Los Muertos

I drove by a murder scene in broad daylight the other day, coming back from a movie in Rosarito. According to Mexican news accounts I found on-line, the victim was a stereo installer who was working on the truck of the intended victim, a man who goes by the nickname “Poison”. Poison was also shot 9 times, but somehow survived the attack. The two shooters, described by witness as both bald and tattooed, sped from the scene and escaped.

This was actually the second murder scene I’ve passed by on the main drag here, Benito Juarez, in just one week. The other was in the mop-up stage in front of Asadero Pepe’s taco stand when I drove by. Same story: “antagonistic groups” (as they are referred to here in the press) were settling “differences”. The antagonistic groups, of course, are rival drug gangs and the differences are territorial. According to the courageous Tijuana newspaper Zeta, these were merely 2 of 361 murders so far this year in Baja alone. Zeta reports in their most recent edition, in a story entitled ‘Invasion of the Independent Criminals”, that a new dynamic is appearing in the drug wars south of the border: gangs with very loose or non-existent relationships with the traditional drug cartels are doing most of the heavy lifting these days. These are freebooters that exist and operate lawlessly outside even the perverse “code” of the established cartels. In other words, these gangs are free to attack and kill without orders from above and are offered no protection from the cartels. According to Zeta, they often advertise their services on Facebook.

After 6 disastrous years of the Felipe Calderon PAN presidency, when blood literally flowed in the streets of tourist meccas like Acapulco and  Mazatlan, smart money here was that the return of the PRI party to to power, in the person of newly-elected president Enrique Pena Nieto, would end the violence, that the party of backroom deals would strike an accord with the cartels to at least push the violence off the malecons  and white sand beaches back to the grimy backstreets where it belonged. After all, tourism is a major linchpin in the Mexican economy and American kids surely do not want decapitated bodies hanging from overpasses to interrupt their spring break binge drinking. 

But, if anything, drug violence has spiked since Pena took office. Only time with tell whether that’s an anomaly or a trend back to the murderous days of 2008 and 2009 when cartel caballeros openly cruised the tourist section of Rosarito and Playas de Tijuana with AK-47’s protruding from the tinted windows of their Escalades. But drug crime observers like the blogger Marjorie Ann Blake have noticed, for example, that  the military checkpoints in northern Baja have curiously disappeared since Pena has taken office, including the one near the Fox movie studio south of Rosarito. 

In any event, it’s difficult to put dead bodies on Main Street into the proper perspective. At least in the United States they have the decency to commit murders behind closed doors or in neighborhoods where respectable people don’t travel, not right in front of Asadero Pepe’s taco stand. The only perspective I can achieve is that the U.S. needs to immediately take an honest, sober, hard look at it’s drug “war” policies and wrench itself away from the fraudulent charade that is the indirect cause of so much death. Otherwise, in a few years, the bodies will start piling up in front of Wendy’s and McDonald’s and you wouldn’t like to drive by that, would you?

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