Juárez: Room For Everybody?

People, Horse, Van in Juarez  by Bruce Berman ©2010

JUAREZ, Mexico – Juarez still stands. It is still Juarez. It is a city of my heart. I am not alone. It is insane what has happened in Juarez. There is no reference or metaphor: it just stinks. I walk the streets and there are “tastes,” of the old city. The “new city,” the one of Malls and chrome and green eco-glass, the nightclubs and shiny new cars has disappeared more than the old city has.

This might say something about what the condition of the city was before “The Troubles.”

After three years of war, three years of murder, extortion, fear, horror, unfathomable cruelty, after years of blood and bullets and tears, the old city still looks and feels and is pretty much what the old city was: poor.

This is Mexico. This is Chihuahua. This is Juarez.

One must ask, will it ever change for the poor of Mexico? Why is their situation so enduring? Is their situation related to the current situation? Where does one think the war comes from: economic aspiration fueled by desperation, perhaps? If, as President Calderon suggests, the war is the fault of the United States drug consumers (which is certainly the Demand side of the problem, but, of course it takes two to tango), then who’s problem is the economic situation of 58% of the population of Mexico’s third largest city? Yes, 58% of the population of Juarez lives in poverty.

Nothing for the better for the poor, ever. No trickle down. Nada. Screw ’em, I guess.

When things got worse for the rich and the so-called “Middle Class,” of Juarez, they left, lock, stock and stinkin’ barrel. No one can blame them. They had the means, they had the way, they had, for the most part, the right color.

For sure they had the bucks.

So Juarez still stands. The neighborhoods, las colonias go on. El pueblo vive.

The question is, what will Juarez be after the war?

This war has been, everyone agrees, a battle over turf. But, at times, to everyone’s amazement and dismay, it has seemed there was something else going on. The murders have been not only huge numerically, but unbounded in their violence and sheer grizzliness. This has been murder with a fury. This has seemed to be, at times, pent up rage, now finding a place to be aimed at.

So it has seemed.

Maybe it’s just a battle over turf but if we look at other nations to the south of this border -Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia- where there has been a shift to more populous governments, this war could also be, partially, a war of rage, conducted by the equity-less, an undifferentiated blood lust aimed at, for now, whatever enemy it is assigned to kill for turf. But a lot of “turf,” has been ceded to “The Street.” The people that owned everything are now gone. This may be a war for drug trafficking routes but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t, also, a war of unintended and unpremeditated payback. With guns provided by the free flow of assassin money, there must have been a certain satisfaction in extorting the “haves,” chasing them over the border to the hated Gringoland. In some people’s minds, this must seem like a twisted form of  injustice.

To understand Juarez it may become necessary to understand Caracas. To understand what a solution to all this disaster is, it may become necessary to understand Caracas. To understand Caracas is to understand why the United States, watching as if from afar (it isn’t), is praying for Calderon and is sending hundreds of millions of dollars in the form of DEA money and the Merida Initiative, fully knowing it is going to be diverted to the bolsa of the people who are the problem in the first place (the Oligarchs and their minions). Venezuela may be the fourth largest supplier of oil to the United States but guess who’s second? Mexico!

To say the street wars of Bloody Mexico are Geopolitical is to jump the gun. To say there are dozens of models where the disaffected of a corrupt regime have seized unintended opportunities to hold real power over outdated and under-serving regimes, is, I think, not a stretch. If only Hamas and Hezbollah had such a willing leader as Hugo Chavez -and oil- their murderous turf war would be the official governments of Lebanon and Palestine (which, unofficially, and thus, less effectively, they are)!

When it’s all calmed down, who’s pueblo will Juarez be then? Who will own the turf and who will be in the street then, the horses and the people who are already poor or the Suburbans and Guccis, the ones who fled, the ones who formerly led, the people of the chrome and the green eco-glass?

It increasingly does not seem like there’s room for both.

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