Friday, March 16, 2007

Canada's naive RCMP do not understand Mexico and the rest of the third world

When are we going to wake up and understand that what we take for granted in the "first world" has zero bearing on the entire rest of the world?

The legitimacy that our "Western" media and governments give the governments of the third world by pretending (or worse, naively believing) that the world can take their actions seriously and at "face value" is extremely damaging to the citizens of third world countries as it legitimizes and empowers their rulers. Further, it confuses the people of the so-called "free world" and puts our citizens at serious risk by keeping them in the dark about what goes on outside of our pleasant little island of wealthy democracies.

The government of Canada and our RCMP have demonstrated gross negligence again through their total complacency in the handling of the throat-slashings of two innocent Canadian tourists vacationing on the Mexican Caribbean. Their cries of "international diplomacy" and "sovereignty" are beginning to wear very, very thin. I am not advocating the American approach of military intervention to protect national interests, I am saying that there are circumstances under which countries can and must get aggressively proactive in protecting their citizens. Is it a thin line? Yes. Is the diplomatic fall-out from such intervention managable? Certainly, especially when the world stands up and calls the bluff of the corrupt power-mongers shouting "sovereignty!".

Hasn't anyone noticed that the most violent protests that are staged over things like the publishing of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed all take place in countries ruled by totalitarian dictatorships? These are not spontaneous, heart-felt protests by offended believers, they are carefully orchestrated demonstrations of the power of the dictators controling these nations aimed at warning the rest of the world of the might that they can exercise through the control of their vast and exponentially expanding populations. We do not see these kind of protests in the first world or even fledgling democracies because the burning of first world embassies is instigated by the GOVERNMENTS, not RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. Get a clue, folks! Outside of our Western cocoon, NOTHING is what it seems on the face of it, it is all about stuffing pockets with cash and stroking the egos of people who are in charge only because of their connections or ruthlessness.

When I first heard about the murders of Domenic and Nancy Ianiero, two Canadians visiting the Cancun area for their daughter's wedding, I said to my wife "now the circus is going to begin". One thing is certain, just as the investigation into the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in the summer of 2005 in Aruba went nowhere, this crime will never, ever be solved by the Mexican "authorities" unless the real killers come forward to a first world news service to confess. While the RCMP was sitting on their hands waiting for a polite "request for international assistance" from the Mexicans, they were busy sweeping all the evidence under the rug.

I find it difficult to put the blame on a foreign system concerned with protecting its largest source of foreign income. I believe that our Canadian police forces and diplomatic corps have an obligation to look after the interests of our citizens around the world, something the Americans do conscientiously, but that the overly polite and "culturally sensitive" Canadian officials are not so great at. Our government has a history of turning a blind eye to the fact that third-world judicial and police systems are totally corrupt and do not operate under our first world mandates of fairness, morality and transparency. The attitude seems to be "well, if you got arrested or attacked in X country, then you probably deserved it", versus "we know these countries to be corrupt, so let's assume that these charges are trumped up and politcally motivated and try to protect our citizens' interests".

Last year I returned to Toronto from 10 years living abroad, the past five and a half in Cancun, Mexico, and in order to understand what is going on with the police force there a bit of history will be helpful.

Mexico is a third world country. Many Canadians and Americans who visit Mexico for one or two week holidays see the country as a North American neighbour and get little exposure to the inner workings of government and public services while there, so they tend to assume that Mexico is not THAT different from home. Not!

Mexico is a country that the Spanish took over in the early 15th century and it "gained independence" in 1821. What that meant was that the incredibly rich Spanish landowners who had been granted tracts of land and/or political power by the Spanish monarchy decided to stop paying tribute taxes to their benefactor in order to keep all the cash they were making by exploiting the natives for themselves. In 1929, following a revolution against the string of dictators who controlled the country since "independence", the party that would become the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) took control and ran the county until the year 2000 when a rival new party, the PRD (Revolutionary Democratic Party) seized power under the leadership of Vicente Fox. It is debatable how separate and distinct Fox's party is from the PRI as all powerful people in Mexico got where they are by operating within the sphere of the PRI party's influence, and the PRI's policy for their entire 71 year long monoply on power was to keep of all sources, and potential sources, of profit firmly under their absolute control.

