In drug-war torn Reynosa, Mexico, a large statue of a rooster has appeared on a busy roadside. The ten-foot sculpture is adorned with a flower wreath addressed to the memory of a murdered leader of the Gulf Cartel, Samuel Flores-Borrego, gunned down on the road to Monterrey in September of last year. The monument has its own power supply, as well as lights that illuminate it at night. Local governments have made no comment on the statue’s provenance nor on who might be paying to keep the lights on.
Reynosa has found itself a hotspot of some of the drug war’s most apocalyptic violence during the past several years. As the various cartel factions have fought amongst each other for the transport rights to the lucrative Laredo point of entry, the body count has shot through the roof. More than 47,500 are estimated killed across Mexico since the violence began in earnest in 2006, and some say that’s a low guess- 55,000 or even 60,000 might be more accurate. The culture of impunity and ultraviolence is having a transformative effect on Mexico, and on the youth who are at the heart of the whirlwind. The rise of musical phenomena like El Movimiento Alterado show how comprehensively the dreams of power and brutality have reached into the popular culture. Impunity is a sweet and potent potion, a black magic of invulnerability, and the idol-worship of the increasingly bizarre and ritualistic tactics of murder and mutilation employed by the cartels and their affiliated legions is a result of that appeal.
Violence is something that the US exports, wholesale, and nowhere is this more true than in Mexico. What’s different in the drug war is that the violence is outsourced just as were the factory jobs. NAFTA opened the continent to the free flow of capital and gods, but explicitly forbade the penetration of violence from the new drug war into the US. Nowhere has this been more visible in the last few years than in Ciudad Juarez, until recently the world’s most violent city- sitting just across the river from El Paso, the 2nd safest city of its size in the US. The drugs flow into the US, and the cash and weaponry brandished by the cartels flood back into Mexico. That the most frenzied carnage has been occurring during a period of global financial instability is very significant: a lot of that current of raw cash is filtering through the system, propping up the very financial institutions that were the cause of the crisis.
So much for free trade.