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Mexico: 'Politicians are involved in the massacre'

Interview: Eva Usi / dc
October 17, 2014

The disappearance of 43 college students in Mexico has led to mass protests against the government. Corruption expert Edgardo Buscaglia is calling for support from the international community.

A demonstration in Mexico
Image: Reuters

Edgardo Buscaglia researches the impact of economics and law on the development of countries at Columbia University in New York. He is one of the most renowned experts on corruption and organized crime in Mexico. In an interview with DW, he spoke about political involvement in organized crime, a pact of impunity, and the duties of the international community.

DW: What can civil society in Mexico do to weaken the cartels?

Edgardo Buscaglia: It has to take to the streets and peacefully disrupt the economy. It has to force the government to rid Mexico of politicians who are linked to criminal groups, which partially operate under the guise of legal companies.

It's important that they do it peacefully. If you set fire to a government building, you give politicians reason to respond with repression.

Why haven't Mexicans done so already?

I've been saying that something like this needs to happen there for eight years now, and it makes me really sad that it didn't happen before this tsunami of blood washed over the country. Mexico's civil society is unfortunately very divided and fragmented. There are a few brave people, such as Pastor Alejandro Solalinde, but there are also corrupt organizations that are getting rich from development money with the help of the national and local governments.

People have to occupy government buildings armed with a list of demands, and if the demands aren't met, they have to stay. That would attract international attention. Pressure needs to increase for things to change.

Demonstration in Mexiko für ermordete Studenten
Thousands of Mexicans have taken to the streets to protest the massacre of 43 studentsImage: Reuters

What demands should those be?

Nepotism, embezzlement, and misappropriation of funds need to be publicly pursued by the law, because these are the most common forms of corruption. Conflicts of interest need to be identified and anchored in the law, as is the case in countries such as Canada, Japan, France, and Germany. Every state should be able to call on independent bodies to investigate these crimes. Italy, India, and Colombia have made great progress in this regard: in the Italian parliament and in the Colombian congress, around two-thirds of all the representatives were processed or replaced, across all parties.

But it will only work with enormous pressure from society, because Mexican politicians have a pact of impunity.

Is there really such a pact?

Carlos Navarrete [the president of the opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution] said as much just a few days ago. Of course it's not as if anyone has ever signed this pact; it's an unspoken agreement, just as I've been saying for years.

Why would these independent oversight bodies you suggest even work?

If the national institutions can't do it alone, then a supranational organization called by the United Nations could help - like the International Commission against impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

Corruption is one thing, the other is violence.

Corruption is both father and mother to organized violence in Mexico. Politicians seek out ties to organized crime in order to eliminate their opponents. Politicians are involved in the massacres organized by the cartels.

Corruption provides Mexican and international gangs with an incentive to set up shop in Mexico - we're talking about groups from Central and South America and even Europe. Mexico is heaven on Earth for any criminal group, because they can earn money from corruption and have practically nothing to fear from the side of the law.

Edgardo Buscaglia Experte Organisierte Kriminalität Flash-Galerie
Buscaglia wants European countries to put pressure on MexicoImage: DW

If you could successfully fight corruption, then you take away the breeding ground for organized crime, as has happened in Colombia. In the end, there might still be 300 or 400 smaller groups, but they wouldn't be able to control the state the way the cartels currently can.

What role does the international community play in this?

There is a passive complicity on the part of the European Union and its governments, including Germany. The large corporations from these countries have huge turnover and operate key manufacturing sites in Mexico. They operate on a politically protected market, which is why they go home with reports about how wonderful Mexico is. They lead their governments to believe that everything should remain as it is. The international community is too lenient with Mexico, because money has clouded their senses.

What can be done then?

It's not about breaking off ties with Mexico. But Germany should put Mexico under the same kind of pressure as it did with Colombia in the 1980s and 90s when mass graves were found there. Back then, Germany and the European Union were the first to put pressure on Colombia. They should do the same now with Mexico so that the civil society there doesn't feel that it has been left alone. Otherwise, more massacres will follow.

Edgardo Buscaglia researches the influence of economics and law on the development of countries at Columbia University in New York.

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