The border battle

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A war happening within a few feet of United States’ soil is finally starting to get the attention of media and citizens here, but the sense of hopelessness here about the situation there appears to outrank the more covered conflicts in the news.

It’s the war in Mexico, ostensibly between drug cartels, but also extending deep within government entities.

MPR’s Midmorning devoted an hour to the escalating violence today. Sara Miller Llana, the Latin America bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor, described a lawless country where kidnapping is the primary fear, where people don’t bother calling the police, and where thugs provide the muscle for drug cartels by day, and live in El Paso by night.

A caller said her sister witnessed the shooting of two students at a private university just a few weeks ago in Monterey. “Petty crimes and kidnappings are occurring under the shadows of the violence of these cartels,” she said.

“Any small business owner you talk to has been extorted,” Llana added.

“Why don’t we hear more about this?” MPR’s Kerri Miller asked. The answer is easy. Up until recently Americans haven’t been in the middle of it.

That changed on March 13 when U.S. consulate employee Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, were killed when gunmen attacked their car after they left a birthday party in Ciudad Juarez. A suspect in the killings was arrested today.

Coincidentally, a San Diego magazine today received an award from the Investigative Reporters and Editors Association for its five year investigation of the drug cartels and police near Tijuana.


She talks of a contemporary atmosphere of virtual impunity for killers. Beginning in the mid-20th century, she says, and escalating with cocaine in the 1970s, the Mexican government–mainly through the PGR–controlled the country’s organized-crime network. It was the government that officiated in criminal disputes and apportioned plazas–areas of influence and drug-thoroughfare, the rights to which were leased by crime syndicates. It’s not that cartels didn’t kill 30 and 40 years ago, she says; they just did it quietly–with the cooperation and pacifying oversight of the government.

But the Washington Post suggests the situation is overblown, listing five myths about Mexico:

1. Mexico is descending into widespread and indiscriminate violence.

2. The Mexican government lacks the resources to fight the cartels.

3. Endemic corruption allows the cartels to flourish.

4. Drug violence is a Mexican problem, not a U.S. one.

5. Mexican drug violence is spilling over into the United States.

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