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A Woman Under the Gun

November 15, 2010


For some weeks, Marisol Valles Garcia has been the woman of the hour. For those who have been hiding in a saguaro, Señora Valles Garcia is the newly-appointed police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero. A female police chief is not headline news, except that this is a blood-soaked municipality in the crossfire of the Mexican drug war and Valles Garcia is a comely, bespectacled 20-year old criminology student and mother. If this isn’t “Man Bites Dog,” I don’t know what is.

My first reaction was feminist elation. Valles Garcia was the only taker in a town where the last police chief was executed and beheaded by the brutal drug cartels. In AOL Noticias, I read:

It has been said that due to a lack [of] “courageous men,” this young woman has stepped up to the plate. As a result, she is now considered “the bravest woman in Mexico,” [a] title given to her by the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

“A wonderful example.” “An inspiration.” “A role model for young girls.” These are some of the comments floating across social media networks.

My second reaction was despair. Despite my belief in the equality of men and women, I guess I suffer somewhat from neurosexism. Let’s be clear: I do not endorse barriers to women in the armed forces or law enforcement for the simple reason that a particular woman might spank a particular male candidate in strength, size, calm under pressure and other necessary qualities for the job. (There are reasonable arguments against women in infantry or armor, but let’s not go there today.) But I cannot escape the reality that throughout history, men and women have gravitated to different roles in defending the homeland: men on offense; women on defense. I do not feel this illustration — the male adventuring out to meet the threat, the female ready to defend the cubs to the death — is anti-woman, but even if it is, and even if this order has come about purely by socialization, it is the reality of today. Does this mean the men of Mexico have abandoned their sense of righteous outrage, leaving the defense of the homeland to las muchachas? Coupled with other events (see this FoxNews Latino story titled “Desperate Housewives Police Narco-Towns”), you might think the collective cojones of northern Mexico have shriveled up and blown away on el Norte.

Then I read the interviews with Chief Valles Garcia and my feminist elation went the same direction as those cojones:

From an ABC Houston interview:

We walked up to four or five men and they immediately fled, as quickly as one can. Fear has taken over, but Marisol, who will be the face of this town’s defense, will face it without a gun.

“Las mujeres nunca van a llevar armas? (They are never going to carry weapons?)” we asked Marisol.

“No. No,” she replied. “They’re never going to carry weapons.”

The new chief’s approach instead is to hire only females, like 22-year-old Lydia, who is afraid to show her face. She’s doesn’t carry a gun, and goes door to door with other female officers, sharing a message of peace.

And CNN’s take:

Valles Garcia believes what the job may need is a woman’s touch.

“We are simply going to talk with them, with the people, with the families, giving them confidence so they will quit being afraid, so they can leave their houses,” she told CNN en Español.

“We have hope that we are going to exchange fear for tranquility and security.”

Note to ABC Houston: Could you try to refer to Police Chief Valles Garcia by her surname (even just her patronymic) and not by her first name? Thanks for your respect.

Sharing a message of peace with drug lords and their victims — I’m not sure this is the “role model” feminists are looking for. This is what they’re up against (from CNN again):

According to a state secretary, who asked for his identity not to be revealed, one of the strategies the narcos employ is to present public officers a gun with a roll of money and ask them, “Do you want death or do you want money?”

(And as reported by FoxNews Latino):

Local residents say the drug gangs take over at night, riding through the towns in convoys of SUVs and pickups, assault rifles and even .50 caliber sniper rifles at the ready. The assistant mayor of nearby El Porvenir and the mayor of Distrito Bravos were killed recently even after they took refuge in nearby Ciudad Juárez.

Apparently, this make-nice initiative is Valles Garcia’s “thesis,” according to AOL Noticias. But it bears a not-so-subtle resemblance to American “anti-violence” ideals — to wit, extend the olive branch, educate and smile, and crime will go away.


Now, peace, love and education are most definitely vital ingredients to a crime-free community. But so is the ability to subdue evil — by force, if necessary. The new chief has said there will be no investigations. Perhaps she thinks fighting the cartels is a losing battle (she’s probably right). Perhaps this “reverse strategy” will bear some fruit. But then read this, again from the ABC Houston story:

Under orders from the police chief, officers don’t even acknowledge that there is a cartel problem. Just listen to one new police hire, also refusing to be on camera.

“Are you scared in this little office?” we asked.

“No,” she replied.

“I mean there are drug cartels roaming the street and killing people,” we said.

“I don’t know that,” she answered.

“No. You don’t like to talk about the drug cartels do you?” we asked.

“I don’t know. I’m just doing my work and that’s all,” she replied.

It sounds like this LEO needs a bit more training. “Let’s hope it is not a reckless act on her part,” said a Mexican law enforcement expert. Yes, let’s.

Oh, and by the way, Chief Valles Garcia isn’t totally opposed to guns. Her department has eleven female officers and three male officers, and the men will be armed. Somebody please call Ms.

References:

AOL Noticias | http://noticias.aol.com/2010/10/25/marisol-valles-garcia/

Christian Science Monitor | http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2010/1021/Can-young-mom-Marisol-Valles-Garcia-clean-up-a-dangerous-Mexican-town

Fox News Latino | http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2010/11/09/housewives-police-duties-violent-towns-near-ciudad-jurez-mxico/?test=latestnews

ABC Houston | http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/national_world&id=7769520

CNN | http://articles.cnn.com/2010-10-20/world/mexico.female.police.chief_1_police-force-ciudad-juarez-municipality?_s=PM:WORLD

Fox News Latino | http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2010/10/21/newest-police-chief-mexican-drug-corridor-student/

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