An old Mexican adage says that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. This was the case Wednesday as a group of deputies belonging to the Citizens’ Movement (MC) political party revamped a version of an old bill called the Protection of Journalists and Activists program with increased attributions to those in charge and larger funding. The bill is being introduced by Jalisco State Deputy Clemente Castañeda Hoeflich precisely of the MC. The question is, what good will it do?
It is clear nowadays that anonymous individuals have opened up a widespread hunting season on journalists, in particular those who cover police beats and worse still, the ones who dare unmask the wheeling and dealings between police authorities and the abundant number of drug trafficking criminal organizations that have sprawled all over Mexico in the past 35 years.
Deputy Castañeda, however, is not off track when trying to defend the usually defenseless journalists. In an article published Wednesday where he talks about his bill, he sums up the situation of journalists in one single paragraph:
“The figures are chilling: 105 journalists have been murdered in 17 years and not one of those crimes has been solved. Each time we lose a journalist or a human rights activist, we fall into an abyss of silence and darkness which impedes the entire nation from knowing how far the influence of organized crime organizations has permeated the social and political structures of Mexico and from understanding the accumulated damage made due to the death of more than 300,000 people, not to mention an incalculable figure of people who have gone missing and a society that both is aggravated and broken due to violence.” (Excelsior, May 17.)
Deputy Castañeda says that the introduction of this revamped bill is to meet head on “the critical moments Mexico is confronting given the onslaught of narco-politics and organized crime.” He of course calls upon all parties “an urgent debate” to protect journalists and human rights activists.
How much echo among the 500 Chamber of Deputies members will this bill have remains to be seen. Just this week Culiacán, state of Sinaloa, journalist Javier Valdéz, author of five books on drug trafficking out of Sinaloa, was gunned down by masked persons in broad daylight as he was walking out of a radio station in Culiacán.
The murder brought up an uproar from journalists all over Mexico because in 2017 alone Valdéz became the sixth victim in Mexico, specifically in Guerrero, Veracruz, Chihuahua, and now Sinaloa.
There were demonstrations against Sinaloa state Gov. Quirino Ordaz Coppel was accused of masterminding the murder of journalists. Needless to say, he denied it and immediately ordered the formation of a “special investigation team” to try to bring to justice the killers of Javier Valdéz.
But this is exactly what all politicians involved in a crime (mostly because at the moment they are the visible authority) have done to no avail.
But a dead journalist is merely the tip of the iceberg as the records show that there are an average of 45 people per day killed in organized crime shootouts and cold blooded murders.
Another group on Tuesday night protested at the Interior Secretariat facilities in Mexico City with the same complaint, except this time before Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, who in turn apologized for the murder of yet another journalist.
The problem is that this is an old problem. Though like I said, it’s existed for over 35 years. (Who can forget the murder of DEA agent Kiki Camarena and then famous and powerful journalist Manuel Buendía in 1984?) It started in the past 10 years since the advent of Felipe Calderón as president of Mexico when he declared war on organized crime, with the thus far $1.6 billion help from the Mérida Initiative sponsored by the U.S. Congress and of course, the American Embassy.
The “war on crime” unleashed a secondary feud among drug traffickers which began the intra-mural shoot-outs fighting for territorial power among them. The people particularly in the states bordering with the United States became sick and tired to the bloodshed.
In fact, one of the strategies that President Peña Nieto changed in the war against crime was toning down attacks against most of the cartels and concentrating on Los Zetas, the most sanguinary of them all.
It worked from 2012 to 2014 with the elimination of Los Zetas, whose majority were trained military men gone awry. But since 2014, the violence surged again with the final outcome being that the president (and military Army chiefs) blames corrupt governors for the surge, while people expect the federal government to come up with a solution and pacify the very violent gangs roaming the country.
In the meantime, who is to blame for the death of Javier Valdéz? I’ve got an answer: let’s wait for the result of the special commission devoted to solving this crime.
The problem is not one crime, or one journalist. The problem, in the eyes of Mexican citizens, is the corruption reigning in all the justice departments of the nation.
Or maybe the solution is another bill in Congress?