Who is a victim in Mexico’s drug war violence?

December 13, 2012

The Christian Science Monitor, 12/13/2012

death-toll-10000The rusted steel slabs of a new memorial to victims of Mexico’s drug war bear no mark, not a single engraved name, of anyone among the estimated 60,000 killed in the past six years.

As part of the concept, it will be up to the survivors to write in loved ones’ names.

After all, there is no way to know exactly who the dead are, since the official death toll of the fight against organized crime was suspended last year. Nor is it possible to know the reason why many were killed given that more than 96 percent of crimes go unsolved and unpunished in Mexico. Mexican society is wrestling with exactly who is a victim and who isn’t, and the memorial could serve as a touchstone to bring victimhood to the forefront of the national conversation.

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When bullets turned to ballads

November 30, 2012

Borderzine, 11/29/2012

ciudad juarezMuch has been written in recent months about this border city’s comeback. Businesses are reopening in Ciudad Juárez; the city’s vibrant nightlife is returning. Juan Gabriel’s concert celebrated the opening of a brand new baseball stadium named “Juárez Vive”: Juárez Lives. His homecoming was for many the clearest sign yet that Juárez is indeed moving forward, that Juárez has bounced back.

However tenuous, the improved security conditions in Juárez offer some hope for a country uneasily awaiting the swearing-in of Enrique Peña Nieto as president this Saturday. Just how much has Juárez really changed—and for that matter, Mexico? What does it mean that Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, will come back to govern the country it imperiously ruled throughout much of the 20th century? Has the PRI changed? Will Peña Nieto continue the Drug War with the same zeal as outgoing President Felipe Calderón? And would that be good or bad?

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Mexico moves to demote federal police force

November 27, 2012

Los Angeles Times, 11/26/2012

Through most of the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, the federal police agency has held a starring role, built to seven times its previous size and favored by American advisors and dollars despite persistent troubles and scandals.

But President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, who is meeting Tuesday with President Obama, has already demonstrated that one of his immediate actions will be to demote the police force, raising questions about his security policies at a time of heightened deadly violence across the country.

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Mexico ex-mayor killed after surviving two attacks

November 19, 2012

BBC News, 11/17/2012

The former mayor of a town in western Mexico, who had survived two earlier assassination attempts, has been beaten to death.

The body of Maria Santos Gorrostieta, 36, was found in a ditch with a blow to the head three days after her family had reported her missing.

When she was mayor of the town of Tiquicheo she was twice shot at by gunmen, who also killed her husband.

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Mexico state uses tortilla wrapper ads for missing

November 14, 2012

Ventura County Star/Associated Press, 11/13/2012

A border state in northern Mexico has launched a campaign it hopes will be more effective than photos on milk cartons to help find missing women and children: It’s using advertisements on tortilla wrappers.

At least three dozen tortilla shops have joined in the Chihuahua state campaign to print appeals for help on the thin paper wrappers that shopkeepers use to wrap up a pound or two of hot tortillas at a time.

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Mexico: Risking Life for Truth

November 13, 2012

Alma Guillermopreita, NY Review of Books, 11/2012

Let us say that you are a Mexican reporter working for peanuts at a local television station somewhere in the provinces—the state of Durango, for example—and that one day you get a friendly invitation from a powerful drug-trafficking group. Imagine that it is the Zetas, and that thanks to their efforts in your city several dozen people have recently perished in various unspeakable ways, while justice turned a blind eye. Among the dead is one of your colleagues. Now consider the invitation, which is to a press conference to be held punctually on the following Friday, at a not particularly out of the way spot just outside of town. You were, perhaps, considering going instead to a movie? Keep in mind, the invitation notes, that attendance will be taken by the Zetas.

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From Mexico to Moscow, the World Turns on to U.S. Marijuana Legalization

November 8, 2012

TIME, 11/08/2012

In April 2011, former Mexican President Vicente Fox sat before an audience at the University of Colorado at Boulder and in his baritone voice and frank tone urged Americans to legalize marijuana. His thrust: it could help enervate Mexico’s violent drug cartels. “The drug consumer in the U.S. yields billions of dollars, money that goes back to Mexico to bribe police and money that buys guns,” Fox said. “So when you question yourselves about what is going on in Mexico, it depends very much on what happens in this nation.”

At the time, many pundits warned that legalization was a non-starter. But on Tuesday, voters in Colorado and Washington state did exactly what Fox called for: they approved landmark amendments to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.

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Hit Mexico’s Cartels With Legalization [op-ed]

November 1, 2012

Ioan Grillo, op-ed, The New York Times, 11/1/2012

WHENEVER I’ve interviewed Mexican cartel killers, the aspect that I’ve found most disturbing about them is that they appear to be sane.

Even though they have described to me such unfathomable actions as hacking off the heads of still-living victims, it is something other than mental illness that drives their violence. Their sanity is disconcerting because, if they were simply mad, it would be easier to accept horrific actions like leaving piles of headless corpses in town squares.

Instead, we have to face up to the hard reasons why thousands of young men (and some women) with full mental faculties have become serial killers. These reasons should be taken into account by residents of Colorado, Washington state and Oregon when they vote on referendums to legalize marijuana next Tuesday.

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Mexico, before and after Calderon’s drug war

August 27, 2012

The Los Angeles Times, 8/25/12

Travelers might want to dip into “Drug Violence in Mexico,” a recent report by The Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego. Though good statistics are often hard to come by in Mexico, authors Cory Molzahn, Viridiana Ríos and David A. Shirk have gathered a boatload of numbers, and they raise the idea that drug-related killings accelerated before Calderón declared war.

As the report notes, the Mexican government counted 12,903 drug-war killings (a.k.a. organized-crime homicides) in the first nine months of 2011, which brought the official total to 47,515 since Dec. 1, 2006.

If you add the 2,624 drug-related homicides reported by the Mexican daily Reforma from October through December 2011, that makes an estimated 50,139 drug-war deaths in five years and one month. (And there are all the killings of this year yet to be officially counted.)

Looking back, the TBI report suggests that drug-related violence may have begun to surge two years before Calderón took office.

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Mexico’s Violent Zetas Cartel Sees New Leader Emerge

August 24, 2012

Fox News Latino, 8/23/12

A split in the leadership of Mexico’s violent Zetas cartel has led to the  rise of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, a man so feared that one rival has called  for a grand alliance to confront a gang chief blamed for a new round of  bloodshed in the country’s once relatively tranquil central states.

Trevino, a former cartel enforcer who apparently has seized leadership of the  gang from Zetas founder Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, is described by lawmen and  competing drug capos as a brutal assassin who favors getting rid of foes by  stuffing them into oil drums, dousing them with gasoline and setting them on  fire, a practice known as a “guiso,” or “cook-out”.

Law enforcement officials confirm that Trevino appears to have taken  effective control of the Zetas, the hemisphere’s most violent criminal  organization, which has been blamed for a large share of the tens of thousands  of deaths in Mexico’s war on drugs, though other gangs too have repeatedly  committed mass slayings.

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