US Ignores Disappearances in Mexico to Maintain Financial and Military Presence

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The Merida Initiative is not about drug trafficking but in fact about allowing US intervention for the benefit of transnational capital, says Dawn Paley, author of Drug War Capitalism

Story Transcript

NADIA KANJI: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Nadia Kanji in Baltimore.

In Mexico, thousands of protesters joined the parents of the 43 students who disappeared last year in the Mexican state of Guerrero. It’s been 19 months since the students went missing, and their remains have yet to be found. The march comes shortly after a panel of investigators appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released their second report on the case. The report criticized the government’s handling of the original investigation and its attempts to cover up what actually happened.

Joining us to discuss this is our guest, Dawn Paley. Dawn is a journalist and author of the book “Drug War Capitalism.” She’s also currently a doctoral student at the Autonomous University of Puebla in Mexico. Thanks so much for joining us, Dawn.

DAWN PALEY: Thanks, Nadia.

KANJI: So, since 2012 over nine thousand people have disappeared. Clearly Ayotzinapa is not an isolated case. So, why are cases like this so frequent? Are they politically motivated disappearances, and who are the players involved?

PALEY: Well, I think it makes sense to step back, actually to 2006 December, which is when Felipe Calderón, the former president of Mexico, declared the war on drugs. Since then we know that at least 27 thousand people have been reported disappeared in Mexico, a trend that’s continued through to the present day. There was very few investigations into these disappearances.

Some of them people, you know, are kidnapped and there’s a ransom process or an extortion process, but other times there’s no ransom call. There appears to be no clear financial motive, and we don’t really know why so many people are being disappeared. It’s certainly not politically motivated in a straightforward way like the disappearances that happened, for example, during the “Dirty War” in Argentina where you had actors, state actors and non-state actors working off of lists to target political activists and then, you know, to work outwards from there to obtain confessions through torture and then to go out to larger and larger groups of people with using a tactic of forced disappearance.

Here in Mexico it’s less clear. What we do know is that the profiles of most of the people being disappeared is that they are poor and working class people, they’re migrants. It’s actually worth pointing out that the 27 thousand disappeared figure does not include migrants from central America. The estimate for how many migrants have disappeared here is much higher. Many people who are involved in the farming sector, so folks who tend to be sort of more economically precarious.

There’s a lot of young women who have also been disappeared, but also, you know, it’s primarily young people, so it’s a phenomenon in Mexico that’s certainly a national tragedy. It’s very hard to determine exactly why it’s happening, but certainly the involvement of state actors like police, municipal police, state police, federal police and/or soldiers is a common thread, as is the impunity with which this crime is being carried out throughout the country.

KANJI: So, you’ve said that the drug war is a pretense to expansion of national capitalism southward in your book. What does that mean, exactly?

PALEY: Well, I’ve got a book called “Drug War Capitalism,” and it traces the US drug war, basically, from Plan Colombia in the year 2000 in Colombia through the Mérida Initiative here in Mexico and the Central America Regional Security Initiative in Central America, something which is now being rebranded as the alliance for prosperity.

And the basic argument of the book is that the metrics that the state department appears to be using to decide whether or not to continue proceeding with these types of policies like Plan Colombia, like the Mérida Initiative, is actually not about cocaine, because we’ve seen that the amount of cocaine or the amount of narcotic drugs arriving to the United States is not being vastly impacted. It’s not having a huge impact on the amount of cocaine as that’s, you know, what the main argument is for these programs, but that, in fact, Plan Colombia, the Mérida Initiative, the Central America Regional Security Initiative and so on are actually plans that allow a sort of US-led or US-directed intervention into local military forces, into, you know, the rewriting of many national regulations and policies which tend to benefit transnational capitalism.

So here in Mexico since 2006, I mentioned the drug war was started in December of 2006 by Felipe Calderón, and my 2008 Mérida Initiative monies were flowing, and we see a huge increase in the number of people being disappeared, in the number of people being murdered, in the number of people being forcibly displaced, being forced to cross the border into the US or being forced to leave their homes, often also in strategic or resource-rich areas.

There has been reports coming out showing that, with the case of Ayotzinapa, for example, which is certainly the most investigated case of mass forced disappearance in Mexico. There have been many others that haven’t even been nearly as investigated as Ayotzinapa, we do see that some of the participating police and army may have been partially trained or connected to a C4 center, a US intelligence center or US-funded intelligence center in Mexico.

But certainly the overlying pattern of disappearances and of impunity is something that the United States government has essentially been happy to look the other way, turn a blind eye. I think the Mérida initiative and Plan Colombia are almost like a get out of jail free ticket for the Mexican government, where the US government says, we’re going to give you this money and go ahead and basically make war on your own people if that’s what it takes to make the country more stable for foreign [draft] investment.

KANJI: Okay. Thank you so much for your analysis, Dawn.

PALEY: You’re welcome.

KANJI: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

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