* Above, pomp and patriots, via Poblanerias.
There are few traditions more prized in a Mexican culture jammed with traditions than the "Grito," the Yell or Call of Independence that sparked the war for liberation from Spanish rule in Mexico in 1810. It is re-enacted in plazas across Mexico and anywhere Mexicans call home. So it is with total outrage that Mexico is absorbing the bloodshed during the Grito in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, a week ago on Monday night.
Just as the governor Leonel Godoy rang the traditional bell and yelled the final 'Viva Mexico!', a fragmentation grenade blast ripped through the crowds gathered at Plaza Melchor Ocampo. Another followed a few blocks away. When the explosion struck, news footage catches a massive gasp and scream from revelers, who thought the boom was part of the show.
Eight people died and more than 100 were injured in the attack blamed, so far, on narco ring La Familia. Except that La Familia is denying involvement and expressing solidarity with the people of Michoacan. They're blaming the Zetas. The New York Times's next-day headline on the Morelia massacre noted prudently that the attacks occured in the president's hometown. Felipe Calderon's entire administration has been guided by a military-backed campaign of confrontation against inter-feuding cartels operating a US$50 billion industry. Michoacan is where Calderon began his offensive nearly two years ago. Random civilians had been caught in cross-fire but never directly targeted. The layers of symbolism of the attack are lost on no one.
There's already been plenty of officially fed speculation and false-alarms over who was truly responsible and with what intent. Who actually did it we may never know, but virtually all branches of Mexican society were quick to label the attack an act of "terrorism." News anchors on Televisa were practically draping themselves in Mexican flags last week. Morelia is still effectively militarized.
Here it is referred to as narcoterrorism, and it catapulted in Morelia the narco war to an entire new level. The effects of this targeted, specified conflict aren't seen immediately on your street or your commute but they are there. Thousands of lives lost this year alone, with mounting tales of incomprehensible violence, and it's pretty clear who is winning.
Yet the war continues, with no apparent re-evaluation of strategy, and with the continued support of United States policy. And now the Morelia attack. Calderon is so far talking tough, calling for unity under his leadership and admitting to corruption and narco ties among the ranks of politicians. "Unity yes, but for what?" asked the Chamber of Deputies.
One week since Morelia, we are already witnessing in Mexico how terrorism, dealt with in improper ways, is breeding a culture of fear, opening the door for a politics of fear, or something even less pleasant. In other words, if things are bad now, chances are they may get a lot worse.