In Mexico human rights, as well as people, are disappearing day-by-day, reaching a new record in the scale of abuses. In this series of articles The Prisma sheds light on five cases of political repression hidden by the narco-narrative during the Mexican War on Drugs.
“A cock that doesn’t sing has something in its throat”. (Mexican saying)
The War on Drugs started in 2006 under the presidency of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa as an attempt to defeat drug cartels, which had become more and more powerful in Mexico.
The main tactic adopted by President Calderón was an increase in the militarisation of the state, through financial support from the US under the Merida Initiative. However, since its birth, the conflict became a controversial topic of discussion, as between 2007 and 2016, more than 200,000 drug-related deaths have been recorded and 28,000 people reported as disappeared.
Regardless of the rigid anti-cartel agenda undertaken by President Calderón, the level of narco-violence increased by the end of his mandate in 2012.
One major contradiction embedded in the nature of the conflict is that violence has been mainly directed towards civilians, leading to a crisis of human rights.
Violations include practices such as torture, arbitrary detentions and forced disappearance by the police or military force towards civilians.
Additionally, often, such abuses are undocumented, with an estimation of 97% of the cases where investigations were not properly carried out or stayed unresolved, as pointed out by Molloy in 2013.
In 2012, when Enrique Peña Nieto started his presidency, the militarisation of Mexico, and the level of violence deployed against its population, increased. This turned the War on Drugs into a space of exception, where normal laws are suspended and the state holds the monopoly of violence.
Forced disappearance became one of the core elements of the conflict, with more than 27,000 cases registered in 2016.
“Beyond Narcos” is a series of six articles through which The Prisma aims to tell a different version of the War on Drugs, as cartels will not be included in the story. To undermine the dominant image of the conflict built by the mass-media, where the state is combatting evil drug-lords, the series illustrates five cases of political repression, classified by the same mass media as casualties of narco-violence.
Each of the cases shows how the victims disappeared because of their ideals, and sheds light on the blurred line separating state bodies from the criminal organisations they are meant to eliminate.
The first episode will be about the forced disappearance of journalists, undermining the freedom of expression; the second case looks at the 43 students from Ayotzinapa and the right to protest.
Following these, the case of Ciudad Cuauhtémoc will show how the mass media makes the desaparecidos disappear a second time as it fails to provide critical information.
The fourth case investigates the violation of both indigenous rights and political activism with the forced disappearance of members of the Tzeltal community in Chiapas.
Lastly, the disappearance of 14 members of the Autodefensas of Michoacán State will highlight the corrosion of the right of social mobilisation.