How would you react if you saw severed heads in your neighborhood?

April 10, 2011

As violence in the cartel wars grows worse in Mexico, more and more Mexican families are sending their children to school in the United States. For school officials in border districts, this means having to deal more and more with children suffering severe mental and emotional trauma from the horrors they’ve witnessed. In the El Paso Independent School District, counselor Susan Crews describes having to deal with children who’ve been through Hell:

In border cities, it’s common for students from Mexico to go to school in the U.S. Some were born in the U.S. but raised in Mexico, and their families feel they’ll have better opportunities if they go to an American school.

But in recent years, motivation to cross the border has changed. Horrific drug-related violence in Mexico is forcing some families to flee, often in a hurry.

Susan Crews, lead counselor for the El Paso Independent School District, has seen what witnessing that violence can do to a child.

“I have students whose mothers have been decapitated,” Crews says. “I have a student in one of the middle schools — when he visited his family in Juarez there were three heads on sticks along the path were he goes.”

Crews is a grandmotherly figure who wears her hair in a bow-shaped bun atop her head. She says never in her 43 years as a counselor has she encountered such hellish stories.

“The counselor had contacted me because this eighth-grader was having a trauma reaction,” Crews says. “He was not able to control his bladder; he was not sleeping at night.”

Crews is the woman the district sends when there’s a major trauma at a school. In the past two years, she’s responded to the deaths of four students — all killed in Mexico.

“My experience has been atrocious,” she says. “I mean it’s just been overwhelming in my opinion.”

Perhaps a measure of the scale of the problem, Ft. Hood Ft. Bliss in El Paso has been offering training in counseling those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder — the kind they offer to soldiers returning from a war.

And now children from Mexico.

EDIT: Fixed a careless mistake.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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Mexican police chief did indeed flee to the US

March 9, 2011

A few days ago I wrote about the disappearance of Marisol Valles García, who at 21 was the youngest police chief in Mexico. Subsequent news articles claimed she had vanished or walked off her job, but few were willing to credit the idea that she had sought asylum north of the border. Understandable; it would be a little embarrassing for Mexico, if true.

Well, it is true:

After fleeing Mexico to request asylum, the young police chief of the Juárez Valley was
released from a detention center in El Paso and moved north of the U.S. border, officials said Tuesday.

The location of Marisol Valles García, 21, and her family is not being disclosed.

“Marisol Valles García is in the United States,and she will have the opportunity to present the facts of her case before an impartial immigration judge,” said an official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

It’s never a good sign when a police chief has to flee for his or her life, but, given the short life expectancy of Mexican chiefs of police these days, I don’t blame Valles Garcia at all.

via Borderland Beat


Businesses fleeing Ciudad Juarez

March 5, 2011

Can you blame them? The city is descending into a Hobbesian state of nature, a war of all against all. Small wonder businesses are looking to get out:

About 80 business owners in Ciudad Juarez, a border city that has become Mexico’s murder capital, attended a seminar on how to move their operations to neighboring El Paso, Texas, business networking group La Red said.

The seminar, which took place on Tuesday and featured immigration lawyers, real estate agents and bankers from El Paso, provided participants with information on visa application procedures and requirements for establishing new corporations or moving companies currently based in Ciudad Juarez, La Red, which organized the event, said.

About 300 bars and 4,000 restaurants have closed in Ciudad Juarez since 2009 because of the violence in the city, the Restaurant and Prepared Foods Industry Association says.

Business owners have been targeted by attacks, kidnappers and extortionists linked to drug cartels and other gangs.

Many businesses have closed out of fear or lack of customers in the city’s increasingly empty streets.

Ciudad Juarez has been plagued by drug-related violence for years.

This is part of a larger process of depopulation taking place in the area, as people try to find safety and the region effectively becomes ungoverned outside the range of a rifle.

Mexico isn’t a failed state yet, but the risk is growing — for us as well as the Mexicans.


Shots across the border

January 16, 2011

Mexico’s continuing drug war spilled over into the United States again, when a  road crew in Texas had to flee for their lives as they came under fire from the other side of the border:

Hudspeth County, Texas Sheriff Arvin West confirmed a Hudspeth County road crew came under fire Thursday morning from gunmen in Mexico.

Sheriff West told ABC-7 that around 10:30 a.m, Thursday a road crew was repairing a part of Indian Hot Springs road, just east of Neely’s crossing in Hudspeth County along the US-Mexico border when they came under gunfire from the Mexican side.

The crew was able to escape unharmed and managed to call for help. Units from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Border Patrol and Hudspeth County sheriff’s deputies responded within minutes. They were able to determine the shots came from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande but were unable to spot the actual gunmen.

West added this is the first time county crews have come under direct fire. No one was injured and no equipment was damaged.

This isn’t the first time Americans in the El Paso area have come under fire, whether deliberately or accidentally.

The El Paso Times reports official speculation that this particular incident was caused by cartel gunmen wanting to clear the workers from a smuggling route they were using and notes that the area is a regular trafficking site:

Drug cartels use this busy smuggling corridor in between the Quitman Mountains and mountains in the northwestern part of Chihuahua state to traffic marijuana and sometimes cocaine, Doyle said.

The U.S. government built narrowly spaced steel poles north of the Rio Grande to fence the border in that West Texas area. The slots are not wide enough for people to cross, but small objects can fit between the 15-foot-tall poles.

Perhaps the road crew was in the way of a planned package-passing. Regardless, this will become another bit of evidence for border-security advocates concerned about our porous southern border. But, no fence, barrier, or wall, electronic or physical, is 100% secure. Until Mexico smashes the cartels that have made the rule of law and even Mexican sovereignty in their northern states a joke, there will be more incidents like this.

