[The novel is set mainly in Mexico City toward the end of the 2012-2018 presidential term of Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI. The narrator of the following scene, and the character named Landa, are political operators for a powerful PRI senator. Espinoza is the senator’s office accountant].
Cuba: a one-time insider’s “heresy”
Joaquín Villalobos was a top commander of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front during the civil war in El Salvador. He is now a consultant on security and conflict resolution. The following are excerpts from a two-part essay in the July and August issues of Nexos, a Mexican journal.
From El vendedor de silencio, Enrique Serna, 2019
[Miguel Alemán was president of Mexico in 1946-52]
He’d been waiting nearly an hour and a half in the outer office. Before long he would finish the book he had brought with him to kill time: Maeterlinck’s The Lives of Bees. He got up to stretch his legs. In front of the picture window that looked out on the main plaza, he admired the imposing cathedral, built of pink stone, tinted purple by the fading light of sunset. The plaza’s pigeons, frightened by the church bells’ ringing, flew off in formation to the gazebo handrail. He wouldn’t mind settling in Zacatecas when he reached retirement age. A pretty province, too attractive to be governed by a swine like Leobardo Reynoso.
In the middle of the pandemic, homicides mount in in 18 states, with more than 6,000 killings
Despite the lockdown, in March and April of this year almost 340 more people were killed than during the same period in 2019. The hot zones: Guanajuato among states, and Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez among cities
By Arturo Angel, 5/21/20
A gunfight inside a bar that cost seven lives; an attack on a business with high-powered weapons and grenades that killed four; killings of police, of the former head killer of a powerful cartel and thousands of people in alleged fights, and robbery attempts, among others.
The coronavirus pandemic has not slowed violence in Mexico. On the contrary: In March and April of this years – the first two months of the public health emergency – 6,098 people were killed, 338 more than during the same period last year. Killings increased in 18 of the 32 states despite lockdowns.
Guanajuato leads all states in murders. But 30 cities throughout the country account for one of every three homicides of men and women reported during the health crisis. In 17 of these cities, violence has increased by as much as 100 percent.
…The biggest increases were seen in the state of Campeche, where the number of homicide victims increased by 100 percent; in Michoacán, 83.5 percent, Zacatecas, 46 percent; Hidalgo, 37 percent; and Durango, 30.8 percent.
Of most concern are the increases in Guanajuato, Chihuahua and Baja California, because they are among the four states with the biggest numbers of reporting killings during the pandemic. The fourth is the state of México, which registered a slight uptick of 2.8 percent in homicides.
The other states suffering an increase in violence are: Sonora, Yucatán, San Luis Potosí, Guerrero, Querétaro, Oaxaca, Colima, and Morelos.
…Thirty cities reported a total 1,992 homicides in March and April, nearly one-third of all the killings reported in Mexico in the first two months of the pandemic. In 17 of these cities, the numbers of murders increased by comparison with last year.
Five of these cities saw increases of more than 100 percent: Ensenada, Baja California, showed an increase of 195 percent during the pandemic; Uruapan, Michoacán, 182.4 percent; Cajeme, Sonora, 146.4 percent; Celaya, Guanajuato, 136.7 percent; and Morelia, Michoacán, 109 percent…
…Why does the violence continue despite the pandemic and stay-at-home measures? Why doesn’t it at least decrease?
Security expert Alejandro Hope said there may be several reasons. A leading one is that much of the violence is tied to organized crime, which continues despite whatever slowdown of civilian life may be underway.
Notably, according to official estimates, at least six of every 10 murders are allegedly connected to organized crime. But in states such as Guanajuato and Jalisco, that rate runs higher than 80 percent.
“It’s also the case that there are homicides that happen at home, or that are more a matter of domestic violence,” the expert added. “Confinement doesn’t lower the number of those killings – it’s the opposite.”
[After the epidemic has passed] For some time, at least, they would be happy. They now knew that there is one thing that one may always yearn for, and sometimes obtain: Human tenderness.
– Albert Camus
La Peste/The Plague, 1947
Translated from French by Peter Katel
Extract: “Special Report: The Secret Files”
May 1, 2020
Semana [Colombian newsmagazine]
SEMANA reveals evidence of an Army computer surveillance program in which most of the targets were journalists, including several Americans. Politicians, generals, NGO staff and union activists were also among the 130 subjects.
Army units carried out for several months one of the most sensitive intelligence investigations in the country’s recent history. Between February and early December of last year, the activities of more than 130 citizens were targeted for what the military termed “profiling” and “special tasks.”
Extract of story by Manu Ureste, Animal Politico, April 28. 2020
[A French study, “A nicotinic hypothesis for Covid-19 with preventive and therapeutic implications,” (in English here) suggested a possible use for nicotine in anti-coronavirus therapy.
Mexican medical experts are dubious]:
“As doctors, we have a lot of solid evidence that a smoker’s lung is unhealthy. Therefore, it is highly implausible that, if tobacco puts you at risk for everything, that there is something it can protect you against – much less a lung infection. That, right away, makes us especially skeptical about this study’s results,” Uri Torruco, infectious disease specialist and a graduate of the Salvador Zubirán National Institute of Medical Science and Nutrition.
Notably, all of our fellow citizens very quickly refrained, even in public, from calculating how long their exile would last, a habit they might have adopted. Why? Because, though the most pessimistic may have settled, for instance, on six months, suffering ahead of time all of the bitterness of the months to come, they struggled to raise their courage to meet this challenge, using their last reserves of strength to deal with such a long period of suffering. Yet, sometimes, an encounter with a friend, a notice in the newspaper, a fugitive suspicion or a sudden burst of foresight, led them to realize that, after all, there was no reason why the epidemic shouldn’t last more than six months – maybe a year, or longer still.
La Peste/The Plague, 1947