Opening Insights: Flames of Justice
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.
It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
Many eyes are on the crisis of violence in Mexico after a group of American citizens were ambushed by drug cartels. The ambush led to the deaths of 9 women and children. A handful of children escaped with their lives but will be forever scarred by the violent loss of their family. Events like these lead to anger, despair and demands for action. Many question the ability of Mexico's new president to address the national crisis.
Mexico's current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, though widely loved by his countrymen, has come under intense scrutiny for what is perceived as a weak response to the violence that tears at Mexican communities. A recent article by the Associated Press reports, "Mexico set a new record for homicides in the first half of the year — 17,608 killings, fueled partly by cartel and gang violence in several states."
America's President Trump has offered to meet fire with fire and designate the drug cartels as "terrorist organizations." He is ready to assist Mexico with military force. President Obrador asserted that elevated violence to meet the current threat is not the solution for his people and asked that President Trump stay his terrorist declaration.
While crisis stakeholders are primed to attack the symptom and demand that drug cartels be wiped out, President Obrador is focused on solving the cause of the systemic problems which have culminated and escalated into the current series of events. He has received much criticism from those who do not understand his strategy or who simply don't have the patience to see it come to fruition.
Informational Insights: 'Hugs, not bullets'
The following article was published by USA Today, "a multi-platform news and information media company." It was written by freelance journalist David Agren, special correspondent to USA Today from Mexico City.
MEXICO CITY – While successfully campaigning across the country last year, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador coined catchy slogans for solving the country’s security situations. “Hugs, not bullets,” he repeated often. “You can’t fight fire with fire!” he would say. “Scholarship students, not sicarios!”
The slogans spoke to López Obrador’s call for moral renewal and combating what he considers the root cause of crime and violence: corruption and poverty. Eleven months into his administration, however, Mexico’s homicide rate continues racing to record levels. The ambush of three carloads of women and children in northern Sonora state marked the most recent spasm of violence.
In the wake of the Sonora slayings – which claimed the lives of three women and six children – López Obrador has doubled down on his discourse of changing security strategies, while pinning Mexico’s problems with violence on his unpopular predecessors.
“These are issues that come from a long way back,” he said at a news conference Wednesday, “which were worsened by a strategy of wanting to resolve things only with the use of force.”
An austere figure with a slow-speaking style who works 16-hour days and tours the country tirelessly – taking commercial flights – the man commonly called "AMLO" has proved popular. His approval rating hovers around 65%. He speaks of inheriting “a country in flames” and often reminds Mexicans of his unpopular predecessors, casually comparing them to organized crime – “the Mafia in power,” he previously called them – and speaking of his political opponents as doing more damage to Mexico than drug cartels.
His message found a receptive audience in Mexico, where inequality is rife and fatigue with corruption and the elite’s excesses fueled López Obrador's electoral success. In interviews in the western state of Jalisco, organized crime expert Edgardo Buscaglia says he has found people in crime-ridden areas who essentially confess, “We know the Jalisco cartel does damage, but it doesn’t do worse damage than corrupt politicians and businessmen who are with the government.”
Vast stretches of the country seemingly exist on the periphery of Mexican society and see a scant state presence – including the fundamentalist communities in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains near the U.S. border with Arizona and New Mexico that were founded by offshoots of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Residents of the fundamentalist community of Colonia LeBarón donated a building and land for a Federal Police base – and help pay the officers’ salaries – after an anti-crime activist, Benjamín LeBarón, was murdered in 2009, said Brent LeBarón, a relative of the victim.
They also learned to live alongside warring drug cartels: identifying themselves to gunmen at checkpoints, staying off lonely roads at night and steering clear of shootouts.
“Obviously, they’re fighting over turf and access to roads and getting their drugs to the border,” LeBarón told USA TODAY.
But LeBarón cited another factor driving the violence: a strategy of killing or capturing cartel kingpins.
“When a head man gets caught or killed or someone else replaces him,” he said, “that’s when they see a weak point and try to take over turf.”
Such internal squabbling erupted in western Sinaloa state after the 2016 arrest of Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who now sits in a U.S. prison cell.
