Crime

Today we feature two contributions on crime. The first is from the blog Morelli84 called Crime and Crimen: do they intersect? The piece explores crime literature, the drug war, media, and terror & calls for looking at crime that goes beyond the spectacle reproduced daily around us. The whole piece is reprinted below. Second, we share the episode of radio program Against the Grain on the Mexican Drug War making headlines increasingly. The program seeks to understand the role of the Mexican state, international capital, and the relation of power in broader society to the drug industry and violence.

by Morelli84 (reposted by MAS)
Crime happens and it is defined in many different ways. There are crimes of passion. There are crimes committed by government officials in the name of the fatherland. There are private acts where money changes hands that have become crimes.

Over the last few weeks we watched (or ignored) how the media depicted good old debauchery as news. CNN, ABC, NPR, every major news outlet reported about U.S. Secret Service agent’s and a group of prostitutes in Colombia, just a day before the Summit of the Americas. But the Summit? What Summit?

We could agree that political summits lack a place in the collective consciousness while stories of brothels, so called betrayal, moral outrage, macho men, and naked women are stuff of legend. But there’s a big difference between crime and a half dozen drunk, horny, cheap government bureaucrats.

At the summit, the drug wars were to be discussed because the battle to stop the flow of cocaine from Latin America into the United States has fueled crime, violence and corruption all over the place, so say many experts, analysts and victims.

Though it seems that policies that fuel endless “violencia y corrupción” must stay in place even if the cocaine makes it to your local club on time for the party. Cocaine that has gone through endless government check points paid for with your tax dollars. How can these policies remain in place during such trying economic times? The drug trade comes in waves. The cocaine cowboys in Miami during the 80s. The Mexican cartels on the U.S. border now.

Even if mainstream media’s coverage of a sex scandal is a measure of the public’s interest with the war on the illegal drug trade, it must be of importance for some of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their U.S. born children.

Immigrants who make their way into the U.S. from the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, and are blamed for crimes they have never committed or are being criminalized. You know: Arizona S.B.1070?

Does crime matter if you haven’t been involved? Can we live surrounded by crime and not care? There is no easy answer but it seems that crime worries certain type of people about other people. Worried people often need to explain the root cause of their anxiety, so they tell stories.

The Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that supports restrictions on immigration wrote in a November 2009 report, “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that immigrants (legal and illegal) comprise 20 percent of inmates in prisons and jails.”

Others don’t agree.

“Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native-born,” theImmigration Policy Center wrote in 2008.

Crime evolves and is defined in many different ways. Marijuana possession, for example, was criminalized in the United States back in the 1930s and according to Robert Platshorn the “wicked weed” was used by law enforcement to demonize Mexicans.

Those who have taken a closer look at the forty year old U.S. war on drugs agree it has fueled felonious crimes, widespread government and private sector corruption and bloody sadistic violence. We don’t need Al Capone anymore, the legends of the drug wars “hablan Español.”

El Chapo Guzman and Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha. Two men, two generations, two countries, wound together in the drug trade, and who have become legends in Spanish, through song and story.

CNN, NPR, ABC, CBS depicts them as common criminals and thugs who can’t aspire to Vito Corleone stature. Not even Pete Clemenza status. The glorification of the Corleone’s is reserved to American gangsters, not the immigrants. Spanish speaking drug lords are reduced to grainy images, and lots of video that show how they enforce “an offer you can’t refuse.”

Crime and crimen intersect in newspaper articles, short stories, novels, songs, it’s logical. The majority will not carry a Glock, smuggle a cache of cocaine across the desert, have a shoot out with “los federales” or ATF, DEA and FBI or CBP agents.

Since at least the 1970s government employees across the globe have used a very similar narrative about the international drug trade and all its evil. Until now. While Secret Service agents were coming back to the U.S. back in Colombia during that anonymous summit, Latin American government officials started to build a different story, a different narrative, calling for changes to the drug wars.

We read stories, but it is even more important to remember that not all narratives are equal. We read different stories, many in English, some in Spanish; people who normally write in Spanish are translated into English, the language of bankers, and diplomats. The description of capos change, expert analysis doesn’t coincide, sometimes experts collide, but still crime and crimen meet; actors and stakeholders have a chance to look at each other through the lens of the reporter, of the writer, the camera.

We have a literary narrative of crime and crimen not limited to the drug wars, a crossroads of lo bueno y lo malo along with the good, the bad and the ugly. Is there a common lense of crime and literature from where we can view the Americas?

We need the stories that exist beyond short term sound bites and CNN, ABC, NPR links. We also need to remember stories that resonate once we leave the book fair, the art gallery, the two day street festival, as soon as the clock strikes midnight and it is 6 de Mayo!

Enough said. In an effort to avoid long drawn out explanations just go ahead and read Rodolfo Walsh, John Sayles, Felipe Gonzalez Toledo or Rafael Ramirez Heredia. If you’re bilingual even better.

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