[NOTE: this post was written a few days before the end of COP16 and before the surprising progress made during the final 36 hours of the summit, rescuing at least the credibility of the UNFCCC process with adoption of the Cancun agreements]
Mexico saw a return to the bad old days this week as violent clashes erupted between warring cartels in the lively beach town of Cancun. The lawless groups readily engaged in open warfare with hand-to-hand combat through the lavish corridors of a swanky beach-side hotel, with little regard for the safety of bemused international bystanders. The gangs are thought to have links with the narcotics trade and some shocked eyewitnesses reported that many of the perpetrators appear to have lost all grip of the reality of the outside world, leading to allegations that some may be themselves under the influence of strong hallucinogenic substances. “These guys appear to be on another planet, totally disconnected from the real world” said one, “I can’t explain it any other way”.
Insiders say that the new round of combat is nothing more than a renewed effort to settle old scores festering for years – with violence never far from the surface. The two biggest cartels involved, known by their street names ‘G77’ and ‘Annex I’, are operating covertly and the Mexican government is said to be powerless to stop them. Despite its rumoured complicity with both cartels, the government is undecided over which side to support.
Few expect a peaceful outcome of the conflict without further loss of life, the cartel leaders seemingly impervious to the millions of lives potentially put at risk through their action (and inaction). Reports suggest that the latest bout of conflict surfaced over alleged lack of commitment to established gang Protocol and for disagreements over promised financial payments. For the latter it appears that one side claims that the other had made a financial promise, but the donor being adamant that the conditions of the promise were never properly understood. Such petty misunderstandings are common in the narcotics world.
A Mexican minister was quoted as saying “we are doing all we can to get these gangs under control in order to secure a successful outcome, but at the present time they are not responding to any rational arguments.” It was hoped that the traditional alcohol-fuelled shindig that marks the mid-point of such meetings might go some way towards restoring calm. But hazy reports from the venue suggest that excessive consumption of low-quality margaritas and questionable DJing did nothing to improve the atmosphere; if anything Sunday’s negotiations were more terse as a result.
As gang leaders fly in to the resort whose name means literally ‘snake pit’, a desperate attempt for last-minute mediation will begin. But it now appears that the most likely outcome is to resort to the tried-and-tested method of escaping from such face-offs with minimal political damage: blame everyone else for lack of progress and go home satisfied that the conflict can continue to fester for another year before the opposing forces meet again in the South African city of Durban, a place known for its history of happy peace and harmony.