What this brief historical overview leads up to is that the Mexican police force at any level is virtuall powerless since the government does not give them any power (with power the police might start keeping tabs on what the government is up to!). They make almost nothing (street cops salaries are about $300 US a month) and no one goes into the police force unless they are prepared, ethically and morally, to supplement their meagre incomes with extortion, bribes and "seizing opportunities" whenever they arise. "Fines" for any offence from speeding to drug traficing are just bribes to be negotiated with the officer in charge. And the "officer in charge" is usually the guy who splits a higher percentage of his take with his boss to secure the most lucrative post or section of highway.

On a related note, while living in Poland after the iron curtain fell some years ago, the RCMP was invited to send a delegation over to help analyse how to help stop corruption in the Polish police force. After some days of intensive touring and gathering of information on the problem, the RCMP's principle recommendation was "pay your cops much better salaries and they'll be less likely to demand bribes to feed their families" (back then public service employees did not receive their salaries for months at a time).

The vast majority of the top dogs in any significant post in the third world have won the job not through experience, education, hard work in their area of specialty or for having demonstrated good judgment and intelligence on the job (all of these things have little value outside of the first world), but through family and friend connections. "State Prosecutor" Bello Melchor Rodriquez is a notary public who won his position by being tight with the State Governor, a member of the PRI party who, in turn, won his position because his party ran a smear campaign against the people's choice, the popular mayor of Cancun nicknamed "Chacho", that saw him get thrown in jail prior to the election on some ridiculous trumped up charges. Are you beginning to get the picture? Senor Melchor Rodriguez is a "small fish" with no experience as a prosecutor or state politician and has no clue about how to do anything but try to look after the best interests of himself and the people who put him where he is -- and he'll only leapfrog into a cushy federal post by grandstanding in his current position.

To paint the picture a bit more clearly, a few years ago when an ex-patriot American friend in Playa del Carmen had a problem with a local boat seller deciding to "reclaim" his boat after completing a sale due to a payment dispute over malfunctions, the seller paid some off-duty local police to surround the boat in order to prevent the buyer from taking his property back. Hearing that this was going to be the case, the buyer paid the state police to come with him to collect the boat. The state police arrested the local police for illegal possesion of firearms while off-duty and carted them off in a paddy wagon, allowing my friend and his burly helpers to hook up the trailer and return home with the boat. Of course the local police were home again a short time later with somewhat lighter wallets.

In the same vein, last year, while driving home from a Friday afternoon and evening at the raucous tavernas below Cancun's bull ring, we were stopped by a police officer who, both hands gripping my car's window frame to keep himself steady, told me with a slur that I was driving under the influence. I said "you've had a lot more to drink than I have, amigo", to which he laughed uproariously and asked what I could do to resolve the situation. I offered a 50 peso solution (~$5 US), which he graciously accepted with a salute and careened off in the direction of the corner store (all stores can sell alcohol in Mexico). The Mexcan police are so accomodating that, after catching a neighbour in Playa del Carmen for marijuana possesion on a Sunday, one of the officers came back to his house on Monday so they could go down to the bank together to take out the $200 US (negotiated down from $2,000) required to "avoid filling out all the paperwork" needed to file a charge.

There is no judicial system in Mexico as Canadians and Americans know it. Cases are decided by whichever side in the dispute pays the largest bribe to the judge. Period. "So sue me!" is a common joke there. I once was asked to translate a letter of reply to an American woman who was hoping to strike it rich by trying to sue a Mexican hotel owner using her American lawyer because she slipped on the wet tile beside the pool on her vacation and claimed to have bumped her head, diminishing her enjoyment of the remainder of her vacation. The response letter basically said "You seem to be confusing the Mexican judicial system with that of the States. You cannot win a lawsuit in Mexico. We look forward to hosting you on your next vacation down here. Watch where you are walking in the future."

