Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Mexican drug baron Tony Tormenta died in a hail of grenades and gunfire on Nov.5 on the U.S. border, a victory for U.S.-Mexico efforts to clamp down on the illegal narcotics trade. Or did he?
Five days after the Gulf cartel leader’s death at the hands of Mexican marines in Matamoros, no photographs of his body have surfaced. At the navy’s only news conference, there was never any clarification about the whereabouts of his body. Mexico’s attorney general’s office did say on Wednesday that his body was handed over to his wife and daughter on Tuesday. The navy has declined to comment.
It was a similar story with the death of top Sinaloa cartel trafficker Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel in July. The only photograph of the body was leaked to a magazine days after his killing by the Mexican army in western Jalisco state.
In a country where few Mexicans believe in their government, President Felipe Calderon is asking people to take his word that these powerful, billionaire drug lords have, in fact, died.
I heard the bursts of gunfire near my house in Monterrey as I was showering this morning. Then the ambulance sirens started wailing, and as I drove my kids to school about 20 minutes later, a convoy of green-clad soldiers, their assault rifles at the ready, sped by us. In northern Mexico, where I cover the drug war, it has become a part of life to read about, hear and even witness shootouts, but today I shuddered at the thought: what if those soldiers accidentally ever shot at me?
It was in February 2007 that Amnesty International raised concerns over Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s decision, two months earlier, to send thousands of troops across the country to control Mexico’s spiraling drug violence. Echoing worries voiced by the United Nations, the rights group warned that sending the army onto Mexican streets to do the job of the police was a bad idea. Even individual soldiers have commented to Reuters, off the record of course, that they feel very uncomfortable about their new role.
The people of Ciudad Juarez are starting to lose all hope. When gunmen burst into a birthday party on Friday and killed 14 people, the horrific act should have at least shocked Mexican authorities into action. But even the sight of blood running out of a suburban patio, the broken chairs and the party-goers’ bodies slumped on the concrete have become all too familiar in the desert city across from El Paso, Texas.
It was at the start of 2010 that another, gruesomely similar shooting was warning enough that the city was spiraling toward criminal anarchy.
The black smoke could be seen across Tijuana as Mexico’s biggest-ever marijuana haul went up in flames.
The equivalent of more than 250 million joints were soaked in gasoline and set on fire, with the smell of the drug soon overpowering the acrid smell of the fuel.
The thousands of flickering candles run on and on along Monterrey’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, a spontaneous tribute to a 21-year-old university arts student shot dead by a drug hitmen who was chasing after an off-duty prison guard last week.
Even as busy shoppers bustle past, people are coming to Plaza Morelos to place the candles one after the other in the downtown of Mexico’s wealthy northern city in a rare public showing of anger, sadness and frustration at Lucila Quintanilla’s death and the spiraling drug violence across the city.
It is difficult to imagine things getting much worse in Ciudad Juarez, the manufacturing city across from El Paso that has become one of the world’s most dangerous places. Extortions, beheadings, bombs in cars, daylight shootouts and kidnappings are all daily fare in the border town once better known as a NAFTA powerhouse and party zone for fun seeking Americans. Even the Mexican army stands accused of abusing the trust citizens once placed in it, carrying out possibly hundreds of wrongful arrests and illegal house raids.
Things are so bad that business leaders are calling for a state of emergency to be called in the city on the Rio Grande with nighttime curfews in a bid to control the violence. Around 10,000 businesses have closed in Ciudad Juarez over the past two years. A military-enforced curfew doesn’t resound much with residents who want the thousands of troops sent in by President Felipe Calderon to leave town for good. More than 6,700 people have died in drug killings since the army arrived in early 2008 and locals say the army-led crackdown on gangs has only provoked more violence across the city and its surrounding Chihuahua state. (Click here for full Mexico drug war coverage)
This article by Ioan Grillo originally appeared in GlobalPost.
Caption: A police man walks at a crime scene where three people were gunned down in a drive-by shooting in downtown Ciudad Juarez April 28, 2010. REUTERS/Claudia Daut
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — At less than 5 feet 6 inches with acne and a mop of curly hair, 17-year-old Jose Antonio doesn’t look particularly menacing.