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Mexico’s Crackdown On Drug Violence Came To My Door Today

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It has been reported that Monday saw 100 police in a number of police stations across Nuevo Laredo arrested by federal agents and the military.

The action is part of President Calderòn's efforts to control the mushrooming violence of the war between drug organizations for turf and against the government which is increasing its efforts to control them.

It is believed that last year over 2000 people were killed in Mexico in this war. Monterrey had been free of this violence for some time but that has changed with over 50 people killed recently — many of them police officers.

The poorly paid police are not so difficult for cartels with multi-million dollar incomes to influence. Those who are not bought are targeted.

Monday also saw 20 victims of gang violence across the country. Cancun, as previously reported, had 5 people, 3 men and 2 women found murdered with their heads covered with plastic bags and their hands tied together. Quite an image for a prime tourist destination.

CNN reports today that President Calderòn's efforts to fight the wave of violence and killings that has been spawned by increasingly violent and visible power struggles between rival Mexican cartels are paying off.

Mexican police arrested today 7 "alleged drug gang hit men" in Acapulco, a major tourist destination for both Mexicans and foreigners. The police confiscated 7 assault weapons, "several" pistols and a store of ammo.

The assistant secretary of public safety  commented that "The escalation of violence we are seeing … [and] the power of these criminal gangs comes from the ease with which they get weapons" on the American border. "Their firepower is impressive."

On 7 February the San Diego press reported that "Drug Violence in Acupulco Threatens Mexico's Tourism Industry". Hotel owners and businessmen are not pleased with the bloody drug wars and what had previously been a "live and let live" attitude by police.

One of the more blatant attacks by the gangs was at noon on Tuesday when assassins entered two state police station dressed as soldiers. They demanded the cops' guns and then opened fire on them. Five police investigators were killed along with two secretaries. Witnesses noted that they videotaped their attack. Third World violence, drug wars and miscellaneous savagery are embracing Web 2.0 and becoming en-gadgeted.

The mayor told local business leaders at a breakfast in February, “I hope this does not affect the tourist image.  We realize that these events are unpleasant, but people know that they are separate events.” Given the  wounding of 2 Canadian tourists in the lobby of their hotel on the tourist strip when shots were fired into the lobby, the $12 billion a year tourism industry in Mexico will, indeed, be threatened. America is reeling from its own massacre in Virginia and that was nothing compared to the level of violence that exists and is increasing in Mexico.

In my view some of the blame must lie with the US for permitting the wide distribution of firearms including assault weapons and drug laws that have made the drug business a dangerous, illegal and therefore wildly profitable enterprise enjoyed by the most violent segment of both societies. It is little different from the Prohibition of the 20s and 30s. Just watch a good movie from the period with Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart raking in the dough and finally shooting it out with cops or other bad guys. Plus ça change; plus c'est la méme chose — the more things change; the more they are the same.

In researching a coming article on post-traumatic shock disorder I was just looking at web sites in the US (mainly) for gun shops, shows, dealers and NRA advocates. Assault weapons remain a good choice. I found AK-47 clones for as little as $569 on sophisticated sites with gun shop location guides — "find a gun store near you." Interested in adding to your collection or just planning some fun? Start with 100 Top Gun Sites.

NPR published a vivid audio-slideshow on the drug wars recently. Take a look and listen.

The gangs are said to be "branching out" into other nefarious trades as well — kidnapping, auto theft, and the trade in migrants and weapons. The secretary added that "These are very dynamic organizations." Some blame was put on the easy availability of weapons from the US just over the northern border.

Today, Saturday 21 April, I made this post a few minutes ago at my blog 7 Color Lagoon . I wrote just last night (on my blog, Travel Dangers) about the arrest of 100 police in Acapulco, deaths in Cancun and the increasing success or effect of the crackdown by President Calderòn's government.

It came home today. It came to my porton, the steel gate in the wall around my property on the shore of Laguna Bacalar in the southeastern frontier of Mexico.