The culture is different in Mexico as a result of this judicial reality. For example, when a dog bites a child, it is taken for granted that the child did something to antagonize the dog and he/she is patched up and reprimanded for going near dogs. Interestingly this is the same attitude that our Canadian government takes with its own citizens when we travel to other countries, "be careful over there because they are a 'sovereign country' and there's nothing we can do to help you if you get in trouble". Really? Nothing? Just sit on your hands (or wring them) and say "we told you so" to your tortured, murdered, assaulted citizens? I'll let you ponder that for a moment, dear reader, but I do suspect there is something our public authories can do.

In Mexico the police do not do any "investigating", outside of trying to figure out if there is any money to be made from learning who commited the offence in question. The 2000 movie "Traffic" with Benicio Del Toro was a very accurate portrayal of how things work in Mexico. The highest ranking guy in charge of preventing crime is likely the one controlling and benefiting from the illegal activity. The police do not have any decent level of forensic or other training. There is no money in it. The "powers that be" on the Riviera Maya where the Canadian couple was killed are the hotel owners and the people governing the area, all of whom want to protect their source of income and pay the police extra to look after their interests. Even the government of Vincente Fox's 10 federal investigators are largely powerless since, after 71 years of exclusive contol of Mexico, the rival PRI party members (and their friends) own all the assests of the country and control everything (notably the state of Quintana Roo, which conveniently encompasses Mexico's entire Caribbean coast, has never been out of the PRI's control).

This being said, our naive RCMP should have said "international jurisdictions be damned" and quietly got their butts down to Cancun the day the killings came to light, since within 24 hours you could be sure all useful evidence would have been conveniently cleaned up to protect the travel industry. It is not as though the RCMP did not have an example to follow with regard to how to handle this kind of incident -- in January of 2002 the FBI demonstrated the only way to ensure the Mexican police get anything done is to "assist them". They flew down to Cancun and drove down the coast to Tulum to "assist" the local force in arresting Christian Michael Longo for the murders of his wife and children in Oregon (, presumably with some money changing hands in order to "encourage" the participation of the local police, as is the normal practice in most countries outside of the first world. That's the way to get things done outside of the first world, if you follow the rules of the local culture, everything is possible (you just have to take a bag full of cash with you).

After seeing that banditos and bad press can hurt tourism badly, the local "authorities" have learned that the best pre-emptive reaction to a potential PR disaster is to immediately deflect blame, ideally by pinning it on someone who has left the country and can be tied in any way possible (in this case by Canadian-Italian nationality) to the victims. (They actually do the same thing all the time inside Mexico, as well.) Once the lie is constructed and the naive foriegn press are eating it up, the idea is to stick to it and threaten extradition proceedings against the poor, bewildered, totally innocent Canadian "soccer mom's" in order to keep attention away from the lack of any search for the Mexican throat slashers living close to the tourist area. The point is not that the state prosecutor, Senor Melchor Rodgriquez, is making up bizarre stories about the murders and saying anything he can to push the blame onto anyone from anywhere, the point is that all the evidence he has revealed makes it clear that the real killers were local Mexicans.

The prosecutor's suggestion that the killers could have been women is patently ridiculous. Any women out to murder someone would never slash the victims' throats. Female killers just do not do that. Women who are mentally deranged have been know to hack off their children's arms ( or axe-murder their family (Lizzie Borden), but these cases are very rare and these sick women tend to operate alone.

What type of people might use an inexpensive weapon such as a knife to murder tourists? Well, perhaps male criminals who aren't rich enough to afford guns and live in areas of the world where machismo is the status quo, such as the poor areas of Mexico just across the highway from the Riviera Maya resorts... That kind of petty criminals have been known to carry knives and to use "dramatic" methods to murder their victims when caught in the midst of a robbery.

