A taxi driver is assassinated in a shopping center in Culiacán. Photo: Rashide Frias, Cuartoscuro
By: Alejandro Páez Varela | Translated by Valor for Borderland Beat
On December 11, 2006, with the country turning the other way— the opponents of the president in a yell— a war was launched without ever having been consulted with by anyone. It’s been a decade, recalls the author of this text, and “on the streets, the Mexican Army continues and there is a widespread feeling that it operates with impunity, a war of extermination. Crimes continue and armed groups have diversified their income relying on impunity. There is no effective state policy to compensate for damages to victims or to deter youths from armed groups. The police have not been cleaned up and narco-politics seems to keep the reserves that it had before the start of the confrontation. There aren’t major advances in the criminal justice system; torture, the UN says, is widespread; prisons are schools of criminals; money laundering operations continue to develop and now, all this time, a glimmer of light: the possibility that marijuana might at least be decriminalized.”
Mexicans, At The Cry Of War
Suddenly, as never before, the streets of many cities of our country lost a virginity that it had maintained since the 1910 Revolution: Mexican Army units were displaced but not to the barracks, not to any community in a tragedy by a hurricane or an earthquake. They came with their weapons in front to stay there, in the corners, on the sidewalks, where cops were before.
It wasn’t a minor change for a majority who were used to seeing soldiers on television. With them, from the night to the morning, bulletproof vests appeared, machine guns mounted in open vehicles, outlines of federal police. And what seemed to be a temporary thing kept spreading for months, and then years. Armored cars became common throughout the country while terms such as “executed”, “sicario”, “kidnapped”, “agitated”, “company”, or “decapitated” became part of the jargon of many in the media, of journalists and of the population in general.
In a few years, we added another term, which nobody knows whether it was coined in the press or in the streets, to that ominous language, but it clearly came from a new reality. “Narcofosas” (Narco-graves), for example, which refers to clandestine cemeteries scattered throughout the territory; “autodefensas”, which refers to the efforts of the citizens to defend themselves against criminals that seized physical territories and of the income of its inhabitants. Extortion was just a word until now, when it became a reality spreading throughout cities and in huge urban sprawls, such as the State of Mexico surrounding the capital. And among all the words that became common, a jarring: “kitchen”, and all its derivations: the verb “to cook” or the subject “the cook”. It refers to the massive disappearance of bodies in acids or burned in 200 liter drums. Bodies from the war between cartels or simply just victims of violence.
The sun became clouded for cities that were synonymous with relaxation and fun, like Acapulco, Morelia, or Cuernavaca. States with relative tranquility, such as San Luis Potosí or Guanajuato became restless lands. Life became impossible in societies that were already permeated by the narco, such as Ciudad Juárez, Apatzingán, Tijuana, Chihuahua, Piedras Negras, Nuevo Laredo or Reynosa.
The pus of violence that came with the war spread throughout towns and villages, and at the dawn of this reality, names of new criminal gangs appeared and consolidated their presence at almost the same time that the federal government showed off the arrest of heads of drug trafficking groups.
The decapitated became common, as well as heads in coolers, mayors and journalists assassinated, police officers kidnapped and tortured. Entire towns entered psychoses, from north to south, while the hidden powers were sharpening up their tools they used to control: they dared to dictate, through social networks, “curfews”.
And it all happened in the blink of an eye.
“The president doesn’t listen.” Photo: Cuartoscuro
If The Bugle With Its Bellicose Accent
Certainly, the war on drugs is not new and hasn’t lasted for a decade. History attributes it to Richard Nixon, who declared drugs as “public enemy #1” in the United States in 1971. Mexico, a production and transit territory for a century, joined the late 20th century under pressure from Washington, particularly over allegation of corruption and omission that came from the agencies, in the Executive and Congress.