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Geopolitics

Mexico's Own Pandemic: Normalization Of Horrific Violence

If murder and kidnappings in Mexico were a contagious disease, the country's feeble response and impunity rates would already have turned them into the most destructive of pandemics.

Relatives of people missing protest last year in Mexico City
Relatives of people missing protest last year in Mexico City
Luis Rubio

-OpEd-

MEXICO CITY —​ The man of the house threatened his wife in no uncertain terms, even insufferably: get me a little girl as a "present" or I'll rape our daughters. The mother brought him a girl. It may have been an existential dilemma but the woman obeyed, condemning a little girl to death in the process. We know what happened next: the girl was the seven-year-old Fatima, who was later found dead.

The real pandemic overwhelming Mexico is not the coronavirus, but impunity; and its most destructive impact is on girls, boys and women. Impunity is rampant, and has allowed violence to take over the life of Mexican society, and even come to appear as normal.

What kind of country would tolerate its society suffering this level of violence while doing nothing? What kind of country allow the intolerable to become a day-to-day reality, without anyone daring to say anything? Is there another country where the government is offended by society's protests against the murders of women and children, and their impunity? Where else are people denounced and discredited for protesting crimes that should not be happening? This can only happen in a country that has lost all sense of civility and its very civilization.

The information revolution, the 21st century's defining trait, has transformed all public activities, but especially relations between government and society. It has given both sides tools that were not previously accessible. The ubiquitous nature of information obliges everyone, both citizens and governments, to act differently. Society is informed and communicates and acts without the government mediation that characterized the 20th century. Bereft of its former monopoly on information which shaped social relations, the Mexican government is playing the victim and refusing to adapt to the new reality.

Today, crises create a rupture. They become a moment of change when rulers and society align to build a new paradigm. Today our government is consciously and systematically choosing confrontation, as it cannot conceive of a society functioning harmoniously. It seems unable to understand the challenge the murders of women have brought to the very gates of the presidential palace.

In the 21st century, a serious and realistic government would be leading a veritable social response to the killing of women and children, and turn these into a common cause to transform the country. But in the 4T (President López Obrador"s Fourth Transformation of the state) where everything must be different, the government is the victim and disparages anything and anyone thinking and acting differently, starting with the First Lady who had to retract certain remarks.

If the evil were a coronavirus, we would have been wiped off the map by now.

In 21st century Mexico, it is the victims who are considered guilty, those who denounce muggings, rapes, murders and other social evils. The conservatives are guilty, and those who dissent from the government's truth are traitors. We're back to the authoritarian past of the 20th century.

The murder of women is an evil created and tolerated by a Mexican society that has lost its compass on what is acceptable or intolerable. The horror of a father demanding to be "gifted" a girl and threatening his own family is irrefutable proof of the destruction of the essence of civility in our country.

To put things in perspective: If the evil in question were a coronavirus, we would have been wiped off the map by now, for our absolute inability to organize ourselves in the face of daily reality. An epidemic that is not contained becomes a pandemic, and pandemics, be they in health or politics, put an end to societies and their rulers.

The murders of women and children should not just be denounced but used to question our ideas on conducting public affairs. That is the way to end them for good. But the absence of this moral compass in government and society has led us to view the most intolerable situations as somehow natural.

This "damned reality" has fallen into the lap of a government unable to deal with it. Instead of recognizing its duty, its response has been phantasmagoric: how dare this wretched reality sabotage our cherished 4T plans?

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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