Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tijuana: No More Cheap Spring Break Trips

I continue to be shocked by these reports about the Drug Wars in Mexico. Here's a report of the bleak situation in Tijuana from the Independent.
"In the past, the gangs had rules," says Victor Clark Alfaro, a local human rights lawyer. "They respected families. They didn't kill children. But those rules have changed. Now they don't respect anything. They'll kill anybody, and decapitate them, or cut the body, to send a message to society."

The breakdown in law and order stems from the 1980s and 1990s, when the US launched a crackdown on Colombian drug cartels, allowing Mexican syndicates to emerge in their place. Soon these groups controlled almost nine-tenths of America's entire supply of cocaine from South America. For many years, Mexico's cartels were largely left to get on with business, on the basis that they killed only their own kind. But the arrival of multi-party democracy to in 2000 – for 70 years, Mexico had been a one-party state – led to government crackdowns on their trade. These had some success. The Arellano Felix cartel, which for years controlled a north-west portion of the country, has lost most of its leaders, including, most recently, Eduardo Arellano Felix, one of the seven brothers who founded the organisation. He was captured in October, after a shootout at a house overlooking the city, which last week was still derelict, and riddled in bullet holes.

Unfortunately, when you arrest one drug baron, you do not kill off the trade. Instead, you create a vacancy, and a turf war. Most of the recent violence across Mexico, and in Tijuana in particular, has involved remnants of the Arellano Felix cartel battling rivals from the so-called Sinaloa syndicate, and Gulf Cartel, both keen to move in on the patch.

How long will the Drug War last before we realize that the cost is too high to continue fighting? They've ruined Colombia, and now they've ruined Mexico. It makes me sick reading this. As long as there is money to be made by smuggling illegal drugs, there is always going to be gangs and killings. Law and order breaks down, not the other way around.

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