But Mexico's weakness and the apparent lack of a security strategy was shown last month. Soldiers nabbed El Chapo’s son, Ovidio Guzmán Lopez, but were forced to release him after sicarios blocked roads in the city of Culiacán with burning vehicles and unleashed chaos. Critics accused López Obrador of allowing criminals to cow the state, but he insisted he avoided a bloodbath.
“There’s no longer a war against narcotics traffickers,” he told reporters Oct. 30. “We’re not going to expose the lives of civilians, using the euphemism of collateral damage. That’s over.”
Mexico’s runaway violence has increasingly captured U.S. scrutiny. And López Obrador's discourse of “hugs, not bullets” has come under criticism, too, as U.S. politicians muse openly about military intervention.
“Hugs, not bullets. That may work in a children's fairy tale," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told Fox News this week. "But in the real world ... the only thing that can counteract bullets is more and bigger bullets. If the Mexican government cannot protect American citizens in Mexico, then the United States may have to take matters into our own hands.”
President Donald Trump – who has lauded López Obrador as “the great new President of Mexico” – also weighed in, tweeting, “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth.”
Further U.S. intervention is a nonstarter for many in Mexico. López Obrador also dismissed the notion on Thursday, saying Mexico would act on its own.
Analysts say the U.S. government has been working in Mexico for the better part of a decade, but the crime and killings continue as security strategies fall short and Mexico fails to strengthen its institutions or enforce the rule of law.
“Those notions of stepping up military presence in Mexico or betting on military solutions stems from a complete misreading of recent history in the sense of it has increased violence, it has made things worse rather than better,” said Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst for the International Crisis Group.
The United States has been involved “both in designing and carrying out Mexican security strategy over the past administrations,” along with “capture and kill operations, extraditions – including ‘El Chapo’” – and collaborations between the Drug Enforcement Administration and Mexican Navy, Ernst said.
But they’ve “failed to build institutions in the aftermath of weakening criminal organizations and haven’t addressed the most fundamental question, which is corruption and collusion.”
For all of this talk of changing course on security and moral renewal – López Obrador often invokes Christianity and cites Scripture, practices previously scorned in Mexican politics – the president has often turned to the military.
He created a new militarized police known as the National Guard, which was mostly staffed by soldiers and supplants the Federal Police. The guard’s first deployment, however, has been to stop Central American migrants trying to transit the country. Barely 4,000 guard members are assigned to Sonora and Chihuahua – where the fundamentalists came under attack Monday – compared to more than 6,800 members stationed in southern Oaxaca and Chiapas state, which are transited by migrants.
The current approach doesn’t adequately dismantle criminal structures or address issues such as the cartels infiltrating politics, analysts say.
“The militarization of Mexico has been a causal factor (of the violence) and has only tossed gasoline on the fire,” said Buscaglia, senior research scholar in Law and Economics at Columbia Law School and an adviser to governments on combating organized crime.
“Mexico has never had an anti-Mafia strategy. Mexico always continued speaking of a public security strategy, which it also doesn’t have.”
This article originally appeared in USA TODAY: ‘Hugs, not bullets’: Mexican security strategy increasingly scrutinized in wake of massacre
Possibilities of Consideration: Cure the Cause, Not the Symptom
Many are eager to point fingers and "launch the attack," but that short-term reaction will only perpetuate the poverty and unrest that Mexico's people face and end countless lives in the process. President Obrador knows this. He know that we could eliminate every last drug cartel leader and member, burn down every production farm and factory, and the problem will remain. More will spring up to take their places. More drug "families" will assemble and rise to power.
The cartels are not to blame. This fact is supported by simple economics.
The state of poverty in Mexico is a result of a long corrupt government and a string of public officials that took advantage of the people. That is a principle cause of the cartels rising to power. If there were more and better ways to be prosperous in Mexico then drug production would not be so widely sought as a means of subsistence. If there was a national culture of solidarity, the youth could have strength of community, build commerce, and would not need to turn to organized crime to climb out of poverty.
America is the other principle offender in the creation of the drug cartels; and I'm not talking about gun trafficking or border policy. If there wasn't such an incredible demand for drugs in America, then there would be no reason for them to be created in the first place. No market, no product. Think of tape cassettes or VHS. If there was a national culture of solidarity, Americans could turn to each other for help and build a strength of community, rather than escaping into their addictions.
