Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mexican Drug War Is Dangerously Close to US

Mexican Drug War Is Dangerously Close to American Soil

Posted September 20 2012 at 12:00 am | Updated September 21st, 2012 at 8:44 pm
The war on the drugs in Mexico has resulted in millions of gruesome deaths. Photo courtesy of Fronteras Desk/Flickr.com
On the night of Sept. 15, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla led Mexico’s Independence from the Spanish crown. He persuaded the people of Mexico to rise up with pride: “Viva La Independencia! Viva La Republica Mexicana! Viva Mexico!”
On Sept. 16, 2012 at 11 a.m., a Mexican military parade celebrated the 202 anniversary of the Mexican Independence. According to Mexican newspaper Reforma, 15,638 people marched to the center square of Mexico City, “El Zocalo.” The Mexican army, air force, federal police, students and war vehicles showed off for two hours. The establishment made a clear statement: We, the Mexican government, are in charge.
This is a message that Mexican drug lords cannot ignore. The bloodshed due to drug wars expands month by month in the major cities of Mexico. Since Mexico’s proud government fights these aggressive opponents whom they seek to annihilate, Mexico’s present reminds us of a violent past.
The famous war on drugs of the 1970s and the alcohol prohibition of the 1920s are well-known, documented incidents in history. They caused agitation, separation and bloodshed. Today, in 2012, Mexico writes a similar story for our future history textbooks.
CNN journalist Ashley Fantz estimates that 53,000 people were killed or have disappeared since 2006 due to the “war on drugs.”  In its horrible reality, this number might be much higher, because many incidents go unreported.
There are many violent organized drug trafficking groups, but Sinaloa Cartel, The Zetas and Tijuana Cartel are amongst the most popular. The Zetas are known for their gore– they hang dead bodies from bridges and leave them chopped up in trucks to remind Mexico that they reign the lands in which they do business.
In order to keep the legacy alive, drug traffickers turn children into hit-man students. Their instructors, members of cartels, are experienced in the art of war. The children are taught to kill and feel no mercy at a young age. It might be enticing for children to join a cartel. Minimum wage in Mexico is $4.60 per day, which leads to a poor living situation. I assume many children listen to the ballads of drug cartel leaders promising better pay. They dream of a life beyond poverty: a life the cartel business offers.
The war on drugs is not solely between the Mexican government and the cartels. There are small-scale wars fought in cities, on streets, in schools and in houses. Thousands of Mexican men, women and children are caught in the crossfire. Some are blessed to live on, but the rest die. War is merciless.
The war’s bitter taste releases hate into the atmosphere. Citizens are accustomed to being surrounded by the thundering of armed dispute, death and uncertainty. Hate is contagious, and many of Mexico’s children are a part of it. This is the worst aspect of the war.
Alejandro Siller, a junior at Anahuac University, told me a story:
Maria Monteys, a girl Siller’s age, lived across the street from him in the suburbs of Interlomas, Mexico City. One day, after a stressful school week, she was finally able to relax, so she went on a walk with her dog to the park.
The orange rays of the setting sun reflected their color on the trees. Everything was beautiful.  Suddenly, she was caught in a dispute between a police officer and a cartel employee. Gunshots were fired, but she was blessed to live another day.
Maria Monteys’ story reminds me that the encroaching crux of the war is close, but, like Maria, we are blessed. Each day we have to honor, love and respect before it is too late.
In Dec. 2011, I visited San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato, Mexico while my family and I were on a 98 kilometer road trip from Mexico City to Estado de Mexico. The dense poverty in this area is undeniable. Many Estado de Mexico citizens travel to Mexico City everyday to make just enough profit for their daily bread.
In San Miguel de Allende, we stopped for some good ol’ goat barbacoa tacos with hand-made tortillas. Outside the restaurant, my brother and I spoke to a lady selling dolls. Her eyes projected loneliness. Her son and daughter held on to her dress. She confessed that affording to live wasn’t easy, because military soldiers heavily taxed her and many others. The same soldiers who, according to President Calderon, “fight to restore security and protect freedom for Mexican citizens.” Thousands of soldiers are deployed all over the country every year since the war began. Many citizens are taxed by these soldiers. The poor, shy lady selling dolls is one of many caught in the crossfire.
It is undoubtedly tough to endure this hell of poverty, which is made worse by the war on drugs.
Mexican poet Javier Sicilia became an activist against the idea of a war on drugs after his son Juan Francisco was found tortured and killed by drug gang members. Today, he leads the rallies of “Caravan for Peace.” This summer,  the caravan marched across the U.S. to raise awareness in the streets of Los Angeles, Calif.; Laredo, Texas; Phoenix, Ariz.; Atlanta, Ga.; Washington D.C. and many more U.S. cities.  The organization’s pledge “[calls] for change in the bi-national policies that have inflamed a six year drug war, super-empowered organized crime, corrupted Mexico’s vulnerable democracy, claimed lives and devastated human rights on both sides of the border.”
According to BBC’s documentary “This World 2010 Mexico’s Drug War,” 95 percent of drug cartels’ weapons are bought legally in the U.S. Seventy percent of drug trafficking in the U.S. involves Mexican drug cartels. I ask the United States to listen to the desperate pleas from Mexico. Let’s focus on the major problem of our border countries suffering from some of our policies. This drug war is causing problems on both sides of the border.
The war on drugs intertwines two nations, the U.S. and Mexico, in one conflict. Because of the costs of this war, $51 billion are spent every year in the United States and 12 thousand billion pesos (roughly one thousand billion dollars) are spent by the Mexican government.
The military parade celebrated on Sept. 16 is a reflection of national security spending. This Mexican money could be used for much-needed education, sustainable infrastructure or clean energy technologies. Instead, it is spent to fight fire with fire, to blow flames into a volcano in a state of alert.
A statue of the wise Mohandas Gandhi stands in Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. The teachings of this man should ring in the air: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
As to what you can do, you must realize that this war is fed by the consumers of drugs. If you’re spending money on illegal drugs, you could be contributing to this greedy cycle that results in bloodshed. Ask for answers, think on a solution and act upon your beliefs.
Gonzalo Maza can be reached at gonzalo.maza@spartans.ut.edu


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