Mexico’s Wild Wild West

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Living with Drug Wars-Mexico

‘Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold;
Her skin was white as leprosy
And she was far liker death than he;
Her flesh made the still air cold.’

– Samuel Coleridge
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Life-in-Death wanders through the streets that will take her to her dealer’s flat; she ignores the blue and white police tape sealing off the perimeter around the flat, she ignores the police car parked up a ways and its sharp eyed and vigilant police officers. She moves sluggishly, half in a daze, barely aware of the weather (it is freezing cold), or the child without a coat, wandering across the street in front of her. Life-in-Death so thin and pallid you could knock her over with a single simple breath. Riding the subway oblivious to anything around her, clutching a bag full of sensual goodies old man pimp clutching her arm. The face of chronic addiction, the flip side of recreational drug taking, neither benign nor relaxed, intense, predatory, debilitatingly desperate.
Where they can,most people avoid her because she’s the pristine neighbour’s nightmare, the emergent symptom of a neighbourhood that’s slowly falling a part at the seams because where there’s severe non-recreational addiction there have to be dealers.
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Drug cartels and the influence they wield as a result of the money they make are a fact of life in Mexico. I repeat, drug cartels and the influence they wield as a result of the money they make are a fact of life in Mexico. They are admired by the poor who make up their foot soldiers for doing what the state has so far failed to do for the majority of its people; provide them with a viable and dignified living. school children are more than willing to do drug runs for them; police and army officers are more than willing to aid them in avoiding detection and arrest. Even musicians sing traditional folk ballads exalting their escapades, like Robin Hood they are the people’s folk heroes, doing deals with the rich and then amply rewarding the poor who serve them.

If you take offence at what I’m saying then consider the radical increase in drug deaths year upon year. Since the war on drugs was initiated in Mexico in 2006, there have been more than 45,000 drug war related deaths and by the time President Calderon had left office there had been more than 55,000, under President Pina Nieto, that number has increased to almost 70,000 deaths (excluding disappearances). The amount of manpower dedicated to this ‘war on drugs’ on the Mexican side, 45,000 soldiers, and 35,000 federal police forces, the amount of money? $60 Billion over a seven year period.

On the American side, during President Bushes time in office, the Merida Initiative a $1.9 Billion military and judicial reform aid package was agreed. U.S unmanned drones were granted access in order to gather intelligence on the drug cartels, unarmed customs and border protection drones flew into Mexico to give support to Mexican military and federal police drug raids, and ‘aid’ was also supplied in the form of high-tech tracking gear, data analysis kits and computer hacking technology.

In spite of all this, the many high profile arrests and the thousands of grass roots arrests, the flow of drugs into America and Europe from Mexico has continued unabated if not unimpeded. And at every stage of this war the drug cartels have stepped up their game because with the billions they make they have the money to do so.
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Although President Nieto still appears to be pursuing military action against the cartels, he has also spoken about the need to negotiate with them in order to restore calm to Mexico’s streets and reduce the number of civilian casualties. Because in the end it all comes down to names and not numbers. Or at least that is what the government would have its people believe even though it has taken 90,000 deaths; each death representing a family whose lives have been taken apart by the explosive aggression expelled from one side in this battle to the other.

The Mexican drug trade to America? It makes the drug cartels somewhere in the region of
$50 billion a year, and costs American society so much more in terms of the terminal decline of impoverished communities which were beleaguered anyway . But who can put a price on the names of the Mexican victims of drug cartel violence? Desparicidos (disappeared): Mayra Osuna Tirado, Desparicidos: Modesto Orpinela Garcia, Desparicidos:Antonio Ortega, Desparicido: Marco Navarro. Desparicidos: Jeovany Aguado, Desparicidos: Arturo Perez, Desparicidos: Fernando Ruela. Who can possibly place a price on the absent father,daughter, mother or son? In Cuidad Juarez alone 7,000 sons and daughters went missing, children who may have made a big financial difference to more vulnerable family members, had they been left alive to do so.

Supposedly in the end grief and rage, names and faces have won out against the moral imperative to end a criminal way of life which whilst richly rewarding those who embrace it, devastates the lives of the innocent. ‘Life-In-Death’ may occasionally flash her skirts in the impoverished barrios of Mexico, but she hasn’t taken up the kind of endemic, pervasive, residence that she has in America, Mexican society is doing just fine without her,this war really isn’t theirs, yet again it’s the USA’s.
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