A few thoughts today about Mexico.
First thing is that some shocking news has been coming out of Baja California and a few other border-adjacent locations down south.
I’m still trying to piece together the recent events, but apparently one of Mexico’s most prominent cartels, Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG, has gone on a rampage in Tijuana either as retribution for a leading member’s arrest or death, or for some reason that hasn’t reached us through the fog yet.
The head of the cartel, El Mencho, is the most wanted person in Mexico. To give an illustration of just how much influence El Mencho has, in 2017 a famous Mexican YouTuber (whose main shtick was getting drunk on camera) made some snide remarks about him on video. Soon after, several men armed to the teeth entered the bar in Zapopan, Jalisco, where the young YouTube star had been drinking that night. They gunned him down at 17 years old, as per a report by Rolling Stone.
I can call Joe Biden geriatric all day long and he will never have the unilateral authority to drone strike me. No public office-holder can send you down to Sheol for insulting them, no matter how much they might want to. If you can issue death to anyone who insults you online with impunity, you are something akin to a monarch. It’s wild to think that Mexico can be understood as being more or less controlled by an unelected official with an outsized share in the market of violence. I’m interested in exactly how much leverage cartels have over official Mexican bureaucracy, and maybe even over the United States. My guess is a lot.
Recent actions by Jalisco New Generation have apparently compelled municipal governments in Mexico to impose lockdowns for public safety. The cartel has opened fire on stores, set fires to cars in the street, and has allegedly imposed curfews in its territories and threatened violence to anyone seen outside.
I can’t believe all this is happening right across the border. One thing I’ve assumed about the global interests of everyday Americans is that they generally exclude Mexico, mostly because of crime lIke we’re seeing in Tijuana. I’ve always assumed that most people never really think about the nation at our southern border beyond maybe debates around immigration, Malthusian ideas around labor, the occasional instagram model visiting Tulum and who could possibly be funding her trip, etc, for this reason. It’s a dangerous nation.
But I found out today that Mexico is the number one tourist destination for Americans besides Canada, which comes in at number two, receiving less than half as many visits as Mexico in 2019 (39.3 million vs 15 million). This blew my mind considering Mexico’s extreme crime problem—nearly half of the 15 most dangerous cities on planet earth are in Mexico, measured by per capita murder rate. Cancun, the second most popular tourist destination behind Mexico City, has a murder rate higher than the highest murder rate in the United States, which belongs to the city of St. Louis, Missouri, at 60.59 murders per 100,000 people.
I once knew a young woman who lived and worked in St. Louis. She’d often talk about friends getting shot and passing away, and she’s the only person I’ve known who was present during a mass shooting. The place sounds pretty dangerous, and Americans vacation in a place more dangerous than even this.
My takeaway is that the same ethos of reckless abandon that compelled George Washington to ride up from his beatific Potomac-river estate and into the fog of war is obviously still running through this nation and its proud denizens.
But anyway. For now I’m going to keep looking into the situation in Baja and give updates as they come in. If you have any thoughts about the influence of cartels in Mexico and in the US, share thoughts in the comments.
I have vacationed in Mexico probably fifteen times in the past thirty years. We usually fly into Cancun and stay in either Playa del Carmen or Playa Mujeres. We always arrange travel ahead of time and don’t usually leave the resort for anything but golf. We’ve also stayed in Puerta Valarta, Cozumel and Cabo San Lucas. I have never felt unsafe, but there was a period of time that we didn’t go due to travel advisories.
Surprised at the lack of US news coverage on this. Noah Smith had a post on Mexico last week. He touched on the Cartels influence and I agree the government's "lack of monopoly on violence" is a core blocker for growth. And as we are seeing in Baja also a blocker for sovereignty at local levels.
Wow, I didn't know about this. What is US' reaction to this? Are they going to do anything? Did the Mexican gov deploy the army? Many questions rn.