It likely has nothing to do with this crime, but let's keep in mind just what kind of area and mindset we are dealing with down there. Mexico's Caribbean coast is known to be one of the highest volume transfer points for Columbian drugs being trafficed into the US because it offers a totally corrupt military and police force, thousands of square miles of isolated jungle landing strips and beaches, a network of rarely traveled roads and a convenient jumping-off point on the north shore of the Yucatan penninsula for flights, truck routes and boat-trips to the US. Near pure cocaine is available throughout the area for as little as $10 US a gram because the local "mules" moving the product are paid with chunks of it cut from the load. Converting this cocaine to crack is simple and crack is as addictive as heroin. (See )

Take men from families in the jungles of the Yucatan penninsula with a household income of $100 US a month, transport them to a resort area to do maintenance or to resort construction sites where they see how rich the gringo tourists are while they sleep in hammocks inside mosquito-filled shacks made of sticks and, even without mixing crack into their lives, you get a few thugs amongst them with knives in their belts for "protection" who see nothing wrong with sneaking through the jungle boardering the large resorts and/or along the public beach into the fancy hotel rooms to see what they can steal. And we are not talking about an isolated few poor Mexican workers -- there are shanty villages of hundreds of these construction workers lining the highway near the Barcelo resort where these throat slashings took place. The vast majority of these guys are simply innocent family men out to make much more than they can in their villages far away, but human nature being what it is, there are always a couple of guys who are not completely stable amongst them. The same goes for the thousands of hotel support staff working the entire area.

Oh yes, the prosecutor claims that the motive was not robbery (and has mysteriously completely eliminated resort employees as suspects) as the expert local investigators (who tourists at the resort claim never questioned anyone nor did any sophisticated forensic examination) did not "find any evidence" of theft... And we believe you 100%, Senor Melchor. If they eliminate petty theft then the Mexicans have eliminated a simple motive, so they also have said that the murders "look like" a pre-meditated hit -- which is also believable since the victims' last name was of Italian origin... The problem (they quickly learned) with this line of deflection is the Mexicans did not anticipate that in first world countries we have fairly precise methods in place for keeping track of our average citizens' links to organized crime and these victims had none.

The Mexicans did not ask for any Canadian police help (they didn't ask when Christian Longo was hiding nearby, either) for a week -- again long enough for any trail to evaporate (TV shows have taught us that if more than 48 hours go by, most crimes become extremely difficult to solve), so the RCMP have lost any chance that they might have had to help bring to justice the murderers of two innocent Canadians. The Mexicans also held onto the bodies for a week, presumably in order to find a forensic expert in Mexico with sufficient expertise to try to cover up any evidence that might lead Canadian forensic pathologists to find leads back to Mexico, AND apparently also due to standard Canadian regulations that bodies must be embalmed before being allowed back into Canada for burial! Whoops, RCMP, you might have worked on waiving that rule quickly in this case, or sent one of your own forensic pathologists down there the same day you caught wind of this atrocity.

Get a clue, RCMP! Outside of the "Western World" things do not operate according to our civilized rules, as the Americans are discovering painfully in Afganistan and Iraq. When bad things happen to Canadians outside of first world countries, our police forces have to be as flexible, pro-active and creative at problem-solving in order to get our people involved early as the Americans are learning how to be. Maybe the RCMP can now ask the FBI to help them "help" the Mexicans -- but there is unlikely to be any trace left now for anyone to investigate, other than investigating the "investigation" that never took place.

Be careful out there, and if you get in trouble anywhere in the third world, do not waste a moment calling the Canadian embassy, just stroke the egos of the incompetent local "officials" shamelessly, fill a bag with cash and you'll be able to help yourself.

Debbie Travis, Canada's Queen Hypocrite?

Is it just me, or does anyone else in Canada get ticked off every time they see Debbie Travis being touted as an expert on interior design and as a proponent of pushing people to work hard and take pride in the work they do AND as a leader in the drive to encourage more young people to go into training to become professional tradespeople? She's going to nominate herself for Prime Minister next.

She's often called "Canada's Martha Stewart", but Martha is a personable and sympathetic individual who achieved fame by offering her own self-generated and well-researched recommendations on a broad field of topics appealling to party hosts and home owners. Debbie's specialty is faux painting techniques, period -- but you'd never know that from the way she attempts to explain home renovation techniques and the finer points of interior decorating.

From her current show's website (, I understand that this woman is a former model and art school grad who kind of "fell" into TV production, married an established Canadian TV producer, raised their kids and then became a specialist in faux paint finishes while renovating her own home.

That she is an ambitious and aggressive self-made businesswoman, I have no doubt. What ticks me off is that she is not an interior designer, but is represented as such on the show. She also spends an inordinate amount of time each show criticising both her staff and the homeowners and their families/friends about their poor work ethic as she flits in and out of the set ensuring she puts in as few hours as possible.

