Thursday, November 25, 2010

Via Con Dios, Senor Alejo

Don Alejo's Stand

Don Alejo Garza Tamen, 77, may be the first instance of a nation's push-back against the monstrous cartels that are challenging the very existence of the Mexican state.

Like the Tiananmen protestor who stood in front of the Chinese tank, his defiance of evil came at great cost. And to draw an even closer, if imperfect and ironic, parallel, his courage has the resonance of Davy Crockett and the Texas patriots who fought for freedom against impossible odds at the Alamo in 1836.

Nuevo Leon, where the rancher lived, after all, nearly joined Texas in its independence fight. While he lived on the other side of the border, the freedom and liberty he died for was the same.

Ordered by drug cartels last Nov. 13 to hand over his ranch, Garza was just like so many other Mexicans who lost their life work and property to them. Like most, he would have been rational to run for his life, given the cartels' capacity for depravity.

But the old rancher told the thugs no. He warned them if they tried to take it, he'd be waiting for them.

The barbarians struck the next day, barraging the ranch house with rifles and grenade launchers. But they encountered something they hadn't expected — the lone Garza fighting back, hard, with his hunting rifle, taking four cartel attackers down with him before he died and leaving two others wounded.

When Mexican Marines arrived at the scarred ruins of the ranch a few days later, they were stunned to find that the rancher had fought the cartels alone, protecting his property at the ultimate price in place of the state that couldn't.

Resistance hasn't been common in Mexico, where gun ownership is banned and the state is charged with protecting people.

The public and media rapidly recognized Garza for a hero, and the story stirred the country. Garza drew attention because he died defending so much of what is under attack in Mexico.

Criminal cartels have challenged the state, civil society, and democracy itself as they pursue absolute power. They've driven villagers from their towns. They've forced soldiers to wear hoods, judges to wear masks and the free press to publish anonymously.

Central to everything is the right to private property. It doesn't exist so long as cartels can order ranchers off their land and turn townspeople into war refugees.

Garza stood up to this — a real hero of Mexican freedom. If his death inspires other Mexicans to resist the cartels, it won't be in vain — it will be the planting of the first seed of victory.

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