We’ve got it pretty good here. The water runs when I turn the faucet. When I’m hungry, I eat. The cops are mostly honest and the government mostly runs the army and not the other way around.
No one was surprised that they shot a man in Mexico the other day.
No one was surprised that he was a journalist. They shoot journalists all the time in Mexico.
Journalism is one of the institutions we purport to revere in the United States. Journalism is supposed to save us from government abuse. From tyranny, and corruption. Journalism is supposed to look over the shoulders of politicians and government officials, to challenge them to be honest and wise, to make sure that they’re not criminals, or in league with criminals.
His name was Javier Valdez Cárdenas. He was the founder of the newspaper Riodoce, in Culiacan, Sinaloa. Sinaloa is the birthplace of cartels. The upper echelons of most of the Drug Trafficking Organizations (as they’re called in the crime fighting bureaucracies) are all interrelated. By blood. By marriage. And most go back no more than a generation to Sinaloa.
The curious thing in Mexico is that most of the journalists murdered aren’t murdered by traficantes. Most journalists are murdered by corrupt politicians.
The traficantes can hide. They can go to the mountains, or to the ranch. To Belize, or South America, or Europe. They can hide in gated communities. They can build discos in their houses, and get whatever they want delivered. They can have a dozen wives and scores of children. And they don’t have to hide from the government, because they own the politicians.
But the politicians have to show a public face. Their names are the names that get named. The politicos can’t run. They can’t hide. They eat the crumbs off the drug dealers’ tables, and then go back to their public lives. The politicians can’t afford a chalet in the Alps, or an estate in the country, or a ranch in the sierra.
Politicians are public figures with public faces. They get elected by being known. They keep their jobs by being known. Unless they’re known as corrupt.
When the politicians are threatened with exposure, they kill the messenger.
I don’t know who killed Javier Valdez Cárdenas. I don’t know who killed Miroslava Breach Velducea in March in Chihuahua. I don’t know who, exactly, killed the other journalists recently murdered in Mexico. But I know which way the water runs. I know what the iguana eats.
The drug dealers aren’t afraid of being exposed. They flaunt their status. They drive camionetas del año, and wear ropa de marca. They want to be respected. They want to be feared.
But the politicians just want to be left alone.