Her bullying of staff and homeowners as though they should be exstatic about worshiping at the Debbie Travis altar is characteristic of megalomaniacs who have few professional qualifications. They start doctoring their own resumes to cover up their inadequacies and begin insisting that their subjects praise them for their brilliance in things they actually know nothing about. I find it tiring that people like this usually do end up in positions of power and influence (see George W. Bush), but their drive and determination seem to pay off -- or perhaps it's just that the more qualified folks get too much job satisfaction from their profession to have any interest in becoming TV stars (Holmes on Homes being a welcome exception). If Debbie needs, show after bloody show (my wife insists on watching her), to berate people for not being enthusiastic about working through the night as pay-back for her producers funding their home renovations, then maybe we should see her royal higness working through the night as payback for her substantial paycheck.

She waddles onto the sets every morning at around 10 am after the sleep-deprived team has worked through the night and then proceeds to screech at them all over how they screwed up her "vision" (drawn up by a team of qualified interior designers, I'm convinced). I've worked on a lot of home renovation and construction projects and I can tell you what every contractor knows, you cannot leave design-sensitive execution in the hands of tradespeople or regular folks -- you have to be there to supervise every step, hour after hour. Debbie, if you aren't willing to put in the hours yourself, then I'd suggest you cut back on the "lazy sods" commentary.

Now she's on a new soapbox pushing young people to work hard (no evidence of her being willing to set an example for them, of course) and get training in the trades. Maybe you could take a course or two in interior design yourself, Deb, or at least admit that it's not your forte and invite the people who actually know what they are doing explain the work.

Listen to your audience, Queen Travis, you come across as an irritating housewife, not a professional, and people are starting to see through your producers' and sponsors' attempts to keep you on your pedestal. You're not a Gordon Ramsay, Nanny 911, Simon Cowell or Donald Trump -- they can get away with being aggressive with the people on their shows because they are being INVITED to berate the willing participants and every one of them is a qualified expert on the entire scope of their profession. Your team are there to make YOU look good at the things you have no expertise in, while the homeowners and their friends only agreed to take you up on a free offer to help you promote yourself. A little humility and polishing of those rough edges will take you a long way. You're just the HOST of a show about interior design, you don't have to try to come across as an expert in the field in order to do your job well.

George W. Bush's Democratic De-Evolution

It’s not about George W’s lack of intelligence (after reading "Bush Whacked" by Leland Gregory I am convinced his IQ is likely a bit above average, but he suffer's from a communication disorder -- he knows what he wants to say, but it comes out distorted), it’s all about the plain fact that he is all about squashing free speech and diminishing democracy around the world. (See “Still the Enemy” from the Toronto Star, Feb. 19, 2006.)

"Still the Enemy -- A bruised body politic.
Three years after the invasion of Iraq and more than five years since 9/11, real dissent in the United States is next to impossible. People who speak out against George W. Bush and his administration are paying a steep personal price, Olivia Ward reports"

When you repress free speech and political criticism in order to force religiously-influenced laws upon your citizens and push more extensive presidential (called “dictatorial” in every other country of the world) powers through the legislature, you are explicitly diminishing democracy.

In an episode of Fox TV’s “Trading Spouses” a mother from Louisiana is lured, with $50,000 US as bait, into switching places and responsibilities with a mother from Massachusetts. It turns out that she is a grossly overweight (think Gilbert Grape’s mama), bible-thumping drama queen on a “mission from God” (her taxi ride home from the airport is a classic 'backstage work-up' for her upcoming performance), but what is really most interesting is how representative she is of George W’s voting base. In the show (heavily edited) Marguerite Perrin does nothing to help out around her temporary new household, nor does she attempt to get to know her new family. Instead she freaks out about the fact that she is in unfamiliar territory. Her response to this is to spend all her time praying and reading the bible, her head resolutely buried in the sand, until she decides that the best thing she can do is try to drag the new family into her religion. (George Carlin famously said something along the lines of “Hey, if you get a lift from your religion, I’m happy for you, but don’t try to nail those lifts onto my feet” -- Mr. Carlin is a wise and truly democratic individual.) In the final moments of the episode Marguerite has a dramatic “melt-down” and, in a classic scene of a woman possessed (not by God!), she flatly rejects the 50 grand since it is “tainted by the dark-side” (she later recants and accepts the loot).

