Political Expert Says Morale For Fighting Mexican Cartels Down, Justice For Victims Could Be Hard To See
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — While many still try to process the brutal ambush that took the lives of nine women and children in Mexico, they question whether the Mexican government will be able to find and prosecute the killers.
Mexico’s new president brings a new approach to the table but an expert in Latin American studies said it has been a slow process and predicted justice for victims will be hard to find.
“He won on a campaign to reduce violence,” said Dr. Claudio Holzner Director at the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Utah.
Holzner was referring to the new government of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
“He’s very popular,” Holzner shared. “People are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt partly because the policies of the prior presidents have not worked.”
Lopez-Obrador said a major concern for Mexicans during the last elections was dealing with the cartel violence that has plagued the country.
“They are immensely frustrated with the violence,” Holzner said.
The president embraced a new non-violent approach to dealing with cartels, often coined “abrazos y no balazos.”
“Lopez Obrador ran on a campaign to change the government’s policies to fight drug violence and drug cartels. There is a general sense that the direct confrontation with cartels hasn’t worked,” Holzner said. “He is proposing alternative policies like legalizing marijuana, reforming the criminal justice system, reducing corruption, these non-violent tactics to solve the root problems of drug cartel violence, not going after drug cartels directly.
“He is promoting general policies of social welfare support, creating the conditions where higher wages and good jobs so people are not tempted to join cartels.”
But it isn’t having the impact hoped for.
“This year Mexico’s going to break records in terms of the amount of violence and homicides that occur in the country,” Holzner said.
Cartel violence is rampant in Mexico as family members of the victims have expressed.
“These things have happened to people throughout Mexico for years and they’ve never had a voice,” said Laif Langford, a family member of the victims, during a CNN interview.
Cartels also seem more powerful and morale is dropping among Mexicans. Last month the president’s newly created cartel fighting force failed to capture El Chapo’s son during a stand-off in which they were overpowered in Culiacan, Sinaloa.
“One of his major reforms was to create a new national guard of a domestic police force that would be trained and specialized to deal with drug cartels,” Holzner said.
“One of their first operations was to capture El Chapo’s son who people think is now leading the Sinaloa cartel. They arrived at his house. Tried to arrest him. A gun battle ensued. There were 12 people killed and in order to minimize additional violence, the national guard pulled back and allowed El Chapo’s son to escape.”
Holzner said when it comes to the ambush in La Mora, it will be hard to see justice for the victims.
“One of the biggest problems with Mexico’s political system is a really weak criminal justice system. About 90% of crimes go unsolved in Mexico,” Holzner said. “This particular case is a higher profile case so it might get more attention but I’m pessimistic.”
The victims’ family members said they believe the attack was targeted.
“They stop and surround our vehicle, then they recognize who we are because they keep an eye on every single person,” Kendra Miller said.
Holzner also said it’s doubtful Mexico will welcome U.S. intervention.
“His [Lopez-Obrador] rejection of Trump’s offer fits in with his policies that he does not want to fight the cartels head-on,” Holzner said.
According to Holzner, 90% of drugs that go through Mexico are destined for the U.S. He thinks that curbing cartel violence boils down to economics. Lowering U.S. demand for drugs will reduce cartel influence in Mexico.