Yesterday’s birthday party massacre of 13 14 students and two adults in Ciudad Juarez is one of the more unsettling acts of violence to take place during Calderón’s war on the drug cartels. The problem is that so far, it appears to have been either random or a mistake. None of the individuals present at the party had any obvious connections to drug cartels.
The incident underscores the fact that sensible gang-on-gang violence can quickly turn senseless. It’s not too much of a stretch for bloodthirsty killers to graduate to straight-up terrorism to accomplish political goals. Pablo Escobar certainly did so during his struggle with the Colombian government.
Now, I doubt this particular incident is an example of terrorism. It doesn’t appear the government is putting nearly enough much pressure on the cartels for them to lash out at the public like this. But it’s an interesting test for how the public would react should the Mexican cartels start setting off car bombs and carrying out political kidnappings.
So far, victims have been calling on the government to act, which it has done by offering a 1 million peso reward. The Mexican Senate is demanding answers, while at least one member of Congress has requested that martial law be implemented in Ciudad Juarez. Amazingly, a suspect (fall guy?) has been arrested as well.
That means that if terrorism is the strategy, the country is not yet terrified. It also means that if, as suggested in this excellent article in The Atlantic, military authorities often look the other way when these massacres take place, some army officer somewhere is having a very heated conversation with a mafia don.