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As news of U.S. Special Forces’ targeted killing of Osama Bin Laden was broadcast around the world, netizens in Mexico tweeted and blogged their responses to this signal event in the “war on terror.” Tellingly, in the vast majority of cases their language invoked the “war on drugs” that has been imposed on them by their own government since 2006. With the tactical deployment of analysis, analogies, irony and hashtags, Mexicans put their own indelible stamp on an event with global ramifications.
On Twitter, users based in Mexico telegraphed the relevance of Bin Laden and the U.S.-led “war on terror” to their own troubled circumstances. Abraham SC (@abraham_360), for example, drew a crisp analogy with Joaquín Guzmán Loera, head of the Sinaloa drug cartel.
#OsamaBinLaden es para USA lo que para #Mexico lo es el #ChapoGuzman
Speculating on the temporal horizons involved, Victor Girón (@victor_giron) posed an open question.
Si #EUA se tardo 10 anos en capturar a #OsamabinLaden, Cuanto tiempo tardara #Mexico en capturar a los mas buscados traficantes de #mx
Es oficial, #osamabinladen esta muerto! Ojala y en #Mexico tuvieramos un objetivo tan claro.
Que coincidencia que matan a #OsamaBinLaden cuando #Obama inicia su campana de reeleccion y en #Mexico a quien matarian!!!????
A tweet by Alex Alan (@alan_weasley), saturated in black humor, made tacit reference to the mass graves recently unearthed in Tamaulipas state.
A #OsamaBinLaden lo encontraron descuartizado en una fosa en San Fernando, eso de la mansion en Pakistan es puro pedo! 😉 #mexico #tampico
The government here, at the behest of the United States, targeted – and killed – any number of supposedly indispensable men in generic evil-doing business. While there’s a tendency to give these groups inappropriate names like “cartels,” or ridiculously inflated bureaucratic terms like “Transnational Criminal Organizations,” the Mexican fight has been against a known – and not all that complicated – an enemy: gangsters.
Every time some “drug king-pin” has been blown away we’re told it’s an incredible victory for the government and the “war on drugs”… and the result is more violence, more mayhem.[…]
The U.S. has supposedly been waging not a war on Al Qaida, but a “war on terror” – the abstract noun that may have on[c]e referred specifically to Bin Laden’s organization, and by extension similar armed ideological movements, but has proven elastic enough to cover nearly any organized violent resistance to the status quo.[…]
What frankly scares quite a number of people here is not that the criminals might “win,” but that the state will lose legitimacy. Or, that in its infinite expansion of the “war on terror,” the United States will drop the pretense of “cooperation” and simply intervene directly in this country. Which, of course, would lead to resistance, which would be labeled “terrorism,” which would require more intervention….
A day after news of Bin Laden’s death was broadcast, Blog El 5antuario [es] published the post “En Mexico se le presta mas atencion al asesinato de osama bin laden que a cualquier asesinato en mexico” (”In Mexico more attention is paid to the murder of Osama Bin Laden than to any murder in Mexico”). Writing anonymously, the blogger began with an anecdote, and wound up with an argument for the singularity of the Mexican instance.
Hoy paso la peor estupidez en la television mexicana, en Televisa transmitian el programa pequenos gigantes todo iba bien era una transmision normal cuando interrumpen transmisiones (me imagino que todas las televisoras paso lo mismo) para decir “Osama Bin Ladin ha muerto.” OK ustedes diran, “bueno pues es Bin Laden.” pero sinceramente, cuantas personas mueren a diario en Mexico? sinceramente yo quisiera que cada vez que asesinan a un mexicano, ya sea sicario, narco, violador, soldado, policia federal, policia municipal, o simplemente una persona que simplemente iba pasando por la calle y le toco fuego cruzado (ya ven como pasan las cosas aqui en Mexico) quisiera que cada vez que muere un mexicano interrumpieran la programacion de Televisa, TV azteca y dijeran “hoy asesinaron a 10 mexicanos” y dedicaran por lo menos 1 minuto de atencion en los noticieros, pero lamentablemente todos sabemos que eso nunca va a pasar, gracias a iniciativa [Merida] es mas importante la muerte de una persona que la muerte de 10, 20, 30 o hasta 100 Mexicanos, lamentablemente esto pasa solo en Mexico. Por eso es mas recomendable buscar la verdadera informacion en Internet.