Ironically, the same people who will see nothing especially out of the ordinary in Marguerite’s steadfast, even heroic, refusal to be open-minded and accepting of any views different from her own, are shaking their heads over the “crazy, radical, un-democratic, Judeo-Christian-Holy-Land-hating, fanatical, hate-mongering” mob protests against the publishing of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed’s image. They see those Koran-thumping followers of Islam as intolerant crazies worthy of contempt, compared to true-blooded Americans living in the land of the free...

Some people say that the biggest problem the world is facing is not religious fanaticism or overpopulation, but a world-wide deficiency of sectarian higher education. Every study you care to look at from around the globe clearly demonstrates the correlation between higher percentages of high school (and above) education levels and both cultural/religious tolerance and diminishing population growth (especially correlated to the education of women). Is there a disparity in the average education levels between the George W’s most stalwart “red state” fans and his most vigorous “blue state” detractors? Perhaps that is something for America as whole to tackle in order to aim towards becoming a less polarized, modern democratic country like those, for instance, of northern Europe today (note that “northern” does not include those countries with border on the Mediterranean, such as France).

George W. Bush uses the fanaticism and ostrich-like fear of the unknown of his red state base to support his efforts to force right-wing Christian “reforms” and restrictions on free-speech and privacy through the legislature by preying on a natural, but unrealistic, universal human desire to be free from any kind of threat (see: Signing of the Magna Carta, 1215 AD). George W. may not be the most clever guy to ever make it into the White House, but he was smart enough to surround himself with people who were sufficiently talented and clever to help him get him into a position in which he can exercise his formidable determination to get what can only be described (looking at the entire cross-section of Americans) as fanatical, religiously-influenced notions written into law in the US -- and imposed by American military force onto other nations (disregarding the debate on whether or not they are better or worse than the former status quo), while at the same time railroading undemocratic reductions on privacy and increased presidential powers through Congress under the guise of the “war on terror”.

Newsflash, George, you cannot eradicate the threat of attack on Americans, inside the “homeland” or out, and remain progressively democratic. The British, Spanish, Lebanese, Palestinians, Israelis, Sri Lankans, Filipinos, and many more nationalities, have lived with the on-going threat of violent attacks by radical elements for years and years with greater and lesser degrees of democracy in place. Yes, they have tried to minimize the threats by many measures, but in the end most have recognized that their citizens’ right to free speech, privacy and freedom of choice outweigh trying to totally eliminate the risk of attack by radicals. The people of many, if not most, other countries differ from Americans primarily in their determination not to give in to exactly what terrorists want to generate: paralysis of the citizenry by terror.

George, if you really want to lead your people, if you want to be remembered, if you want to defeat the terrorists, stop working hand-in-hand with them by propagating fear. Stop using “the war on terror” over and over and over in an effort to prop up your vision-less presidency. Tell us how you are going to move America forward, not backward, during your last years in office.

Mr. President, you got America into the war against Saddam because of your clandestine pre-election promises to help your pals in the American arms industry get even more stinking rich supplying a war bigger than the one in Kuwait, as well as to give your buddies in the American oil business control of the Iraqi supply and, in the process, make the rest of your friends even richer by handing out contracts for re-building the damage America caused over there. You stuck to your promises to your friends. I guess your voters think that's an honorable thing. Maybe you should come clean on you motivations, though. The Iraq war is taking place NOT because it will benefit the average American in any way (all it is doing is costing them trillions of tax dollars and killing their enlisted children), it is happening because you promised to make a lot of your filthy rich, morally ambiguous buddies even richer. Keep up the facade and eventually the American “majority” will wake up as they did with Tricky Dicky.

Here's another article from the Toronto Star I thought was interesting related to this issue:
"From war to law via scienceUsing the collective will:
A Nobel laureate's optimistic view of our progression toward a civilized, peaceful world"

"From War to Law via Science"