Cultures in every country are experiencing similar challenges. The people are lost, afraid and ANGRY. They no longer hear the wisdom of elders because they have been conditioned to not trust people, especially those older than them. They instead trust what the see online, and find only opinion and propaganda. They have learned look to others to solve their problems rather than making the change within themselves.
Unfortunately, the people cannot change. They fear and strike out at things that are different. They don't understand different, they don't want to. They are divided and desperately teeter back and forth from a state of seething anger to hopeless apathy.
What Can I Do? Why Bother?
"There's nothing I can do about it, so why bother?" This should be the national slogan for the citizens of many nations, including America. Technology, influence and the power of a few has been used to strip them of their:
- Authority – the ability to make a thoughtful decision
- Responsibility – an understanding of the impact of their decision
- Accountability – the ability to examine the decision made and accept the results, thus learning and becoming better able to make the next decision
The younger generation appear to personify the problem much more than their elders, but where do you think they acquired the dysfunction from? With scores of failed revolutionary ideas for education, cultural invigoration and responsible governance crushed beneath our feet like dead leaves it is easy to become hopeless and wonder if our problems can ever be repaired.
The people are trapped in a world of fear, blinded by anger and lost in their false egos. They cannot change, because they don't know what must be changed nor do they know how to change it. People must be guided to having the experience of change and join an environment that supports the change to make it stick.
Implementing Change that Sticks
A very wise man once told me that the best way to remove a splinter is to push it out the opposite direction from the way it came in. The solution to our collective problems is really quite simple. If the traits of Authority, Responsibility and Accountability have been stolen away from the people, we simply need to restore them. However, defining the problem and the complementary answer only gets us halfway there. The solution must be deliverable, transferable and scalable in order to be implementable.
Without the ability to implement change, then no matter how ingenious the solution is, things will only go back to the way they were before. The problem will return. If only the people of both nations (US & Mexico) had access to a learning process that delivered individual and collective cultural change.
To fix our problems we must first fix our cultures. To fix our cultures we must institute a means of instilling a readiness for change in individuals and collective groups. To create cultures responsive to change we must have a platform that reaches beyond those who seek to control the solution, so it can be trusted and owned by the people using it - the principle stakeholders.
Such a platform would need to raise the individual and collective Adaptive Intelligence (AdI) of the the people using it. AdI is the skill within that allows us to see that a change is needed, to identify what must be changed (the answer) and to then know how to implement the answer as a lasting solution. To be a lasting solution the change must be self-fueling, self-regulating and self-perpetuating.
A Platform as a Partnership for Change
For the last 25 years, Awareness Communication Technology, LLC (AwareComm®) has applied it's cultural solution in the field with businesses, organizations and schools. The technology, methodology, human understanding and data science at the foundation of AwareComm's platform as a partnership assesses and raises the Adaptive Intelligence (AdI) in individuals and teams.
AwareComm's platform delivers a learning process that has been proven to work for institutionalized men, students, teachers, the homeless, corporate executives, battered women, drug and alcohol addicts, veterans and more. This learning process gently wakens people, allowing them to see reality. It restores their ability to see what is right, so they will know what is wrong and provides a universal set of principles and models by which to guide their thinking and behavior.
In order for the change to stick, the environment in which the problem lives and thrives must change. Considering how we face community cultural problems, the approach to solving them must reach the whole community. AwareComm® partners with organizations of all types to create alliances between nonprofits and business to deliver socially responsible culture change at a community level.
AwareComm's platform as a partnership restores the power of self-governance to people, empowering them to take charge of their lives, thus taking charge of their workplaces and communities, thus taking charge of their cultures which results in change that sticks.
If AwareComm's solution to widespread community cultural challenges has your interest peaked, then fill out the Socratic conversation below, or visit AwareComm.com to learn more.
Add Your Insight
Take a moment and examine…
- As you reviewed the material above, what stood out to you?
- What is the potential impact, economically and/or socially?
- What action is needed to stop or support this idea?
- You may want to consider whether you:
- want to be aware of,
- should become supportive of,
- would want to be active in this topic?
I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Being willing is not enough; we must do.
LEONARDO DA VINCI