Mexico and the United States have grave issues of violence. In Mexico, it’s the tens of thousands of murders generated by the wars between narco-cartels and failed government policies.
In the United States, it’s the massacres with weapons of war in schools, stores, banks, theaters, concerts and other public spaces. And in both countries we have grown so accustomed to these types of deaths that we are paralyzed. No one does anything to stop the next massacre. It is the normalization of horror.
Luisa Regina is barely six years old. Maybe seven. The news media is reporting that a few days ago she went with her parents to the Las Palmas water park in Cortazar, in the state of Guanajuato. The family’s plan was to spend the day relaxing, in the pool, having fun.
But suddenly about 20 gunmen went into the park and opened fire, killing seven people, including the parents of Luisa Regina and a child. “Really, it’s not worth it. You come to spend time with family and the killers come,” said one of the witnesses. “It’s really too much.” There are reports, which I could not confirm, that the girl watched as her parents were murdered. That is Mexico in 2023, the Mexico of abrazos no balazos – the policy of hugs not bullets.
This of course falls on the government of Guanajuato, which has a governor from the National Action Party. In 2022 alone, the state saw 3,260 murders. But those kinds of shootings happen all over the country, so we must also blame the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, for the failure of his security policies.
Since AMLO became president on Dec. 1 2018, there have been 142,980 murders in the country, according to official numbers. More than during any other six-year presidential term in this century. The president says, and correctly so, that the number of murders has been dropping. But there are so many dead, in so many places, without authorities doing anything and with nearly total impunity, that the presidential statistic amounts to a poor excuse. Or incompetence. The reality is this: no Mexican president has lost so many citizens to murder since the Revolution and the Cristero War.
Now the United States.
Early this month, Audrey Hale, 28, went into a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, and fired 152 shots from a rifle and a handgun. Police reacted quickly and killed the attacker barely 14 minutes after she entered the school. But that was not enough to keep her from killing three nine-year-old children and three adults. Police said the attack was “calculated and planned” and CBS reported the she had received weapons training.
Massacres are a daily thing in the United States. As of mid-April there had been 160 mass shootings in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive. That means that there were more massacres than days during the first four months of the year. A mass shooting is usually define as one that results in four people killed or wounded. Guns are the lead cause of death for children in the United States.
This was an especially violent and hopeless week in the United States. In Kansas City, a 16-year-old Black youth was shot in the head by an 84-year-old White man after he rang the doorbell to the wrong house. In Elgin, Texas, two cheerleaders were shot when their car was mistaken for another. And in Charlotte, North Carolina, a man shot at a six-year-old girl and her parents when a basketball fell on his property. All of that happened because of the wide availability of rifles and handguns.
Sadly, we are simply waiting for the next massacre in the United States. Republicans in Congress almost unanimously refuse to approve any effort to limit the availability of guns. The United States has more weapons than people. And it is actually true that in some places it is easier to buy a handgun than some medicines. About 83 percent of gun owners approve of increasing background checks before any purchase, according to a Harvard University report. But conservative politicians, afraid of losing supporters and face criticisms, do not dare approve what the people want.
Despite all of the above, and despite the difference in populations, Mexico continues to be much more dangerous and violent than the United States. In 2022 there were 30,971 murders in Mexico, according to government figures, compared to 20,200 in the United States.
Mexico and the United States have become paralyzed in the face of violence. No one does anything. We are all tired and horrified as we hear about the latest mass shootings. And after a well-rehearsed routine – surprise, indignation, acceptance and oblivion – we move on with our lives, hoping the next shooting does not come too close.
Every country is different. The violence in Mexico cannot be confronted in the same way as in the United States. But in general, both nations deserve better leaders who will begin to recognize that that what we have been doing has not helped at all.
That’s a painful starting point. And change must come in 2024, when Mexico elects a new president and the United States elects a new Congress. The politicians we have now have failed.