How does one defeat an enemy who is more prepared, more ruthless, and awash in the cash necessary to buy the best weapons, surveillance and people? This is the conundrum faced today by Mexico's government and people as the bloody fight between and against the cartels has escalated into a gruesome war. In September and October, more people were murdered in Tijuana than in the same period in Baghdad (which, aside from the obvious factor of war, is also four times the size of Tijuana). This brings the total to more than 4,000 souls so far in 2008. Almost daily, the media reports the discovery of headless, tongue-less or liquefied corpses and high-profile assassinations are executed with audacity and impunity. What would have once been labeled paranoia or a conspiracy theory now seems more like common sense.
The crash of the small plane carrying Interior Minister, Juan Camilo Mourizo, onto Mexico City's elegant thoroughfare, Reforma, has been ruled an accident by the authorities, but this hasn't tamed the suspicions running wild in the population at large. It would seem almost more incredible for human error to have been responsible for a death that cries murder to citizens accustomed to both drug-related assassinations and government cover-ups.
As this situation becomes more desperate, citizens and policymakers are left wondering where else to turn. The title of a recent column in the Mexico City daily, Milenio, seems to capture the nation's weary and incredulous zeitgeist -- como podemos vivir asi? (How can we live like this?) The most recent novel by venerable 80 year-old Mexican intellectual and novelist, Carlos Fuentes, centers on a character who becomes the year's 1,000th victim of decapitation (he wrote it just before decapitated corpses began turning up in the southern coastal state of Guerrero in 2006). Fuentes commented with his customary eloquence and flair for the foreboding: "We want to be writers, but we've been turned into prophets."