It is our resolve to speak out: we will continue to report all that we know about the problem, and will continue to ask questions. We hold to the faith that if we ask enough questions we may finally come upon a solution.
Let me take you – briefly — through what we know so far.
I’ll begin with a conundrum: crime pays. In my country, you are more likely to fail in business than you are in organized crime. Seventy-five percent of Mexican business startups die within the first two years. 80 percent are gone within the first three years. 90 percent by the end of the first decade.
By contrast, your risk of failure as a criminal – outside of death – is ludicrously small. Only 5 percent of crimes are reported. Of those, only 15 percent of victims press charges. Only one – very unlucky – criminal out of 100 will go to prison.
You only need to spend a week trying to file a police complaint to learn why this might be so. Our equivalent to the District Attorney’s Office, our MP’s, are not law enforcement or prosecution agencies. They are form filling factories.
The forms you fill out have many fields, just one of them would make any member of this audience fail in your attempt to have justice done. That field is called “pre-existence.” If someone stole the tire of your pickup truck, in order to file a complaint successfully you must demonstrate that:
a. the tire exists and
b. that it is your lawful possession.
Now, could someone in the audience please demonstrate to the group that your stolen spare tire:
a. exists and
b. that you are the legitimate owner?
Of course, this all assumes that the office behind the counter will be honest and diligent. It assumes that he is not in the pocket of organized crime.
Getting into this pocket is not easily evaded. During the campaign, an emissary of some Trans NAFTA Corporation, dressed in a smart suit, walks into the candidate’s office carrying a briefcase full of money. He is bearing good wishes – no strings attached – for a successful political career. Once that happens, there is no choice. The Mayor must collaborate. Plata o Plomo. Silver or Lead.
Many political leaders pay lip-service to the assumption that if drug users on this side of the border were taken off their addiction and consumption stopped, the problems on our side would be solved.
Not so. They run deeper.
The real damage the drug trade has done has been to the rule of law and to our fledging democracy. It has rendered it impotent.
What has been exposed by the success of the drug trade is the fact that we are powerless to stop criminal activities – in general. Once lawless people see there is no rule of law, you have an altogether bigger problem.
If you can run drugs without fear of being caught, then you can also kidnap, extort, rape and kill, and disregard any law that impedes you, all with impunity.
How has it come to this?
Perhaps the answer is rather less complicated than we might imagine. Perhaps is lies in this motto of many criminals in Mexico: “I rather live a week like a king than a lifetime eating shit.”
Make no mistake: for millions and millions, daily life in Mexico can be one daily spoonful of manure after another. At times, it feels as though it is the national sport, not only of the government, to make your life difficult.
Even the best days can be lousy. Your team finally gets into the national championship! And now for the bad news. If you want to buy tickets, you’ll have to get up at 2 a.m., stand in line and weather the elements.
Red tape is everywhere, and it is so thick on the ground that daily life is Kafka-esque.
Wages can be meager … prospects bleak. Who can be surprised that a young man will risk a bullet for the possibility – at least a short time – of liberty from a joyless grind?