Reacting to my reference a few weeks ago to America as the most violent country in the civilized world, a respondent — he can hardly be called a reader — wondered about Mexico.
Well, what about Mexico? Here’s what:
Whether Mexico is a so-called Third World country, as it is technically designated, is disputed, understandably, given the fact that its economy is among the world’s largest. The Third World designation is more Cold War residue than it is necessarily indicative of the conditions or status of a given place.
But one could hardly call Mexico “civilized” under any definition. It ranks 74th on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, a statistical measure derived from life expectancy, mean years of schooling and per-capita income. It is, as the respondent implied, among the most violent places on the planet, a nation long ruled by drug cartels and corrupt government.
Journalist is not a coveted job title in America but, in Mexico, it can be fatal. Eleven journalists have been killed there this year, three of them over three days last month. It was enough to prompt a Washington Post headline: “Why do journalists in Mexico keep getting killed?” The May 10 story noted the total slain reporters this year at that time was higher than the number in Ukraine, where, you might have heard, a war is being fought.
Answers to the question The Post posed are myriad and complex. In many cases, the journalists gunned down covered crime, the thing to cover in a country riddled with crime but a risky proposition since only 5% of homicides in Mexico are successfully investigated and prosecuted. No one can feel safe in a country where homicides total about 30,000 each year but murder convictions typically total fewer than 2,000. Impunity is a poor deterrent.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador feigns concern, but the blood keeps gushing. It does not help in the case of journalists that, in addition to the failure to prosecute killings, the president of the country decries reporters as “enemies” and purveyors of “fake news,” the fave phrase of Donald Trump. Maybe you’ve heard of him? He’s the ex-U.S. president who wanted the steal stopped but started one after losing the popular vote for a second time in two tries, losing a bid for a second term to a Democrat who previously lost twice in the presidential primaries. Trump puts the ooze in loser.
Lopez Obrador’s press conferences are made-for-campaign TV affairs that periodically showcase what he calls his “Who’s Who of Lies” segment targeting reporters who’ve transgressed him. Among that large group is Carlos Loret de Mola, whose offense in February was to report that one of the president’s sons lives large and lavish, while Lopez Obrador projects himself as a modest man of a modest people, a schtick gobbled hook, line and sphincter by whoever buys bridges in Mexico. Loret, for his part, describes Lopez Obrador as the No. 1 enemy of journalism in the country, which is saying something considering how many journalists keep dropping dead.
Lopez Obrador threatened to send Mexico’s tax hounds after Loret, but el presidente did not deny the reporting. Who’s lying now?
If none of this sounds familiar, crawl back under the rock where you’ve been living. At least you have shade from the heat as well as the truth.
On the other side of the wall Trump never built, his ways are Lopez Obrador’s regarding the press. About 1,500 miles from the border, in the house where Jim Justice never sleeps, Lopez Obrador’s ways are the governor’s regarding press conferences and reporters.
Many of Trump’s supporters, citing Mexico’s criminality, want Mexicans to stay precisely where they are or stay precisely anywhere but here. Many Mexicans long to escape a country where elections are stolen routinely, their voices are silent no matter how loudly they shout, where survival is a feat and freedom is just another word for something they’ll never have.
A day will come when it won’t be had here either, if a large share of the electorate persists in blind fealty to those whose response to dissent is to smash it and whose answer to defeat is to storm the Capitol and set fire to the Constitution. Impunity for killers means more killing. Impunity for those in high office means despotism and, if unchecked, enslavement to a corrupt few for the masses.
This is the high price for politics in Mexico and America mirroring one another. A short time remains for us to refuse it by refusing to follow those who demand it.