An interesting thing happened in the killing of Arturo BeltrÃ¡n Leyva (one of Mexico’s drug lords), and it had nothing to do with him. It had to do with how his death was reported.
Here is the story by Elisabeth Malkin as it currently exists on the New York Times website: Mexico Deals a Blow to a Cartel but Warns of Continued Drug-Related Violence
It talks about his gruesome record and how special forces surrounded his apartment, etc. It also talks about how his death is perceived.
Mr. BeltrÃ¡n Leyvaâ€™s death is a public relations victory for Mr. CalderÃ³n, who is facing criticism from the opposition over what they say is a lack of progress in his crackdown on drugs. Despite thousands of arrests and the capture of several gang leaders, drug violence keeps increasing.
Speaking from Copenhagen, where he is attending the United Nations climate talks, Mr. CalderÃ³n called Mr. BeltrÃ¡n Leyvaâ€™s death â€œa convincing blow against one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in Mexico and on the continent.â€
But Attorney General Arturo ChÃ¡vez ChÃ¡vez said that violence would continue. â€œGetting the leader of a cartel is a very strong blow and this will surely force restructuring,â€ Mr. ChÃ¡vez ChÃ¡vez said. â€œViolence inside the cartel canâ€™t be ruled out until the chain of command is defined.â€
Ah, yes, we’ve seen it before. Look â€” a victory in the drug war! Expect increased violence, but that’s because we’re winning. It’s convincing. It’s victory.
It’s bullshit, but it’s what we’re selling in Mexico.
However, this is not what the original article by Elisabeth Malkin said. There was an earlier version, complete with the same URL on the NYT website. And it had a subtle difference. Here is how that section above read in the original version:
The raid came as skepticism has risen about the success of Calderonâ€™s crackdown on drug trafficking. Despite the arrests and the slaying of drug cartel leaders, the drug-related violence has only increased, as traffickers battle each other and the government.
In the past, the capture or death of a top drug lord has meant only a momentary victory, as the level of violence rises again when other organizations try to move in on territory after one group is weakened.
A little more real. A little less B.S. In fact, a very good and true statement. But perhaps it was a little too real for the editors at the New York Times, so they had the author shift to how increased violence means we’re winning. Or did CalderÃ³n himself cause the shift by giving the reporter a quote. It would be interesting to know how it got changed.
I discovered it because a reader sent me the original quote with a link to the article. When I went there, the article had a new title and the quote was gone. But it’s hard to make something disappear completely on the internet.