Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, March 26, 2012

Is extortion part of civil society?

If corruption has grown 180% in everyday life, what's happening in politics?

In Mexico, extortion is a booming offshoot of drug war
From mom-and-pop businesses to mid-size construction projects to some of Mexico's wealthiest citizens, almost every segment of the economy and society has been subjected to extortion schemes, authorities and records indicate. Even priests aren't safe.

Extortionists have shut entire school systems, crippled real estate developments, driven legions of entrepreneurs into hiding or out of the country…

Extortion has grown as the largest drug-trafficking cartels consolidate power, leaving many of the smaller groups searching for new sources of revenue.

And it is a crime that feeds on the climate of fear that the drug war has created across wide swaths of Mexico. Anyone can pretend to be a member of the notorious Zeta criminal gang, for example, and easily make money off the target's panic. There is no overhead and little risk for the extortionist…

Bribe-paying has always been a part of Mexican society. But it is only within the context of the drug war that outright extortion has exploded, in part because perpetrators could emulate ruthless traffickers. Security experts trace the sudden surge in extortion to 2008, when a crime until then largely limited to Mexico City spread across the nation…

Although complete figures are hard to come by because of the underreporting, the National Citizens' Observatory, a group that compiles crime statistics, estimates that extortion has soared by 180% in the last decade…

A study last year by the Bank of Mexico found that more than 60% of Mexican businesses said they had been hurt by the national climate of lawlessness, with extortion counting as one of the prime factors. Production losses totaled 1.2% of gross domestic product, the study found…

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2 Comments:

At 8:57 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

Lisa Schalla writes from the American School of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico:

As a AP Comp Gov. teacher living in Mexico, I can testify to this type of extortion and its effect on families here on the west coast.  My husband and I - both educators in an international school - live outside of town in a small village where most people either have a family business or work in town.  In the past year, several businesses have closed - the ones we know about are a successful family hardware store and two very popular family restaurants, all on the side of the highway going into town. We are told that they were approached by one of the conflicting cartels in the area and that if they did not pay them a certain amount each month for "protection," that their families would be in danger, so they just closed down. It's been tragic to see hard-working people victimized by the cartels.

I might add that this is not new in Mexico nor are the territorial conflicts between drug cartels. Today is an example of the escalation of the violence AND the news coverage of it.

Perhaps two questions, then for Comparative Gov/Pol classes - first, what is the role of freedom of the media in such cases? There have been reports of restrictions of media, but what about when violence and mayhem is the ONLY news being reported internationally about a country? Second, what will happen to the cartel/government/military situation after elections, particularly if the PRI comes into power again? Will they resort to their traditional strategy of negotiating with the cartels for peace and at the expense of any progress in the "drug war" thus far? Some interesting times ahead...

 
At 7:26 AM, Blogger Carmen said...

Interesting, albeit tragic, topic and comment. I'm gearing up to teach AP Comp for next year at the Escuela Americana in El Salvador. Having lived here for 16 years, I can say that the climate feels similar here as well, although I don't have our stats. We have just come through reports that the government had been negotiating with the gangs in the prisons.

 

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