This post is part of our special coverage The Death of Osama Bin Laden.
In my most recent post for Global Voices, reproduced below, I look at an example of the ways in which Mexicans are taking to citizen media to redeploy the language used by governments, the military and the mainstream media for their own critical purposes. On Twitter, Mexican tweeps are savvy in their exploitation of the user-generated convention of the hashtag: in this example, #estadofallido, which signals a range of responses to the idea, or topos, of Mexico as an actual or potential “failed state.”
A feature article by political historian David Rieff , published in the online edition of The New Republic on March 17, 2011, provides a rich yet succinct context for the genesis of the idea or topos of Mexico as an actual and certainly a potential “failed state.” Its epic title, “The Struggle for Mexico,” is followed by an interrogative subtitle that raises a question that has been pending since late 2008: “Its present is grim, its future uncertain – but is it a failed state?”
From a diplomatic point of view, the U.S. military’s Joint Forces Command did the incoming Obama administration no favors with the stark warning it issued in November 2008. In its annual evaluation of the threats America’s armed forces were likely to face in the future, it declared that, “[i]n terms of worst-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico.”
Not surprisingly, this didn’t sit well with the Mexican government of Felipe Calderón. And so, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose references to U.S.-Mexico relations during her Senate confirmation hearings had been so perfunctory as to be nonexistent in political terms, was obliged to make a trip to Mexico City in March 2009 to smooth relations between the two governments. This was followed the next month with a visit to Mexico City by President Obama himself. Jorge Castañeda, Mexico’s former foreign minister, quipped at the time that Calderón “wants to hear [Obama] say that Mexico was never a failed state, is not a failed state today, and even in their deepest, darkest fears will never, ever be a failed state.”
Flash-forward two years. “Buggs,” a founder of the popular blog Borderland Beat, which reports on drug violence from both sides of the border, picks up the thread and posts an article from the EFE news agency dated March 27, 2011.
President Felipe Calderon said in an interview published Sunday by the Spanish daily El Pais that Mexico was not a failed state and blamed the United States for the illegal flow of arms into his country. Calderon said he regretted the fact that the matter of referring to Mexico as a failed state appeared in a U.S. government report.
In Mexico, the meme has been adopted as the title of the blog Estado Fallido [es] (Failed State), whose mission statement reads:
Este blog nace por la necessidad de ofrecer una cronica periodistica de la ingobernabilidad, la desbordada crisis de seguridad nacional y la Guerra que vive Mexico.
Intelectuales, academicos y columnistas aun debaten si Mexico es o no es Estado Fallido. Lo cierto es que algunas regiones del pais han caido en la ingobernabilidad absoluta.
This blog was born from the need to offer a journalistic chronicle of the lawlessness, the spiraling national security crisis and the War that Mexico is experiencing.
Intellectuals, academics and columnists are still debating whether Mexico is or is not a Failed State. What is certain is that some regions of the country have fallen into absolute lawlessness.
On Revoluciones Mexico – RMX, blogger Gregorio Ortega Molina posted on April 4, 2011, under the title “Mexico va que vuela para Estado fallido” (”Mexico is well on its way to become a failed state”).
La decomposicion social, la anomia de los gobiernos, la debilidad de las instituciones, el desorden y la impossibilidad de dar seguridad juridica y publica porque la violencia y la desconfianza desborden a las autoridades, son sintomas que permiten establecer un diagnostico: el modelo politico y economico de Mexico dio de si, y intentar la restauracion equivale a llamar a gritos la implosion de las fallas sistemicas y estructurales que afectan al Estado mexicano, para convertirlo en uno fallido.
