Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Ghosts of Juarez

Robert Rath | 22 Mar 2011 13:08
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They found him in a car, his hands and feet bound. Emergency dispatchers reported a dead cop, but the responding officers knew he wasn't one of theirs - just a nameless execution victim in a pilfered uniform - a corpse playing policeman. A news crew captured the scene, fine-tuning the focus. Though the lens, we see the corpse in his ill-fitting policeman's blues. The EMT pronouncing him has her hair tied back in a bun. Masked federales with assault rifles set up a cordon.

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Then the IED explodes. The camera wheels, bounces, and points at the pavement as the wounded cameraman runs. Its audio feed is a chorus of car alarms. It pans and re-focuses. The corpse's car is burning. Two federal policemen, a city cop, and an EMT are dead. They are in good company - this is Juárez, 2010, and this year will see 3,000 narcotics-related murders.

Stop the tape. Rewind, double speed. Hold it.

This is Juárez, March, 2007 - a press conference.

"The game depicts Juárez and the border as a place where there are terrorists and it is not the case. Juárez is a city where we promote work and everybody is working to better the city." This is the head of the state of Chihuahua's Interior Department, explaining why the state has banned Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, and ordered all copies confiscated. The Mayor of Juárez, Héctor Murguía, has spearheaded the effort after labeling the game a "despicable" attempt to portray Mexico's "best border region" as violent and unsafe.

The gaming press chalked it up to moral panic. Ubisoft released a statement pointing out that the story was fictional. No one was interested in exploring why the game had touched a nerve, and as a result, the gaming industry lost a crucial opportunity to examine the increasing overlap between military shooters and geopolitics.

In December, 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderón launched an offensive against the country's narcotics cartels, whose brutal fighting over smuggling routes had become increasingly disruptive to the country's security. Calderón's plan was to use the military to fight the cartels, deploying tens of thousands of soldiers to the streets of the country's most violent cities to keep public order and arrest cartel heads. GRAW2's plot, by luck or design, mirrored the country's security troubles enough land it in a minefield of controversies.

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