Thursday, December 05, 2019

The Poliitics of Destabilizing Lopez Obrador

Jacobin |  At four o’clock in the afternoon on October 17, 2019, the Mexican city of Culiacán, capital of the northeastern state of Sinaloa, erupted in gunfire. Minutes before, in the exclusive Tres Ríos district, members of the army and National Guard had arrested Ovidio Guzmán López, son of the jailed former head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquín Guzmán (“El Chapo”), and one of the organization’s new generation of leaders.

The response was immediate: taking to the streets, cartel members fired rounds of automatic weapons from trucks and blocked intersections with burning vehicles, all in a bid to sow chaos. Surrounding the armed forces involved in the raid, they cut off access on the three bridges leading out of the area.

Over the radio frequencies used by the police and the army, the cartel proceeded to announce that, if Guzmán was not freed, it would take revenge against both the family members of those participating and the general public. Following hasty deliberations, the federal security cabinet decided to go ahead and release Guzmán, a decision approved by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).

The response from the Mexican right was equally apoplectic and hypocritical. With no apparent irony, Marko Cortés, leader of the National Action Party (PAN), came to the remarkable conclusion that Mexico is a “failed state” that is “experiencing one of its worst episodes in the combat against delinquency.” While stating his party’s intention to sue AMLO for freeing Guzmán, Cortés stated that “the Mexican State was subdued, brought to its knees, humiliated by organized crime.”

Not to be outdone, elements of the military also got in on the game: in a case of rank insubordination, General Carlos Demetrio Gaytán Ochoa declared: “We feel insulted as Mexicans and offended as soldiers.” Going on to question the “strategic decisions” of the president, Gaytán Ochoa stated: “We are currently living in a politically polarized society because the dominant ideology . . . is based on currents from the so-called left, which accumulated a large amount of resentment over the years.”

Conveniently omitted from such vociferations were several key points. First, that President Felipe Calderón was the one who launched his homicidal, so-called war on drugs in the first place, which saw over 121,000 killed in his administration alone. Second, that Calderón himself oversaw the freeing of Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes (“El Mencho”), leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, under similar siege circumstances in 2012. And third, according to investigative journalist Anabel Hernández, Calderón’s government was in fact an active supporter of the Sinaloa Cartel by means of his all-powerful federal police force.

But history hardly matters when the goal is to make AMLO look weak in the fight against organized crime, the captain of a nation that is slipping out of his control.