Some commentators make the case that Mexico is emphatically not an #estadofallido (#failedstate). A post on the blog Burro Hall takes a pragmatic view:
While we continuously hear people refer to Mexico as a failed – or failing – state, no one here went to bed last night wondering if the government would still be functioning in the morning. (On the other hand, if that ever happened, 99% of the government workforce could easily be deemed nonessential.)
And writing under the title “En corto…sin cortes” [es] (”In short…without cuts”), columnist Jose Ortiz Medina provides a global framework for his argument against the “failed state” premise.
Veo lo que esta ocurriendo en Egipto, veo lo que esta ocurriendo en todo el Norte de Africa, veo lo que esta ocurriendo en Asia, veo lo que esta ocurriendo en Africa, veo lo que esta ocurriendo hace mucho tiempo en Somalia, veo lo que esta ocurriendo en algunos de nuestros paises en America Latina. En este pais todos los dias van a la escuela 36 millones de alumnus, puntualmente. El pais functiona. Tenemos poderes muy fuertes separados, independientes: el Ejecutivo, el Legislativo, el Judicial. Es un pais que tiene elecciones regulares. Se gana y se pierde; se debate muy fuerte, no se persigue la prensa. Hay absoluta libertad de publicar, de presenter todos los temas en un ambiente de libertad sin precedents en Mexico. […] La verdad es que Mexico esta realmente muy, muy lejos de ello.
On Twitter, the ubiquitous hashtag #estadofallido (#failedstate) conjoins a range of analysis and opinion. Materia FECAL (@kklderon) tweeted a link to a Facebook page bearing a powerful photo of starkly anti-Calderon graffiti.
Carlos Campos (@CarolvsCampi) used the hashtag to point to a relevant report in La Jornada [es] which quotes former Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva saying that violence in Mexico stems in part from a history of not paying attention to the poor.
Writing from the city Reynosa in the state of Tamaulipas in the aftermath of the latest discovery of mass graves in the region, Pablo Navarro (@DELREYII) took to Twitter to address his country’s president directly, signaling one among countless impacts of criminal violence on daily life in Mexico:
“Autobuses de pasajeros prefieron no cruzar por Tamaulipas y cancelan sus rutas” // @FelipeCalderon Sr. Presidente ke sigue #estadofallido
Twitter yielded the terrible news today: Mohammed Al Nabbous, brave and tireless founder of the Benghazi rebels’ widely-followed webcast “Libya Alhurra TV,” was killed by a sniper hours before the arrival of coalition-sponsored forces aiming to minimize civilian casualties in the eastern city. The following report appeared in Boing Boing later in the day at http://www.boingboing.net/2011/03/19/libya-mohammed-mo-al.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=fee Be sure to click on the links.
From currently available information, it appears Mo was killed in a firefight, while recording.
Mo created and operated the widely-viewed live video channel Al Hurra TV on Livestream, broadcasting raw footage and commentary from Benghazi, Libya.
Mohammad Nabbous was my primary contact in Libya, and the face of Libyan citizen journalism. And now he’s dead, killed in a firefight. A few hours ago he went out to record some more audio and was caught in a firefight. [Link]. Audio stops 6:30 into it. For several hours we heard rumors that he had been shot but we didn’t want to say anything until we knew for sure. And now I can’t stop thinking, what if those French planes began to arrive 12 hours ago. Would Mo be alive now? I just don’t know.
Nabbous’ wife, speaking on his Livestream channel earlier:
I need everyone to do as much as they can for this cause. They are still shooting. More people will die. Don’t let Mo’s life go in vain.
http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/Ecu_iWLn-rg?fs=1&hl=en_USThose last two links via Bilal at Al Jazeera, who writes: “Remember Mohammed Nabbous, known to all as Mo. His mission: to get the news about what’s happening in #Libya out to the world.” Bilal created a tribute to Mo here.
A heartbreaking and, it may be, irreplaceable loss. RIP.