and the latest strike from the criminal underworld is a jailbreak in the city of Piedras Negras, near the U.S. border.  131 people escaped, many of them with ties to the infamous Los Zetas cartel.  It was first reported that these criminals escaped via a tunnel they made but now it has come to light that they simply walked though the front door of the prison.

The guards and officials in charge of the prison are being questioned regarding the escape.  It is believed that they were working with the Los Zetas cartel and that they provided the means for the prisoners to get free.  These sorts of breakouts are more common than one might think, though this one was one of the largest.  A bigger escape just two years ago saw 141 criminals go free.  More than 550 people with Zetas affiliations have escaped in the last four years alone.

The cartels accomplish these breakouts of their soldiers by bribing or threatening the guards and wardens of state prisons.  Federal prisons are often over-full and unable to accommodate all the bigger criminals and the state prisons are more susceptible to these types of cartel maneuverings.  If the officials at the prisons don’t comply with cartel wishes, they or their families tend to end up missing or dead.

This brings to light some serious issues within Mexico’s prison system.  Those who are captured and sent to prison are merely being held until the cartels need them once again, at which point they arrange for their freedom.  While living in these prisons, the most prominent of the criminals enjoy extreme comfort, usually fairing better than most of the free citizens of the country.

If this trend continues, the government will not be able to keep up with the cartels.  Another foreseeable future could involve frustrated police choosing to shoot cartel members on site instead of trying to bring them to proper justice.  Either way, the justice system is under severe threat.  Hopefully, Mexico’s new president will be able to fix this problem and keep the criminals where they belong.  If not, the country is in for a much longer battle to obtain its freedom from these powerful criminal organizations.

Mexico addressing human rights issues within the military

Military corruption has prevented this in the past.

Mexico is currently in the process of undergoing a change in their military structure that may have many effects on the way their ongoing war against the drug cartels plays out.  As things stand now, military personnel, regardless of whatever crime they happen to commit, get tried under a military court on the grounds of breaching military discipline.  Now, a judge's ruling has stated that this sort of system goes against the constitution of the country and that it needs to be changed.

The current system does not address the rights of Mexican civilians nor does it guarantee that they will get the justice they often deserve.  The military structure, much like the government and media organizations in Mexico, is known for having its fair share of corruption within.  This potential corruption in the military is demonstrated in statistics that show nearly 5000 cases of human rights violations leveled against military personnel and only 38 of these cases leading to conviction.  The numbers, when looked at over time, show that they have seen a substantial increase following the intensification of the war against the drug cartels.

The whole thing was finally brought to light following the shooting death of a man in Southern Mexico.  The shooter was a soldier who was said to have opened fire on a bus that the man happened to be riding in.  If this case were taken to military court instead of using the civilian justice system, it would leave little recourse for the victim’s family.  Unfortunately, the ruling is but one out of five that is needed to set a precedent and actually get the laws changed.

If the system does eventually change, Mexico could be looking at one of two things.  Either the military will begin to comply with law more and some of the potential for corruption will be removed, or those within the military that are working with the cartels may seek other means to rot the system from within, such as ignoring problems.  It may also have the effect of weakening the military by restricting what they are allowed to do in pursuit of Mexico’s major criminals.  If cartel members start suing soldiers out of spite, what would be the end result?  Hopefully, it will be a change for the better and Mexico will be one step closer to finishing the conflict that has been going on in the country for far too long.

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