Friday, March 4, 2011

60 Minutes and Mexico: A Consideration of The Recently Televised Feature

Jeff Norman is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog.
60 Minutes, the highly acclaimed televised news journal, recently composed an incendiary feature on Mexico's drug cartels entitled Bribes or Death. Before watching the feature, I literally had no idea just how harrowing the situation South of the border was for the integrity of Mexico's government and societal well-being. What enticed my viewing of the roughly fifteen minute story was its subtitle, "silver or lead." The choice between a lucrative precious metal and its meaningless, potential toxic counterpoint seemed obvious to me. As the video proceeded, it became evident that leaders of Mexico's most feared cartels felt similarly.
The video piece, helmed by Byron Pitts, opens with a tearful widow. The city of Santiago, Mexico recently grieved alongside her as news of her husband's loathsome demise swept through the country. His name was Edelmiro Cavazos; his was a grand and majestic name that spoke to the sense of virtue and decency he sought to infuse into his community. Upstanding and brave, he opted to deal with the drug cartels head on. The leaders of these cartels had grown incredibly comfortable in Santiago, a town whose prime location linked southern Mexico and South America to Monterrey—where drug pushing into the United States is rather facile. Santiago, therefore, represents the best method to link drugs to a body of consumers. And Cavazos stood as an irritating wrinkle in that smooth path of drug money. 
Eventually, Cavazos was murdered by a gang of disconsolate cartel members. One person in that gang actually masqueraded as one of Cavazos' bodyguards. Shrewdly, 60 Minutes clarifies how such deceit has become part and parcel in the war against the drug cartels. Towns such as Santiago provide relatively limited employment, the best of which comes from either the government or the cartels. The cartels pay more and provide assurance of security for one's family, something that the police can't provide. But cartels will frequently position one of their members into the police community, so as to have an effective, downright Machiavellian way to keep tabs on the law. 
When the law, like mayor Cavazos, grow too vocal for the cartels' taste, this current system allows the cartels an easy way to off their competition.
The video feature concluded with some insight into the meaning of that simple comparison, "silver or lead." Byron Pitt's interview revealed this to be far more perilous. Silver implies payment, bribery. Lead connotes bullets, guns, death. 
The drug war is currently held sway by the cartels, whose ample money and weaponry force everyone who encounter them to pick a side, to pick their existence. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Drugs on Vacation

Last weekend while I was vacationing in Cancun for a friend's wedding, I realized that if you really want drugs, all you have to do is ask...anyone.  I struck up a conversation with a Canadian tourist and we started to talk about what we did for a living, why we were there (turns out he was there for a wedding, too), about the resort we were staying in, etc.

What I remember most is that he started to talk about how he also sold cocaine and marijuana back home and how the first few days of arriving to Cancun he was "blasted out of his mind."  Apparently, all he had to do to score some really "good" cocaine was ask a taxi driver.  What's most interesting is that the taxi driver delivered the stuff to the hotel without the Canadian ever having to leave like if it were a pizza delivery.  Frankly, I'm not really sure why he felt comfortable telling me this or even how we started that conversation.  He went on to say that back home, his friend recently went to jail for selling drugs and that he was surprised he had not been caught yet because he sold "a **** load."  I wanted to know who his supplier was, so I asked.  He said the Hell's Angels supplied him with the merchandise.  "Are you sure?  At the end of the day, it probably comes from Mexico."  I could't help myself.

People like this Canadian tourist keep the Mexican cartels in business.  He sounded so proud, proud like the parent watching his son perform the lead role in the school play or like getting first place at the championship match.  He didn't seem to be phased about the possibility that he could go to jail like his old buddy.  

For him, it was just another day.  For me, it was just another day in the Mexican drug country.  

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Lookout (El Alcon)

On Saturday afternoon, we were making our way to visit a relative's house when we spotted a green camouflage humvee filled with Mexican soldiers.  Its common to see soldiers in the area because they have a post nearby and they normally come into town to buy food and other necessities.  Some stood while others sat in the vehicle's bed as they watched each others back.  I was reminded of a war movie when the lookout stood watch while the other soldier slept, each facing away from each other.  

You could see that they were prepared for war.  They were fully armored with kevlar helmets, bullet proof vests, high powered weapons, and expressionless, serious faces.  For a split second, I felt as if I had made eye contact with one of them and I immediately started to think; "Does he think I'm one of them?"  I had stopped for a cold treat to keep cool from the humidity.

We approached our destination and immediately right after, we spotted a black four door car with heavily tinted windows.  The driver was backing into the dentist office in front of us, the car and the driver facing us.  We all went about our business.  We talked, we laughed.  We were having normal conversation.  I felt a little uneasy, trying really hard not to look toward the car's way.  It was obvious that the person in the car was sent to keep a close watch on the soldiers and other potentially threatening activity that might disrupt local drug operations.  As we joked, my mind started to drift away.  I started to think about what would happen if the soldiers and the lookout started to gun each other right in front of us.  

After about half an hour, he left as nonchalantly as he had come.  We continued our conversation.  

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Apparent shooting near middle school

People have been talking over the last couple weeks of an apparent shooting near an elementary school of a nearby town.  The individuals involved are believed to be related to the Zetas drug cartel.  Witnesses could not say what the motive for the shooting was, but the apparent sound of gunshots alarmed teachers who had been outside with children during recess.

The local radio station had been reporting on other matters and apparently started to report of the shooting, but later retracted what had been reported stating that the radio station made an error and misreported something that never actually took place.

These brazen acts may be common in other parts of Mexico, but not here.  This is the first of its kind.  Is this an indication that things may be getting worse for our relatively violent free border towns?  Various news sources suggest that it is more dangerous.  Just last year in a nearby border city, the police chief was assassinated after being on the job for less than a month and vowing to "in no part to commit corruption."  Another border town police commander nearby also experienced a similar fate just three weeks ago.  Are we headed to the likes of Ciudad Juarez or Tamaulipas where drug violence has become common place and people live in fear 24 hours a day?