I was called by strong (very strong) knocking on the gate which is always locked in this dangerous area. I was waiting for a carpenter and wondered why he had the audacity to sit atop the barda, the wall around the perimeter.

Then I noticed he had on a black ski mask and was not wielding a big hammer but an assault weapon and asked to come in as they had an "operation" in progress. Being the macho fool I am I both opened the little door in the porton and demanded to see their IDs. Logical unless you happen to be 60, have CHF, a pacing device and are unarmed. What, I wondered later, would I have done if they did not have police and military IDs?

I gave them access to my property to attack two neighboring houses and decided it best not to photograph a lot of young men with assault rifles and black ski masks in a foreign country. I would have when I was a working photographer but I am now disabled, hardly able to shoot flowers without tiring myself and suffering Post-Traumatic Shock Disorder after the death of my wife in December — a victim of anti-American violence.

Reporting the news from the wires and RSS feeds is one thing. I felt the impotency of a foreigner without the energy to photograph nor the temerity to interview obviously nervous kids with big guns waiting for a fire-fight.

The Calderòn effort to control rampant violence in a country noted for corruption and savage violence is laudable. It is also a little frightening when it comes into your yard. A number of "operatives" with rifles and flack jackets have been through my lovely terrace overlooking this once tranquil lagoon. They did not stop to enjoy the view. The young soldiers in the street guarding the rear looked too nervous to approach except to tell them with a smile "ten cuidado", be careful.

The violence in Mexico has escalated. The government response appears more and more effective, which may be generating a response of escalating terror from wealthy drug dealing gangs who have begun to fear for their futures. President Calderòn is doing what is best for Mexico — trying to control the violence and killings before Mexico leaves the family of civilized nations for good. It makes this period one of danger and insecurity as a government continues to try to push a whole nation from one traditional and established path into another manner of existence. It is not an easy task.

I have not heard gunfire in spite of the plethora of guns that have gone by in the hands of soldiers and police passing through my property to the shore of the lagoon. I waved and smiled which is often appropriate with nervous, testosterone-filled men with guns as they passed the glass doors to my living room.

It will be later that I hear the chisme, the rumors, about this bit of excitement. But the end result is not of importance. The attitude of the Mexican federal government to change the shape of the nation and the proliferation of violence everywhere is the stuff that is news.

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About hfdratch

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/clavos Clavos

    Nice article, Howard.

    Your fondness for what is good and attractive about Mexico comes through even in a piece about drug wars and even in the face of the horrible tragedy you suffered.

    I agree with you that the USA shares the blame for the violence and death dealt by the drug lords, but not because of our gun laws. In fact, many foreign-made guns are smuggled into the USA from Mexico; the overall flow is actually greater in volume Northbound than Southbound, despite Mexico’s draconian gun laws, which are easily circumvented with well-placed mordidas.

    Where I think the US is to blame is in failing to legalize and regulate the drug business. That one tactic alone would wipe out the profit and therefore, the narcotraficantes, almost overnight.

    As most of my Mexican friends are fond of telling me, until the Gringos eliminate the demand for illegal drugs, there is little Mexico or any other Latin American country can do to eradicate the traffic. As you point out, there’s just too much money involved for relatively poor societies to fight the drug lords.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Good article. I feel for you – really. I understand much or your position. I have to agree with much of what Clavos wrote about the issue of legalizing drugs, as much as it sticks in my throat to do so. While legalizing drugs seems to me to be the coward’s way out in terms of accepting a sick drug culture, there can be no arguing with the fact the the American demand market is a vacuum cleaner driving prices up world-wide. Only the oilmen and bankers are making more obscene profits. And they, at least pay dividends and taxes.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Good article. I feel for you – really. I understand much or your position. I have to agree with much of what Clavos wrote about the issue of legalizing drugs, as much as it sticks in my throat to do so. While legalizing drugs seems to me to be the coward’s way out in terms of accepting a sick drug culture, there can be no arguing with the fact the the American demand market is a vacuum cleaner driving prices up world-wide. Only the oilmen and bankers are making more obscene profits. And they, at least pay dividends and taxes. Stay safe, Howard.

