Posts Tagged ‘violence’
I got back last week from another trip to el DF. It was warm, comforting, and just a little unfamiliar. Here’s a short piece I did for NewYorker.com on my stay there.
Photo via The New Yorker
Mexico is a complicated place when it comes to a lot of things, especially violence. When I passed through security at the airport in New York on my way here, the security agent looked at my boarding pass and told me to “be careful.” When I entered New York back in April from Mexico City, the customs man asked me why in the world would “I want to go to such a dangerous place.” I tried to explain to both that Mexico City is actually not more dangerous than, say, New York or Washington, DC and that most of the violence is concentrated on the border, but my words went over their heads. To most Americans, Mexico equals violence, period.
But though most of us who have lived here know the difference between the drug-related violence and normal petty crime, there are always surprises. This past week’s armed attempted robbery of a major grocery store took place in the expatriate and rich-friendly neighborhood of La Condesa, a place I love to walk and bike around. A drug-related drive-by shooting in La Condesa and the assassination of a drug case witness in a Starbucks in the nearby neighborhood of Del Valle also occurred in recent months. A friend, Nick Casey, wrote about the case of two Americans arrested in a border city. They were allegedly tortured in a situation where they claim the Mexican military planted suitcases of marijuana in their truck and then fraudulently arrested them for it.
I suppose that the point is that the line between drug-related violence and petty crime seems to be quickly blurring. Though rich enclaves will always be the target of criminals, places once thought to be relatively safe are no longer relatively safe. Being foreign in Mexico is not a bulletproof vest from being taken advantage of by a corrupt military. And, sadly, there is still no end in sight.
Photo via The Wall Street Journal
It’s hard out there for a woman migrant. Especially, in this case, if you’re Mexican.
The illegal, dangerous journey across the U.S.-Mexico border has always been a more horrific one for Mexican women. It’s now de rigeur for would-be woman migrants to start taking birth control pills before their trips, so expected is rape and other sexual crimes. That still doesn’t protect against the transmission of HIV/AIDS, though, and other STDS. To scare the women even more, “rape trees” are popping up along the border, where cartel members and coyotes rape female border crossers and hang their clothes, specifically their underwear, on trees to mark their “conquests” and territory.
Coyotes, U.S. Border Patrol agents, drug cartels — women migrants face threats on all sides and little to no recourse to stop it. What they are doing is illegal but it isn’t an excuse to ignore this massive sexual exploitation, since women will keep trying their luck across the desert. The sweet, quirky girl who works in the shop on my street wants to try her luck, too. We tell her it’s too much of a risk, but she hasn’t changed her mind.
Photo via Latina
A few days ago, a cartoon appeared in a local Kenyan newspaper featuring Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki advising Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the latter should not accept a power-sharing government at any costs. After all, the coalition government that has been in place in Kenya since the last presidential election erupted into violence hasn’t been going that well. An amusing cartoon, I get the point, but I don’t really find it that funny.
I think it’s because I was in Kenya when all the madness went down, and the memories are gruesome. Much like in Iran at the moment, Kenya went berserk and was brutally torn apart when opposition supporters declared the 2007 election stolen. At the end of all the protests, riots and murders, over 1,500 had been killed and 300,000 displaced. Why did the violence eventually come to an end? Because of a power-sharing deal.
I can’t even imagine what Kenya would be like, when a significant part of the population felt disenfranchised and taken advantage of, if the dueling candidates had not put aside their differences and agreed to technically share power. Sure, it happened in the U.S. in 2000, but there weren’t exactly riots in the street against an oppressive regime.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says that there is no chance of the regime bowing to pressure from the opposition for a new election or any other kind of compromise. So this can go either of two ways: the protesters will eventually get tired and reluctantly accept that their mission has failed, or they will continue on in their dangerous struggle.
I would argue that the second option is ideal, but wouldn’t fault them if they chose the first. As we’ve seen before, the second choice gets very bloody very quickly.
Photo of an Iranian woman holding a picture of slain protester Neda Soltan in LA via Getty
So . . . that drug war. Both Mexico’s police and military have been busy with the tasks of controlling both public panic and passing out masks, but what about all that drug-related violence that has been swept under the rug for the past week?
Today, news came that a Mexican journalist, Carlos Ortega Samper, who criticized local authorities in Durango for corruption was shot fatally on Sunday.
Yesterday, police found 11 bodies dumped between the Pacific resort town of Acapulco and the city of Cuernavaca, including seven wrapped in plastic bags and thrown off a bridge.
And interestingly enough, late last week, the Mexican Senate passed a bill allowing possession of small amounts of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine. Whether President Calderón will sign it into law or not is another question.
But, oh yes, Mexico has arrested Zeta gang leader Gregorio Sauceda Gamboa, one of Mexico’s 24 most-wanted drug traffickers.
Let’s see what else emerges.
Photo by Deanna Dent
“Heads in coolers?!” my friend in the States asked me disbelievingly.
Yes, yet again, human heads were found in coolers near the drug violence-ravaged U.S.-Mexico border, this time in the central state of Jalisco. Each head was found in a separate ice chest on the highway leading to Guadalajara. Jalisco is near the state of Sinaloa, where the Sinaloa drug cartel is based.
If only that had been the first time.
But no, twelve decapitated bodies were found in the Yucatan last fall, their heads nowhere to be found, eight tortured, decapitated bodies of government soldiers were found last winter just north of Acapulco outside of a shopping center, and, almost three years ago, five decapitated heads were dumped on a nightclub dance floor in the state of Michoacan.
As Mexico City-ers would say, “No mames, guey.” (You’ve got to be kidding me.)
My parents are worried. Everyone’s parents are worried, Mexicans and foreigners living in Mexico alike. I don’t cover — and have no desire to cover — the incredibly intricate and shady narco story that is swallowing up this country. And that’s a hard statement to stick by. Many American publications interested in Mexico are hungry for gory drug stories — the bloodier and creepier, the better.
Which is both a good and bad thing. It’s about time a hard, close look was given to this catastrophe that is getting stranger by the minute. But all the drug coverage is also overshadowing some of the most interesting aspects of this country. Mexico’s not all about drugs, you know. No (te) mamo.
Photo via Time.com