Cultural Revolutions

Pay No Attention

A recent article in USA Today (“Mexico’s Violence Not Widespread,” August 4) could serve as a case study in why Mexican journalists consider their North American counterparts “hopeless” when it comes to accurate reporting on their country.

The article pretends to correct the public misperception that Mexico on a whole is a dangerous and violent place.  On the contrary, the reporter informs us, “official statistics” demonstrate that “much of Mexico has modest murder rates,” that murders have been “dropping steadily” over the last ten years, that President Felipe Calderón is right “to insist that the worst violence is confined to certain regions and is mostly among gang members,” for, says he, Mexico has “areas and states, especially tourist areas, that have murder rates equal to many countries in Europe.”

That Calderón has reasons to discount the violence raging uncontrolled across his land is obvious, but why would an American reporter, and the editors of his paper, so casually take his word for it, as well as accept without question the veracity of Mexican-government statistics?

Charles Bowden, the author of the luminous book Murder City, insists that those statistics are pure fiction.  An example: The Mexican government reports that the population of El Paso’s sister city Ciudad Juárez...

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