RELATED: The horrifying must-read story of Ciudad Mier, a Mexican town abandoned because of the drug war. Tell me again that Mexico isn’t a failing state. And 2010 was the bloodiest year in Mexico’s war against the drug cartels, with 15,273 dead. Iraq is safer. (By way of contrast, there were 15,241 murders and nonnegligent manslaughters in 2009 in the United States. This is from all causes, not just an organized crime war.)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Bombs on the border

July 18, 2010

A car bomb exploded two days ago, killing police officers and civilians in a terrorist attack. The attack didn’t occur where one might expect, Baghdad or Kabul, but in Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso:

Investigators in Mexico say a deadly attack by suspected drug cartel members in the northern city of Ciudad Juarez was a car bomb set off by mobile phone.

It is believed to be the first attack of its kind since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006, promising to curb powerful drugs gangs.

Two police officers and two medics answering an emergency were killed.

Police said the attack was retaliation for the arrest of a leader of the La Linea drug gang, Jesus Acosta Guerrero.

La Linea is part of the Juarez drug cartel.

Here’s a video report from al-Jazeera’s English-language service:

(via Big Peace)

Since Calderon came to power nearly four years ago, roughly 25,000 Mexicans have died in violence related to the drug cartels. So far as is known, this is the first car-bomb attack. President Calderon claims that the violence shows the cartels are panicking, feeling the pressure put on them by his government’s security measures. That may be, but it’s nonetheless true that parts of Mexico, especially the areas that border the United States, are looking more like war zones and out of the central government’s control.

And that’s a problem for us.

We know that jihadist organizations such as Hamas and Hizbullah are trying to exploit our porous Mexican border. Recently Mexican police foiled an attempt to set up a Hizbullah cell in Tijuana. Decades of experience shows that terrorist groups will often cooperate with criminal gangs for their mutual interests and, indeed, the line between them often becomes blurred. With the cartels’ expertise in smuggling, an alliance with them would be attractive to our jihadist enemies. But what would they want in return?

How about a technology transfer?

Experts: Car bomb in Juárez mimics Middle East terrorist tactics

The car bombing in Juárez on Thursday in which three people were killed signifies an escalation of brutality and sophistication in the city’s 2-year-old drug war, officials said.

Juárez officials on Friday confirmed a car bomb with C-4 plastic explosives was detonated from a remote location.

Local experts said the Juárez and Sinaloa drug cartels apparently have adopted terrorists’ tactics that use suicide bombers and car bombs to kill foes or to make a point.

“It certainly seems like they’ve taken a page out of the Middle East,” said Richard Schwein, the former FBI special agent in charge of the El Paso office.

“The cartels read the news and they hear about what is happening in the Middle East with the use of car bombs and suicide bombers. I don’t think they will ever use suicide bombers here, but car bombs are easy to make and to use.”

This is the first time a car bomb has been used in the Juárez drug war, which has claimed the lives of nearly 5,800 people since in began in 2008.

Experts agree that the use of a car bomb with a sophisticated detonation system and C-4 is a new tactic, one that requires planning and deliberation.

(via Creeping Sharia, which thinks, contra Mexican authorities, that suicide attackers were involved)

Now, I’m not saying that Hamas or Hizbullah or any other jihadist group made this device for La Linea, nor that the cartel couldn’t figure out how to do it, itself. But the learning curve would be considerably shortened by training under a Hizbullah expert, and coming in the wake of a growing jihadist presence in Mexico is suggestive, at least.

And it’s something we should be very worried about.

RELATED: Mexico’s Zetas threaten to blow up a US dam? Cross-border collateral damage?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Call me naive, but…

July 1, 2010

Shouldn’t American buildings and civilians  coming under fire from across the Mexican border be considered just a wee bit newsworthy?

Several gunshots apparently fired from Juárez hit El Paso City Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

No one was hurt, but nerves were rattled at City Hall in what is thought to be the first cross-border gunfire during a drug war that has engulfed Juárez since 2008.

El Paso police spokesman Darrel Petry said investigators do not think City Hall was intentionally targeted but rather was struck by stray shots.

“It does appear the rounds may have come from an incident in Juárez,” Petry said.

City Hall, whose east and west sides are covered by glass windows, sits on a hill about a half-mile north of the Rio Grande.

About 4:50 p.m., city workers were going about a regular day when a bullet penetrated a ninth-floor west side window of the office of Assistant City Manager Pat Adauto.

Police said the bullet flew through the window, then through an interior wall before hitting a picture frame and stopping.

And this isn’t the only incident, as Big Journalism reports: UT Brownsville was closed for a weekend when shots came from across the border, and incidents are happening so often that the Texas Attorney General has complained to the Federal government. While these shootings are the results of drug wars in Mexico and not direct attacks on the US, it’s only a matter of time before Americans are seriously killed or injured. Mexico has effectively lost or is losing control of its northern border cities, which is endangering our citizens as well as theirs.

But this isn’t covered in the major media, nor does the Obama administration seem concerned. (As with so many things)  I’d ask if it will take someone’s death for them to notice, but that mattered little in the murder of an Arizona rancher, a story briefly in the news and now largely forgotten.

A news media worthy of the name would be all over these stories, bringing the public a true picture of the increasingly troubled situation on our border. A president worthy of his office would make it clear to his Mexican counterpart that, if he can’t control his own cities, we’ll do it for him.

Call me naive, but is it too much to expect our political and cultural leaders to do their jobs?