Now, they’ve done it. Now, they’ve gone too far. The cartels, that is. It’s bad enough that they routinely murder ordinary Mexican citizens indiscriminately, flagrantly, and violently. (According to Fox News some 90 Mexicans are murdered per day. That’s nearly 33,000 per year folks, and that’s just the ones we know about. In addition, the Mexican government reported some 30,000 persons missing in 2016, the latest figures available. It is likely that is a low estimate. The Washington Post puts the number at 40,000. Regardless, it is horrifying since the likelihood is that all of them are dead as well.)
It’s bad enough that the cartels intimidate and murder journalists and government officials from the president of the country on down to minor local officials. It’s bad enough that they pour drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, into the US, which are poisoning Americans at a record rate. It’s bad enough that they rape and murder innocent migrants who are travelling to America seeking a better life. Now, they’ve “graduated” into murdering innocent Americans, including women and children. More on that later.
Heretofore, most Americans have been ambivalent about the aforementioned crimes. They don’t condone them by any means, but, for the most part, they are not cognizant of the extent of the problem. They’re too busy with their daily lives, and the murders are occurring out of the limelight in another country. They haven’t been too keen to support aggressive action against the cartels, such as securing the border or deploying troops. But now, things may be different.
Most Americans were shocked and angered by the savage, unprovoked attack. Moreover, the cartel gunmen were not content to murder the innocents; they burned them alive, including women and children. In my opinion, they weren’t content to merely “poke the bear” so to speak. They issued an “in your face” taunt to America, to which I believe we are compelled to respond. More on that later.
It is no secret that crime has been one of, if not the, most serious issue in Mexico, and drug trafficking has played a major role. There has been ample evidence that the cartels, not the government, run the country. By many measurements Mexico is a failed state.
The UN has estimated that 90% of the cocaine sold in the US is distributed through Mexico. The drugs enter by land, sea, air and tunnel. They enter by the kilo and by the individual packet. Once in the US the cartels coordinate further distribution with various gangs, such as MS-13. US government officials are very aware of the problem, but so far, for various reasons, they have had limited success in rectifying it. This is not exactly “breaking news,” but I feel it needs repeating here to provide a proper background to this latest atrocity.
A small group of American Mormons has been living in the mountains of northwest Mexico, near the Arizona-New Mexico border since the 1880s. Yes, their village is in close proximity to the Sonora drug cartel. Yes, there have been isolated instances of violence, such as the murder of anti-crime activist, Benjamin LeBaron in 2009, but, for the most part, they have managed to co-exist. As Adam Langford, whose great-grandfather was one of the original settlers, told a Washington Post reporter a few days ago, “basically, it was ‘we won’t bother you if you don’t bother us.’ ” Ironically, Langford offered that many in the community had been wondering if it was “time to move back to the US.” Indeed, the village’s population has dwindled to about 100.
As most of you know, this peaceful co-existence was shattered suddenly and irrevocably last Monday, November 4. According to the Washington Post cartel gunmen stopped a caravan of three SUVs on an isolated dirt road and suddenly, for no apparent reason, opened fire.
Among the murdered were three women and six children, including babies. They were shot at close range, including one mother who begged them to spare her children. This would seem to contradict the notion that has been put forth in some quarters, such as the Mexican government, that it was a case of mistaken identity. How could the gunmen fail to identify a woman with her hands raised, not to mention the children? Also, spent shell casings were found just a few yards from the cars.
Most of the evidence indicates they were targeted deliberately, perhaps, by a rival cartel as part of an intensifying turf war with the Sonoran cartel. Langford characterized it as “a massacre, 100% a massacre.” I submit, it doesn’t really matter why it happened, so much as it did, and it may not be the end.
According to reporter Peter Orsi the incident occurred at 9:40 am, and the Mexican soldiers did not arrive at the scene until 6:15 pm. Why did it take several hours to respond? I know law enforcement is spread pretty thinly in the area, but that is a flimsy excuse. During all this time eight surviving children, five of which were wounded, lay hiding in the mountains, no doubt scared to death.
Okay. So now what do we do? How do we respond? It is not an easy answer. I have heard and read various opinions, ranging from merely lodging a diplomatic protest to deploying troops in Mexico. I am not necessarily advocating either of those actions, but I recommend the following:
1. Put more pressure on Mexican President Obrador to toughen his policies toward the cartels. Heretofore, he has taken a very passive approach and has resisted implementing tougher policies. He may be afraid; or he may have been bought off or threatened. I don’t know, but Mr. Trump has various ways to pressure him to a more aggressive approach. Economic sanctions? Close the border? Maybe offer a quid pro quo of sorts? (Just kidding, or maybe not.)
2. Offer assistance or aid, perhaps a joint military operation.
3. Strengthen the border. Surely, the anti-wall crowd can now see the folly of their intransigent position (or maybe not).
4. Designate the cartels as terrorist organizations.
5. Explore what the UN can do, although generally they are of little help in situations such as this.
6. Whatever action President Trumps takes, ideally, it should be with bipartisan support.
There are probably additional approaches that I have not thought of. I welcome your constructive thoughts/comments.