On March 19, 2010, two graduate students of the Tecnológico Monterrey, Campus Monterrey, México, were assassinated in a confusing episode of the Mexican war against drugs. Apparently, army troops were chasing drug traffickers in the streets of Monterrey; the soldiers got into the Campus and Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso y Javier Francisco Arredondo Verdugo were killed in middle of the night. The President of the Tecnológico first stated that no student had been hurt in the operative, but hours later he confirmed that the two persons that originally were identified by the authorities as “sicarios” (hired assassins) were students (honor students indeed) from the university. The security videos of what happened that night in Campus were confiscated by the Mexican army. Up to this day, the videos have not been released to the public.
The Mexican justice system has not identified the responsible party in the murder of these two students. Following, I share the English version of the letter that I sent to the President of the Tecnológico de Monterrey by registered mail on April 9, 2010. Copies of this letter were also sent by registered mail to the presidents of the following Mexican universities:
Dr. Antonio Dieck Assad, Universidad de Monterrey
Dr. Jesús Ancer Rodríguez, Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León
Dr. José Narro Robles, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Dr. Arturo Fernández Pérez, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México
Dr. Javier Garciadiego Dantán, El Colegio de México
Dr. Enrique Cabrero Mendoza, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas
Dr. José Morales Orozco, S. J., Universidad Iberoamericana, Cd. De México
Dr. Tonatiuh Guillén López, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte
Dear Dr. Rangel Sostmann
President of the Tecnológico de Monterrey
Personally, and this is my opinion as a Mexican citizen, I would like to state that I do not agree, with the fact that the Mexican army goes out to the streets in order to combat the drug traffickers, the “narcos”. General Guillermo Galván Galván, the Secretary of National Defense, recognized some days ago that the fight against narcos is a task that does not belong directly to the army. Indeed, the Mexican army has no legal duty in fighting crime in the streets. I think that the narco menace must be met with intelligence and police operations, not with bayonets in the streets, nor with a systematic abuse of human rights of civilians caught in the middle of the dispute between “good guys” and “bad guys”.
I do not know if legalizing drugs in Mexico would contribute to a solution, but what I do know is that the price of the drugs passing though Mexico is set in the United States; where the largest consumer market is located. I’m also aware that the main source of profit and empowerment for drug dealers comes from the United States, which is where the flow of weapons and dollars originate. The very same weapons and dollars that make the drug trafficking business so profitable in our country. I do agree with President Felipe Calderón, when he states that while drugs remain illegal in the United States, any attempt of drug legalization in our country is useless.
During my fifteen years of academic life in the United States, I have been blessed and lucky enough to be a researcher and/or professor in seven universities. My experience, regarding my contact with the American youth, goes from coast to coast, from Columbia University in New York to the University of California in San Diego, including the University of Chicago and the University of Houston, among others.
Something that calls my attention is that, while college students in Mexico are killed in Campus for the simple fact that they were using the university premises, my American students consider drug consumption as a rite of passage that can go from their early teenage years all the way through the rest of their adulthood. TV shows like Weeds or That ‘70s Show are very popular among American audiences and present drug addiction, I would say, in a very realistic way: as a phenomenon well rooted in American culture, something that is practiced generation after generation and tends not to be seriously questioned by the society as a whole. In the United States, it is easier for those under 21 years of age to get any kind of illegal drugs than getting alcohol or cigarettes in any local store. I have the impression, in general terms, that American parents are highly tolerant about the addictive habits of their sons and daughters. Or maybe they have lost control of the situation.
I am truly convinced that addictions can be successfully addressed with education and awareness about the magnitude of the problem, at an individual, family and social levels in any society. A line of cocaine in New York should be associated not only with the price that is paid to the dealer for the drug, but also, in order to understand the true transnational dimension of the problem, it is necessary to associate it with those individuals that are beheaded and who are found across the Mexican territory, with the assassinations of the Mexican students, with the Mexican army systematically violating human rights of civilians, with the encobijados, the kidnapped, the burned to death, the widows and the orphans, etc.
The problem that I see is that the American government supports and promotes the final solution in Mexican territory (this is, to declare full war against drug trafficking by taking the army out to the streets, something Americans wouldn’t tolerate in their territory) to deal with a problem that belongs also to the American government and society. I am really concerned about the fact that the administration of President Calderón plays the game without any question. Indeed, the question is what can be done about it? What can Mexican universities do about it?
I propose to constitute a Consejo Universitario Transnacional (CUT - Transnational University Council) to create awareness in the United States about this problem that affects both countries. This council would be formed by high-profile members of Mexican and American Universities and their main function would be to launch an advertising and lobbying campaign in the American Congress, and the fifty states of the Union, to create awareness among the main actors about the dimension of the problem at the transnational level: “here and there at the same time”. As long as the flow of dollars from American consumers to drug traffickers in Mexico is not cut, any type of war is lost. That’s right: the narco dollars have the capacity to buy anything they find in their way: men, women, police officers, soldiers, police sheriffs, mayors, customs officers, beauty queens, bankers, bureaucrats, governors and army generals.
I am convinced that is possible to make an advertising campaign in the United States about the problems associated with drugs. For example, the CUT actions from the Mexican side could be financed with a portion of federal money that currently is spent in keeping the Mexican army in the streets. The goal here is, first, to make Americans aware about this transnational problem through actions aimed directly at their educational process, so their society would be ready (and I am confident that they will also be willing) to take the next fundamental step: finding solutions to this common problem.
If Americans decide to legalize drugs: let it be. It would not be the first time that the United States would be fearless about anything; after all, the only time they have amended their constitution (twice) has been for the same subject: addiction issues. And yes, alcohol eventually was legalized. It is important that Americans become aware that it is just a matter of time, for decapitated, or encobijados and encajuelados to become part of their daily life. As of today, in the meantime, the Mexican army should return to their headquarters.
Definitely, instead of listening to official public statements that the Mexican army could be out in the streets somewhere between 5 and 10 years, and that it is more and more probable to establish a state of exception where the first victim would be the abolition of certain individual rights, including freedom of expression (which would be lethal to the country’s universities); I prefer to be part of a coordinated effort, intelligently oriented to educate the average American about the problems associated with drug use and all the legislative actions that can be taken in U.S. territory to deal with the problem in both sides of the border, this is, in a transnational way. This would be an effort that would also take 5 to 10 years, but these actions would be attacking the root of the problem and not undermining our institutions, blinding our youth, and destroying our nation, as is happening now in Mexico.
Dear Dr. Rangel Sostmann, please accept my most sincere condolences for the death of Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso y Javier Francisco Arredondo Verdugo. I also offer my condolences to the families of these unfortunate and brilliant students. Their deaths should be clarified, justice needs to done and, without any doubt, no more Mexican students the country should be killed by the simply fact of taking a walk through the Campus.
Gustavo Cano, Ph. D.