  • http://bacalar.blogspot.com Howard Dratch

    Thank you, Clavos. I try hard to hate Mexico but it isn’t possible. I just watched An Unfinished Life again. “Bears,” Morgan Freeman said, “do what bears do.”

    It is not the violence of Latin America because America just proved it can keep up in the violence department. My foray into the virtual gun world today reminded me of the horrors of the Minutemen, KKKers and all our other home-grown crazies.

    The world does not suffer from Mexican violence or, perhaps, not even from Muslim violence. There are too many people to share evenly in violence. The battle is the same one they got together to write bibles about — evil versus good and the great resources that are needed to keep evil at bay.

    I just posted an article on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because the world is, as is the human condition, always finding reasons to suffer it. And because in reading about it I realized that I, too, am under its pall and needed to write something, to read aloud on LibriVox.org, to stupidly question a bunch of guys in black masks carrying automatic weapons. Mexico, like the Hudson Valley of New York where we spent nearly 30 years, is almost paradise but the “almost” allows a lot of evil to rear its head.

  • Dr. Zero

    Perhaps some small amount of blame lies with the USA for Mexico’s problems, but the vast overwhelming major portion of blame lies with Mexico and Mexicans. They have allowed a lax culture of criminality to grow like a cancer in their midst. They have failed to reform their society in fundamental ways that allow for hope and economic well being of a majority of their citizens. I recently read that Mexico is the biggest out-migration nation in the world. That’s amazing when you consider that it’s not even in the same league population wise as China or India.

    Many Mexicans are voting with their feet to abandon Mexico and all her problems.

    I too support the new Presidente, but wonder if it is already too late. For one thing Mexico has lost a huge amount of its most important assett for the future: its ambitious young.

  • http://www.cdbaby.com/X-15 Douglas Mays

    Yes, good for you to bring this up on Blogcritics. I love Mexico and the people when living in a true community.

    but is there a problem down there right now. The drug cartels are making it a not too nice place. It is not an attractive thing to be in the wrong town and bar when some criminal walks in and rolls 5 decapitated heads on the floor then leaves. True story.

    Get it straight Mexico! We know you guys are being used as a mule to get to the USA. Sorry about that. We probably must unite in the cause to fight it.

    Cocaine? It is not good for any economy to take cash out of your pocket and give it to some Columbian drug lord. Marijuana is not a problem. A harmless, safe tonic where all the money stays in the economy. And since I am writing you from Seattle (home of the worlds best and strongest ‘old growth’ chronic herb), we don’t need any Mexican imports.

    the deal is that when it comes to issues of illegal aliens from Mexico, etc., Canada, USA and Mexico need to get together in some sort of EU or better type of way. Here in Washington State we can get drivers licenses as good as a passport to zip across to Canada almost like an ‘honorary citizen’. I figure that is a good start to get the government out of relations and the people back into it.

    You have a cartel problem in Mexico. It does touch upon us here in effect. I dunno, there is a way for us to unite as a North/Central America entity while maintaining the true culture of our individual countries. Personally, as a United States person, what can we do to help clean up the cartel?

    best,
    douglas

  • Bill Wilson

    Philadelphia had nearly 400 murders in 2006. Now there are over 100 in mid april.
    It all about drugs, money and guns.
    Combine those and you have violence,

  • http://bacalar.blogspot.com Howard Dratch

    I add a small update in the interest of accuracy. In my article I promised more chisme — rumor and gossip — would come my way in this small village.

    Today I heard that the targets of the police/military raid were not narcotraficantes but paid assassins. Personally I find that far worse and explains the highly tense police and young soldiers. It seems that this group had shot two federal police the night before. I was also too quick to report that there had been no gunfire. That came later in the jungle across the street in the night — not quite a lullabye.

    I do stay with my parting thought in the article. It does not matter much if they were drug traffickers, terrorists, contract killers or evil crazies like the Monster of Virginia. The subject here and in the world as a whole is violence.

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