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Mexico’s Open Secret: From the Dirty War to the Drug War

October 28, 2019 at 12:00pm1:30pm EDT

Eggers Hall, 341

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Gladys McCormick, Assistant Professor of History, Jay and Debe Moskowitz Endowed Chair in Mexico-U.S. Relations, Syracuse University:

In this paper, I explore the concept of dirty war, as it was pioneered by the French in Algeria and later perfected in assorted Cold War theaters throughout the world, and apply it to the case of Mexico. I argue that Mexico’s version of a dirty war started with the brutal crackdown of popular mobilizations on October 2, 1968 and concluded in 1982 when the government declared an amnesty of guerrilla members with the certainty that it had already destroyed them. During this period, military and police, at times collaborating as special forces, detained, tortured, imprisoned, and disappeared suspected insurgents using a range of counterinsurgency techniques drawn from the Cold War. I study these techniques and compare them to other cases of dirty wars in the region at the time, including those in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, and use them to illustrate how the government gradually taught citizens to accept the ever-present culture of fear in their midst. These didactic elements of Mexico’s dirty war normalized and rendered permanent the weakening of the rule of law, which explains why impunity in today’s security crisis appears so profoundly intractable. Hence, why I conclude this paper by laying down the particularities of a definition of a drug war that considers its antecedents, including patterns of collusion between the government and drug trafficking organizations. In doing so, I propose that the roots of today’s drug war are to be found in how the government used the state of exception to legitimate its counter-insurgency actions during the 1970s dirty war.

This event was first published on October 1, 2019 and last updated on October 7, 2019.

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