There’s a lot of money in Mexico. The richest man in the world and telecommunications mogul, Carlos Slim lives here (his attorney’s desert mansion was pointed out to me a few days ago). There is thriving industry in Mexico City and Mexico has oil.
The problem is that very little of this money is invested in the development of the country.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Brazil — in Rio and in the northeast cities of Macio and Forteleza — so I find myself drawing comparisons between the development of the two countries. In my experience, there is a much larger sense of nationalism in Brazil: the police are less corrupt, people believe in Lula, the president who rose from the favelas to take charge of the country’s labor party, and people are, generally, proud to be Brasileiros. Of course none of these ideologies directly translate to investment in the country, but they sow the seeds of success for the next generation of educated young people to reap within the boundaries of Brazil. People want to come and work in Brazil, people want to work within the confines of Brazilian industry.
In Mexico, though, the next generation is dying to leave. The rural poor NEED to leave to survive and the educated youth are often too scared to stay. The violence in Mexico is at the point of driving its youth away.
In Brazil, there was this sense of connectedness with the crime. The favelas had drug lords who were at war with the police and the government and the networks of the drug lords spread to the prisons and the pick-pocketing youth.
This connectedness allows for the rich to distance themselves from the crime. The beef is between the police, the government and the drug lords and gangs. That being said, there are still kidnappings.
In Mexico City, however, the beef is between the rich and the police and the criminals. Only the police are on the side of the criminals. I spoke with a friend from a wealthy area of Mexico City yesterday who explained to me that the rich are simply without protection. My friend, Mariana Azarcarte, knew a girl who had been raped by the police, had a neighbor who had been shot in the eye when he refused to bribe the police, and she said that nearly everyone in her neighborhood had had “an incident.”
“An incident” means a kidnapping. My friend’s own mother was the victim of an express kidnapping, where the victim is kidnapped for a day or so and in those desperate hours, as much money is taken from the person as possible.
Mariana said that she felt like the border was safer than being rich in Mexico City.
“In the border, you know that you are not going to be killed when you’re asleep in your bed. No one is after you unless you are a drug dealer. Of course you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But in Mexico City violence can happen anywhere, you can open your front door and they’re waiting for you. You can get into a cab and they’re waiting for you. It happens anywhere at anytime and you are the one they’re looking for. And forget the police, they’ll take your money too.”
All of this unorganized violence breeds a terrifying and divisive sense of “us” versus “them.” Preyed on by the police, the drug lords and petty thieves, the Mexican elite end up feeling victimized by, quite literally, the rest of their country. This kind of mentality fuels alienation, steers investment abroad, and pushes the dreams of the children of the elite (too often the nation’s best educated youth) elsewhere.