Things That Matter

Hoping To Stop The Drug War, Mexico’s President Asks Drug Cartel Leaders To ‘Think Of Your Mother’

Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador came out with an appeal recently to the country’s cartels to think about their mamás. And, if we’re really honest, it almost sounded like the kind of lecture we’d suffer from our own mamás if we decided to act up. But, unlike the earful we get from our mamás, it seems unlikely that Lopez Obrador’s speech is going to create the guilt trip it needs to, in order to get Mexico’s cartels to clean up their act.

Okay, tell us what AMLO’s impression of a mamá-lecture sounds like.

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During what was a relatively routine kind of visit at the Tula rural hospital in southwestern Tamaulipas on Saturday, Lopez Obrador commented on recent gang violence. “They are in the wrong, it shouldn’t be like this, I call on them to find other things to do, to think about themselves, their families, their mothers: they know how much their mothers suffer because of the sublime love they have for their children, and they need to think about that,” he said to the locals.

But to be fair, it’s not all the President said.

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And, okay, he didn’t just say that and then that was the end of it. Lopez Obrador’s comments were part of a larger statement about crime and violence in the state of Tamaulipas. While he didn’t make any specific statements about what and whose violence he found most concerning, it was implied that the biggest challenge on the horizon has appeared in the form of the Cartel del Noreste – a splinter group formed from the Los Zetas cartel. “To hell with crime,” Lopez Obrador said. “It’s gross! Disgusting!”

So what’s the Cartel del Noreste been doing that’s got everyone so worked up?

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It was only a week ago reports had surfaced that gas stations towards the north of Tamaulipas were refusing to fill the tanks of army and police vehicles. The reason? Cartel del Noreste had threatened to attack any service stations that sold gas to the military and police. At the time of writing, the debacle is being investigated as a criminal case of refusal of service, with authorities seeking to address the issue without punishing the gas stations themselves.

Recently, cartels have stepped up their violent attacks – including ones on the police and military.

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The incident is only the latest that’s come from the cartels operating in the area. In fact, gang members have been responsible for direct attacks on army bases and patrols. It’s not uncommon for the cartels to wear counterfeit military uniforms, travel in large convoys, drive armored trucks and even redirect traffic, mimicking military activity. Believe it or not, in some areas of Tamaulipas, the cartels have set up their own surveillance systems in the streets in order to monitor the activities of local officials. Ultimately, while it’s great to see Lopez Obrador publicly putting his voice behind the authorities, gang activity has become considerably sophisticated

Surely AMLO doesn’t think that his speech is going to make that much of a difference to what’s been happening?

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At this stage, it’s a little late in the piece to start lecturing gang members on their activities, and bringing their mothers, of all people, into the conversation. If the cartels were that concerned about the effect their illicit activities were going to have on their mamás, then they wouldn’t be involved in the scene in the first place. And in all frankness, it’s more likely that the gang members stay in the cartels because they would be more afraid of retribution from gangs for trying to leave, than potential punishment from the government, should they choose to stay.

Many feel the President was trying to make a point that his administration doesn’t condone crime.

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Unfortunately, it would seem that Lopez Obrador is most likely making these comments to try and drive home the message that his administration doesn’t condone crime. It was only a few days beforehand that he was publicly talking about how the current administration has eliminated corruption within the government … since he’s come under fire for not doing enough to lower the crime rate in Mexico. However, it is worth noting that part of the reason why authorities are having issues cracking down on gang violence is because of the threat of violence against the officials friends and loved ones. And, of course, the kind of stunts that see businesses refusing to deal with authorities for fear of attracting attention from the likes of Cartel de Noreste. 

In the grand scheme of things, though, it is vital that gang violence be addressed within Mexico – and not just for the sanity of the locals. After all, plenty of places around Mexico are now responsible for holding asylum seekers while they wait to have their case heard by the US judicial system. The rise in gang violence is not only threatening the safety of Mexicans, but refugees alike.

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