Only a few short years ago, Mexican youths sported knock-off Ralph Lauren polo shirts to mimic the narcotraficantes, or drug traffickers, who were as fashionable as they were infamous. The blue "narco-polos" signified J.J. Balderas, the green, La Barbie. Around the country, ordinary Mexicans turned to Jesús Malverde, the so-called patron saint of drug trafficking, to solve their ills.
In the green leafy suburbs of Mexico City, it was common to hear people opine that perhaps the government was going too far in combatting the drug cartels. After all, President Felipe Calderón's campaign against the cartels had arguably increased violence in the country as new branches of cartels fought to assert control in areas where the federal government had successfully caught and imprisoned a cartel chief. Even then-U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual argued that the rise in violence could be a direct result of Calderon's military measures. That is not to say that Mexicans were not concerned about the increasing influence of drug cartels in their country. They were just not convinced that a government war on organized crime was the best way to solve it. Perhaps a softer approach was in order.
In 2012, Mexico elected Enrique Peña Nieto President. Peña Nieto campaigned on a platform that promised a different approach in combatting drug trafficking, organized crime and corruption. However, swept under the headlines of much-needed reforms to energy and education is the fact that the number of "disappeared" continue to grow; more than 22,000 people are officially listed as missing. In the two years since Peña Nieto took office, not much has changed.
Today, a new rallying cry against living in a narco state is taking hold. Ya me canse - a phrase meaning "enough, I am tired" - is trending on Twitter and is painted on banners carried by thousands of protesters who continue their demonstrations in the capital and around the country. Award-winning Mexican filmmaker Natalia Beristain is producing #YaMeCanse YouTube videos. In her productions, Beristain laments "I'm tired of vanished Mexicans, of the killing of women, of the decapitated, of the bodies hanging from bridges, of broken families, of mothers without children, and children without fathers."
Ya me canse sprang to life after Mexican Attorney General Murillo Karam uttered the phrase at the end of a long press conference where he announced that authorities now believe that the 43 students were killed, their bodies incinerated, and their ashes thrown into a river. He was indeed tired of answering questions about the whole reprehensible mess. On September 26th, six people were shot to death and an additional 43 students were rounded up by police in Iguala, Mexico. These 43 were turned over to the local cartel, Guerreros Unidos, who, according to testimony of arrested suspects, murdered the 43 students. The case of the missing students seems to have broken the proverbial camel's back.
Although federal authorities have arrested nearly 100 people, including local police officers as well as the Iguala mayor and his wife who have long been working with the Guerreros Unidos cartel, Mexicans from all walks of life are fed up. Parents of the 43 are stunned that it took the federal government 10 days to intervene and search for the missing students. They are outraged at the government's continued inability to confront the brutality of drug cartels and corruption.
This time, the glaring corruption and collusion between organized crime and local politicians and their police forces will not be quietly forgotten. New narco-polos will not be made popular. Instead, the rallying cry: Ya me canse - "enough, I'm tired of living in a narco state" - may have truly taken hold.