MEXICO CITY – Six different cartel and organized crime leaders were arrested over the last 24 hours In Sinaloa for their participation in organizing and planning of the violence in Tijuana and other border cities of Baja California in recent days, according to information released by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a news conference earlier today.
Lopez Obrador promised more arrests will be coming and are in addition to dozens of cartel operatives already arrested for their direct involvement in the setting up of blockades with the burning of cars, busses and trucks as well as convenience stores torched in Tijuana, Tecate, Mexicali and Ensenada over the weekend.
Behind the Violence
Luis Cresencio Sandoval, Secretary of Defense, said at a separate press conference that he saw no clear motive for the weekend attacks in Baja California.
“We have not been able to corroborate the allegations connecting the weekend violence to a demand for the release of cartel members as was reported in the media”, replied the Secretary to questions raised by members of the press related to the widely circulated cartel warning made public through social media sources last week.
“We were unable to make any direct connection to that allegation, indicating to us this was just the cartels wanting to get a lot of attention; a publicity stunt,” he went on to explain.
The Secretary went on to add that he believed that perhaps it was just one cartel trying to gain an advantage over a rival organization in the area and in the process try to make the government look bad – a form of “propaganda against the government.”
That very same claim – word for word – was repeated by the President as well as the governor of Baja California, indicating to some observers that the various levels of government – all from the same political party of Morena – were closing ranks and attempting to divert attention away from what a growing number of voices are calling failed policies on public security and specifically their handling of the cartels / organized crime.
Calls for Change
The President’s approach of “Abrazos, no balazos” (Hugs, not bullets) has come under renewed attacks in recent days and in connection to the border violence. The approach has become a very popular target of memes on social media and few members of his own political party these days seem willing to defend the policy.
Several editorials published in local and other major newspapers across Mexico in recent days have now called for this administration to “wake up” and come up with a new strategy to stem the growing violence that has plagued the administration of Lopez Obrador.
Adding to this administration’s credibility problems was the mayor of Tijuana herself – also a member of the Morena party – making statements that appeared to directly contradict the President’s assertion that the violence was unrelated to the reported cartel warning including comments made by several high ranking security officials in the Tijuana municipal administration.
Who / what to believe?
It can be confusing for frequent travelers and expats alike to figure out what to believe?
Having spent the majority of my adult life living and working in Latin America – including the last 20 here in Mexico – I’ve learned that quite often, things simply aren’t quite what they seem down here.
Whether it was Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela or now Mexico, it became quite apparent to me that the citizens of each country all shared something in common with each other; relatively few of them trust their governments to tell them what is really going on and usually developed their own networks to share information to inform and better prepare themselves.
I’ve built some very solid local ties here in my own community where I live here in Baja and personally, I’m listening closely to the analysis and advice of a couple of trusted sources here in town who are smart, extremely well connected and have been mostly on target with their commentary and advice over time.
Combining their input with my own sources I’ve developed over my years here at the state and federal level as well as the military, the combined sources give me a very good feel for discerning between what is really going on and what is nothing more than misdirection or simple propaganda.
If you are spending a lot of time down here in Mexico, I advise you to develop your own trusted sources in your community; could be the guy who owns your favorite taco stand, your builder or your next door neighbor. Unless they are a fanatical member of one political party or another down here (skewing their perspective) they could become a very good source and guide for you to better understand what is really going on.
I also suggest you work on improving your Spanish to help you better communicate here as well as read what is going on in the local press and local social media groups.
Doing so will not only help you to make safe and sound decisions regarding your personal safety but you will also enjoy integrating more into your local communities here south of the border.
And that’s a win-win.