The New York Times published a fascinating article today, in which it documents how towns or cities across Mexico have begun seceding from larger political entities in an effort to address the violence that has swept the nation due to the drug wars.
The article begins with discussing how avocado farmers in the village of Tancítaro have formed militias to protect them from both drug cartels and the Mexican state, to the point where it “has effectively become an independent city-state.”
Tancítaro represents a quiet but telling trend in Mexico, where a handful of towns and cities are effectively seceding, partly or in whole. These are acts of desperation, revealing the degree to which Mexico’s police and politicians are seen as part of the threat.
Visit three such enclaves — Tancítaro; Monterrey, a rich commercial city; and Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, just outside the capital — and you will find a pattern. Each is a haven of relative safety amid violence, suggesting that their diagnosis of the problem was correct. But their gains are fragile and have come at significant cost.
They are exceptions that prove the rule: Mexico’s crisis manifests as violence, but it is rooted in the corruption and weakness of the state.
The cities have addressed the violence differently. While Tancítaro farmers have formed militias that report directly to them, Monterrey’s business elite took over efforts to reform the police and judiciary, and Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl’s police chief has undertaken the herculean task of reforming the local police by himself. However, in each of these cases, reform efforts took place outside of the state structure, which is viewed by many Mexicans as, at best, inefficient, and at worst, in bed with the drug cartels.
The fact that one of America’s elite newspapers is reporting this story is indicative of the increasingly weakened condition of the state.
One wonders if this will be the first of many stories of secession efforts that will be reported in 2018.