Drone flights over Mexico

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Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Drone flights over Mexico”

http://americasquarterly.org/node/2356 , published on March 31st, 2011. Please feel free to visit and comment.

Here’s a copy of it:

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The recent news published by The New York Times on unmanned drone planes doing reconnaissance flights over Mexican territory has already spurred aggressive reactions by the legislative opposition to Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party, or PAN). Practically in unison, civil society is responding to these reactions and sending a message to Congress: get your head out of the gutter and do something for our country.

The Times article stated that Calderón and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed earlier this month to continue allowing surveillance flights over Mexico, collecting information and turning it over to Mexican law enforcement authorities. The report also discusses a “counternarcotics fusion center” already operational in Mexico City and the possibility of a second one being established in the near future.

Gearing up for federal elections, political parties like Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD), Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI) and Partido del Trabajo (Labor Party, or PT) jumped at the opportunity to accuse Calderón of violating Mexican law by allowing drone flights.

Former Foreign Minister—and current PRI Senator—Rosario Green was one of the more vocal: “I find it barbaric… What else is Calderón going to do in order to hand over the reins of the country to foreign interests?” PRD Senator Ricardo Monreal added: “This violates the Constitution, our national sovereignty and quite simply submits the country to a state of indignation, a subordinate and defeatist attitude.”

What is most interesting about this story is not the questionable legality of the secret agreement, but the public’s reaction to the opposition’s accusations. Rather than further taint Calderón’s image, readers of online newspapers like El Norte and Reforma have responded to these types of remarks with disgust. Civil society has demanded that politicians stop wasting the country’s time and resources in party politics and start instituting viable solutions to the widespread gang violence and narcotics problems.

Select reader comments of these online dailies include: “I would rather have Calderón hand over Mexico to the U.S. than PRI hand it over to the drug lords”; “National sovereignty being violated? What do you think the drug cartels have been doing for the past two years? The enemy is inside our home. You should worry about that”; and “Calderón’s is a brave decision aiming to weaken the filth that hurts real citizens and not the thieves that hide behind a Congress seat.”

Although Senator Green may ask why the Mexican Congress was not consulted on the Calderón-Obama agreement, I suggest she look into the way that she and her colleagues vote—not any way in representing their constituencies but rather moved by political objectives. And when Senator Monreal talks about “a state of indignation,” he conveniently forgets the ongoing investigations of his alleged money laundering scheme in 2006 and alleged ties to mafia groups.

The message is clear. Civil society is tired of the political discussions. They are tired of excuses and debates on whether or not a bold solution to an even bolder problem is constitutional. Instead of facing accusations, the action of Calderón and Obama—if proven to be true—should be hailed as a symbol of bilateral cooperation toward combating a common foe which has tarnished the Mexican way of life.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AQ Online. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

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