A new proposal by Mexico’s ruling party could result in musicians being sent to prison for performing songs that glorify drug trafficking.
The proposed legislation would mean sentences of up to three years for people performing or producing songs or films that glamorise criminals.
“Society sees drug ballads as nice, pleasant, inconsequential and harmless – but they are the opposite,” Oscar Martin Arce, a National Action party MP, told the Associated Press.
The ballads – known as narcocorridos – often describe drug trafficking and violence and are popular among some norteño bands.
After some killings, gangs pipe narcocorridos and threatening messages into police radio scanners.
Martin said his party’s proposal, presented to congress on Wednesday, was also intended to combat low-budget films praising druglords. It remained unclear when it would be voted on.
“We cannot accept it as normal. We cannot exalt these people because they themselves are distributing these materials among youths to lead them into a lifestyle where the bad guy wins,” Martin said.
He added that the proposal’s intention was not to limit free expression but to stop such performances from inciting crimes, claiming one alleged murderer had told police he became involved in crime because he liked narcocorridos.
Elijah Wald, the author of Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns and Guerrillas, said politicians were attempting to censor artists instead of tackling Mexico’s real problems.
“It is very hard to stop the drug trafficking,” he added. “It is very easy to get your name in the papers by attacking famous musicians.”
However, Greg Etter, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Central Missouri, said he believed narcocorridos promoted violence.
“It affects [people’s] view of social normality, and that’s what makes it dangerous,” he said, but added: “I don’t see how you could put a lid on it.
“Yes, these are dangerous. Music affects emotion, and emotion affects actions. But if they suppress it, won’t it make it even more popular?”
The norteño band Los Tigres del Norte cancelled a planned appearance at an awards ceremony at a government-owned auditorium in October after organisers allegedly asked them not to perform a drug ballad.
The Mexican president, Felipe Caldéron, launched a nationwide crackdown on drug cartels in late 2006, deploying tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police across the country.
Even performers who do not sing drug ballads have been caught up in recent raids.
In December, Mexican authorities arrested the Grammy award-winning musician Ramón Ayala at a drug cartel party in a mansion outside the central mountain town of Tepoztlan.
Ayala’s lawyer said the accordionist and his band, Los Bravos del Norte, did not know their clients were suspected members of the Beltran Leyva cartel.
– Article from the The Guardian.