Tue, Sep 03, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Mexico’s new drug war might be worse than old one

The bloodshed, especially the increasing number of children being murdered along with their parents and other adults, has left Mexicans wondering which way to turn or where to go

By Mark Stevenson  /  AP, COATZACOALCOS, Mexico

Her brother, Jonith Enriquez Orozco, has been missing since he was abducted on Sept. 25, 2015. There has been no trace of him since, even though her group, the Mothers’ Collective of Searchers, has hunted for traces in clandestine burial grounds across Veracruz.

Mexico has a lamentable record in investigating and prosecuting killings — more than 90 percent of crime go unpunished, Hope said.

“The risk involved in killing a man, or killing his whole family, is the same,” the analyst said.

Under that logic, wiping out an entire family “has its advantages. It is more intimidating, it is easier to carry out, and it makes escaping easier,” he said.

The relentless violence has numbed many people.

In 2010, gunmen burst into a party of high school students in Ciudad Juarez’s Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood, killing 15 in what appeared to have been a case of mistaken identity.

The bloodbath provoked large, angry street protests and a visit by an apologetic then-Mexican president Felipe Calderon.

This year, in April, gunmen burst into a party in Minatitlan, near Coatzacoalcos, and killed 14 people. Days later, a few dozen people held a subdued peace march.

“It’s politics as usual, nothing happened. This should generate generalized indignation” against cartels and government leaders alike, Hope said.

He attributes the muted response to new Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s high approval ratings, topping 70 percent in some polls nine months into his term.

Such ratings “tend to intimidate expressions of indignation,” Hope said.

Many Mexicans also are willing to give Lopez Obrador the benefit of the doubt as even the president acknowledges that violent crime is the most serious challenge he faces.

To the extent possible, Lopez Obrador has avoided violent confrontations with gangs that were often blamed for spawning violence during Calderon’s 2006-2012 administration.

Lopez Obrador has even personally congratulated troops who allowed themselves to be abducted and disarmed by vigilante groups that are often linked to cartels.

He insists his go-slow policies of reducing youth unemployment will eventually solve the root causes of the problem better than declaring another frontal offensive against drug cartels.

Carlos Angel Ortiz is one of those who does not fault Lopez Obrador.

“It is like the president says: ‘Only the people can save the people,’” Ortiz said as he made plans to bury his niece, Xochitl Irineo Gomez, a dancer at the nightclub who died of smoke inhalation, leaving behind a son and a daughter ages seven and three.

“We have to look out for each other, and report crimes more,” Ortiz said.

The poor provide Lopez Obrador’s base, and it is that group who suffers the most from crime.

Irineo Gomez was the sole support of not only her children, but her elderly parents. Erick Hernandez Enriquez left little behind for his family aside from a modest, three-room cinderblock house.

“There are a lot of empty houses in Coatzacoalcos, a lot of people have left,” said Maria Fabiola Davila, a civic activist. “Those who can afford it move to another country.”

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