Peña playing weak defense on Guerrero

GuerreroThe appalling level of violence, corruption and impunity in the state of Guerrero was outed last year, and with very little resolved in the case of the 43 students kidnapped and disappeared, protests over the government’s inaction are now out of hand. When the story of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa made headlines around the world, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s tepid-to-none response suggested that either 1) he really didn’t care, or 2) he just didn’t have any idea of how to respond. Now, as gangs of armed civilians absolutely run amok in the state, it is more than clear that the government led by Peña really has no idea what to do, they appear to be helpless, and they also still may not care. That’s how bad this is.

In the weeks following the disapparance of the students, groups of protestors reported to be teachers, student teachers and family members of the kidnapping victims have destroyed government vehicles and set fire to government buildings in Iguala and the state capital of Chilpancingo, in addition to a range of other types of destruction. Over 200 commercial freight and delivery trucks have been siezed and pillaged by the protestors in recent weeks, according to the Business Federation of the Mexican Republic (Coparmex). All of this has been met with little or no response by authorities, who continue to insist that there is no crisis of governability in the state or the country. This utter abdication of responsibility is dangerous and disgraceful.

Among many other problems the situation in Guerrero represents for the current government, they now must decide whether scheduled local elections can actually be carried out in the state in June. One of the protesting groups has already announced, for its part, that it will prevent the elctions from taking place. The position of the National Electoral Institute (INE) has been evolving in recent days as the situation in Guerrero deteriorates, and INE head Lorenzo Córdova is choosing his words carefully in stating that the organization is evaluating the situation, but that current conditions do not lend themselves to the holding of elections.

June local elections in the equally chaotic state of Michoacán are being called into question as well, and frankly, they might want to throw Oaxaca into the mix for good measure. Local media have pointed out that no scheduled election has been cancelled in Mexico since 1917. Authorities seem to be trying to downplay the importance of “adjusting the timetable” for the elections, but they know, and we know, that the significance of cancelling scheduled elections due to ingovernability would be huge. Internally, this would be a major admission by authorities that they are losing control of portions of the country. This may not bother President Peña, since his actions suggest he is interested only in the perception of Mexio among foreign investors. But alas, cancelling state elections would send a devastating message to the rest of the world. Perhaps no one in Washington is paying attention outside of the odd policy staffer assigned to Latin American affairs. But the European capitals that count will take due note, and that is what is really going to hurt.

We hope that things settle down in Guerrero, the perpetrators of the Ayotzinapa kidnappings are brought to justice, order is restored, and the elections are held as scheduled in June. But we are not counting on it. The government is playing with real fire now, and if it does not snap out of its malaise and take responsibility for the situation in Guerrero, the country as a whole will get burned perhaps worse than we have seen up until now.

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