Narco violence gets most of the headlines in Mexico, but state violence continues to be just as deadly, and the high degree of criminal infiltration into the institutions of the Mexican state sometimes makes it difficult to tell the difference. The recent murders of a courageous investigative reporter and an outspoken sociology professor drive home this difficulty.
There is some disagreement in Mexico as to whether the state and civil society are engaged in a tough battle against organized crime, or whether organized crime has so permeated these institutions that it is no longer a separate entity. The emergence of a group called the Mata Zetas (Zeta Killers) that has sworn to rid Mexico of its most brutal criminal predators, the Zetas, but which has strong and acknowledged links to rival criminal groups, has brought this argument to a head.
Every year some 400,000 undocumented Central Americans cross Mexico trying to make their way to a better life in the United States. Most of them successfully make the trip, but many die, disappear, or are kidnapped en route. As they pass through Mexico they frequently encounter great brutality, but they also meet with great humanity.
Last Tuesday, in broad daylight, 35 bodies were dumped around the city of Veracruz. All the bodies had a Z painted on their torsos, presumably indicating membership in Mexico’s most brutal and vicious criminal gang, the Zetas. The Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel took responsibility for the killings, and is presenting itself as a paramilitary force, fighting alongside “the people.” What is happening is ominous, as the militarization of the drug war is spawns competing armies.