Let it be known, I do not want to write this Op-Ed.
Covering the Lebaron massacre story, and moderating the over 1000 comments that followed has been eye-opening. Even to a long time narco-blogger such as myself.
I purposely posted reports from the U.S., Mexico and global contributions. I did this to provide differences in reporting, which I always find interesting.
The amount of racism, “whataboutisms”, Americans vs Mexicans, and now blame the victims are staggering.
First point of misinformation was the spin… “9 Americans killed by Mexican Cartel”.
OK, while technically correct, it is fundamentally incorrect. The Lebaron family is more Mexican citizen than American. One only has to understand that even after this tragedy, they are staying put, in their homeland of Mexico.
I saw two members of the Lebaron family giving interviews. I can’t recall one name but the other was Daniel. A question was asked of them if they would now move to “America”. Daniel seemed perplexed as to why one would ask such a question. “No. Mexico is our home, we have been here over 100 years.”
And that’s the focal point of my argument. The Lebaron family is more Mexican citizen than American.
No one is getting that element correct. “Dual citizens” would be accurate, if one must.
Blame the victim
Of the 1000 comments I received, 28 wrote in about the family’s history of violence, although I am sure the majority has heard of troubles in the family. Those comments were from outside Mexico, and many pointed to a 12 year old documentary.
I chose not to post those comments, and chose not to focus on any trouble the family had in the past with some of their members. I felt it was ill-timed, and unnecessary. I know that the Mexican government and narcos would love the attention to be shifted from them onto the bad history of some members of the Lebaron family.
A popular west coast newspaper chose to focus on the criminal element of some of the members.
Narcos want to know where to send the thank you flowers.
And at least 28 followers of Borderland Beat latched on to this aspect of the story giving narcos a pass.
Yet, from Mexico we received 2 dozen comments from those who know the family personally or live close to them, they hail Julian Lebaron as a good man, a humanitarian, working for the people’s land rights.
One such comment:
“My family is from Chihuahua not far from Galeana where the LeBaron family has a colony at. They are hardworking humble people I have personally met and interacted with many from their community. This was not La Linea because ALL of the heads of La Linea know and respect the family for their help and actions in the communities of that area. Either ways Mexico’s corrupt politicians will not let the U.S get involved because it will uncover a lot more than cartel activities. It will uncover lists and names of corrupt politicians. I agree with Trump on this one, you need a REAL military to take control because as sad as it is Mexico can’t or doesn’t want to deal with it.”
This is our time folks! World attention is on Mexico and the atrocities generated by organized crime, let’s not lose sight of this! We know these ghastly acts of violence happen on a regular basis in Mexico, Borderland Beat has faithfully reported as many as we could, but unless it is so monstrous, such as the 35 bodies dumped in Boca del Rio, Veracruz, it will not make the world stage.
By the way, the attorney general later said in an interview that those 35 were innocents unconnected to organized crime. Two men had minor offense records, one for stealing bricks.
They were used as props, they were easy pickings, compliant as the municipal police picked them up and delivered them to El Mencho’s CJNG enforcer group at the time calling themselves “Mata Zetas’ or Zeta killers.
It is much less messy for corrupt cops to pick up law abiding citizens for these showing kills. Shortly after the massacre, the entire force was terminated and the feds took over for a while.
However, if one looks for reporting the press outside Mexico, the reporting was not updated, or revised from the original premise of 35 Zetas killed and dumped in front of the World Trading Center.
I was stunned when Trump’ tweet to AMLO was sent to me.
But I was not surprised at AMLO’s reply, the president who thinks hugs not guns is the answer. For the record, he has implemented valuable programs, and I think it is only fair to give him his full term before judgement. BUT, I don’t think he will ever find another U.S. president willing to go hand and hand with Mexico to fight cartels.
It took me back to a time I was at my Coahuila office with my staff about 6 years ago. One of them asked me if it was true that the U.S. military was coming to Mexico to fight the narcos.
Apparently this was a rumor.
I said “No. That will never happen. Mexico is a sovereign nation, they would have to ask for help and then it would have to be approved in the U.S.”
She asked, “Why does Mexico have these problems and U.S. doesn’t?” (speaking in generalities of course)
I answered, “In my opinion, the absence of rule of law is directly related to the apathy of Mexico’s people. The populous accepts criminality as something that can’t be changed, thereby have insulated themselves by disinterest — unless it happens to their family.”
“In the U.S people care. People become involved. People are willing to die for our freedom and welfare of our nation.”
“I don’t see that in Mexico. That is perplexing to me; We Mexicans are big-hearted, warm and loving souls by nature. Yet want nothing to do with fighting the evil of the nation. Oh the dichotomy.”
I would like to interject a bit of nervous laughter was the response. No one said it was not true.
A book I read “Manana Forever?: Mexico and the Mexicans” it illustrates how everyday behavior is altered when a Mexican national comes to the U.S. That even small things, such as assuring trash is deposited in a trash receptacle, because it is the right and lawful thing to do. For the majority there is a mind shift— because it is expected.
“Just because they were white”
This is the complaint I received most often. And yes, there is some meat on that bone. History demonstrates little media interest in the victims of Mexico, but by placing the “American” label on the tragedy, and blonde, blue eyed faces, the story exploded.
However, one can’t lose sight of the prize. If you care about Mexico, care about the countless victims in Mexico, and the fact that narco violence is at an all-time high, and although he was not involved, that Mencho is the greatest security threat ever facing Mexico (I wrote this 5 years ago and not changed my opinion), and then we should welcome the attention, and grin and bear the flawed way that got us here.