Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 8-Feb-07
In Mexico, violent crime from drug cartels increases with tortilla prices

Web Log - February, 2007

In Mexico, violent crime from drug cartels increases with tortilla prices

After Acapulco incident, Canada may advise citizens not to travel to Mexico.

In a brazen crime on Monday in Acapulco, killers from drug cartels dressed as soldiers came to do a "weapons inspection" at two police stations. After disarming the policemen, they then killed several police officers and a police commander. To add insult to injury, the drug cartels videotaped the crime, though the videotape has not yet been "released."

This is only the latest in an increasing level of violence occurring throughout Mexico. Many of these incidents have harmed Canadian tourists and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay was in Mexico City on Wednesday to discuss, among other issues, whether or not Canada should issue a travel advisory, advising Canadians not to travel to Mexico unless absolutely necessary.

In fact, if you look at the Canadian government's current travel advisory for Mexico, it's quite chilling. It warns of being drugged, assaulted, raped, robbed, or car-jacked. A common crime is to force someone to go to an ATM and use a credit card to withdraw money, which is then taken. Even legitimate police officers extort money from tourists. (Similar warnings are provided on the American State Dept. travel advisory for Mexico.)

The increase in crime is related to increasingly powerful drug cartels. President Felipe Calderón has announced an effort to control drug cartels with thousands of troops, but Tuesday's murders in Acapulco police stations were a clear message from the drug cartels that they can murder whomever they want despite the government's attempts.

The increase in crime has gone hand in hand with increases in Mexican poverty. Mexico still has huge pockets of poverty, as population has become increasingly dense and its oil revenue seems to have peaked.


Now, a truly bizarre situation has arisen having to do with the sudden rise in the price of tortillas.

The price of Mexican tortillas has almost doubled in the last year. This is causing big problems because tortillas are a dietary staple of the entire Mexican population, both rich and poor, just like rice for the Chinese and donuts for Americans.

Tortillas are made of corn. The price of tortillas has risen because the price of corn has risen. Why has the price of corn risen?

Because, believe it or not, many U.S. states are requiring automobile fuel to contain 10%-85% ethanol added to the gasoline, to meet clean air standards. In 2006, the use of ethanol skyrocketed, and it will increase even more in 2007. So what? Well, ethanol is made from corn, and the increased diversion of corn into ethanol is causing prices to increase sharply. This would be funny if it weren't so serious, and the problem is going to get worse.

Last week, hundreds of thousands of protestors were in Mexico City protesting economic problems, especially tortilla prices. President Calderón is attempting to implement a "tortilla pact" with business to control tortilla prices, but it probably won't work if corn prices keep going up.

Mexico's last crisis war was the Mexican Revolution, running from 1910-1922, so Mexico is deep into a generational Crisis era, and overdue for a new crisis war.

Mexico is like other Latin American countries in that the major fault lines are between the indigenous peoples ("Amerindians") and the people of European ancestry. The indigenous peoples in Mexico are the Mayans in the south and the Aztecs and Commancheros in the north. The Europeans -- descendants of Spanish or French -- generally live in the center, around Mexico City. During the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s, Pancho Villa (from the south) was the leader, along with Emiliano Zapata, of the indigenous rebel insurgency groups.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics theory, Mexico presents a puzzle, because it's gone 84 years without a crisis war, and we'd like to understand why. Actually, 84 years isn't exceptionally long, since historically some 15% of all crisis wars have begun 80 or more years after the end of the previous one, but it is above average, and we'd like to understand better what are the factors that increase the number of years between crisis wars.

The following table summarizes the historical findings, and also identifies several countries currently in each generational era:

#years  of total  Generational Era           Country examples today
------  --------  -------------------------  -----------------------------
 0- 40      0%    Recovery, Awakening	     Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Vietnam
41- 49     11%    First half of Unraveling   Colombia, Venezuela
50- 59     33%    Second half of Unraveling  Israel, Palestine, China
60- 69     25%    First half of Crisis	     U.S., Europe, Japan
70- 79     16%    Second half of Crisis      Russia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco
80+        15%    "Fifth Turning"	     Mexico, Haiti

This table shows the %-age of crisis wars that historically have occurred in each of the generational eras, based on the number of years since the end of the previous crisis war. The last column lists examples of countries that are in that generational era today.

There are several countries today that are overdue for a crisis war, and what they all appear to have in common is unexpected money. These include Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Russia (oil money), Haiti and Gaza (international contributions), Mexico (oil, drug cartel and remittance money from U.S.) and China (export sales, bubble economy).

China has a stated policy of providing as much food as possible to everyone, in order to prevent a massive national rebellion. China is very paranoid about this (as they should be, given their history), and has had tens of thousands of regional rebellions every year for several years now. The only "weapon" that China has to prevent a nationwide rebellion is plenty of food distribution, and that requires plenty of money, which they have right now, thanks to their bubble economy.

Gaza is not overdue for a crisis war yet, but it's possibly the most densely populated region in the world, with large pockets of poverty. It's believed that high population density and poverty tend to cause crisis wars to occur earlier, while plenty of money can delay crisis wars.

The Palestinians have depended on large international contributions, mostly from Europe and the U.S., but those were cut off in January, 2006, when an election gave Hamas control of the government, and the region now appears to be very close to a civil war between Fatah and Hamas. Saudi Arabia has called representatives of Hamas and Fatah to Mecca for a "last chance" meeting to hammer out a peace accord. Rumor has it that the representatives won't be allowed to leave the room until they agree to a unity government. One particularly contentious possible outcome is that Saudi Arabia may agree to make up the international contributions out of its oil income, and they won't demand that the unity government recognize Israel or renounce violence. This would be an extremely ominous outcome, though probably no more ominous that having a full-scale civil war between Fatah and Hamas.

So there's a common thread here: From the point of view of Generational Dynamics theory, we believe that more money postpones crisis wars, and poverty speeds them up.

The reason that genocidal crisis wars are necessary is that the population grows faster than the food supply. People who sing "Kumbaya" and hug and talk of everyone loving one another and living without war don't understand that when one person lives, another person must die because there isn't enough food for both of them. The problem has been made much worse in the last century because of dramatic declines in infant and child mortality, resulting in much faster population growth.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, we're approaching the Clash of Civilizations world war, at a time when infant mortality has fallen far, leading to masses of people, packed by the millions into large megacities, in a fragile world where any economic dislocation can cause mass starvation, creating huge pools of young men ready for war.

And one of the largest megacities in the world is Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, with some 20 million people. When the price of tortillas goes up, it might almost seem like a joke to us (since comedians will tell you that "tortilla" is a "funny word"), but in Mexico City it could literally mean starvation for hundreds of thousands of people.

A major financial crisis will strike Mexico very hard (as well as many other countries with poverty-stricken megacities). Generational Dynamics predicts that Mexico is headed soon for a new civil war along the European/indigenous fault line, and that this civil war will spill over into the southwestern U.S., especially in California where 1/3 of the population is Mexican. (8-Feb-07) Permanent Link
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