Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ciudad Juarez

What the drug war has wrought:
[Mexican President] Calderón declared Juarez the "tip of the spear" in the fight against the ultra-violent drug cartels, and it is here that the Mexican president has most militarized the fight. Calderón sent 10,000 soldiers and federal agents into the city of 1.3 million to bolster the local police and replace corrupt or incompetent elements. This month, for the first time in Mexico, the government distributed German-made assault rifles that fire up to 750 rounds a minute to hundreds of newly trained municipal police officers, also the first to receive urban combat training by the army.

But criminal outfits fighting over Juarez have overwhelmed even military authorities in this crucial port of entry into the world's largest market for illegal narcotics. With more than 2,500 homicides, Juarez accounts for more than one-third of the 6,000 drug-related murders in Mexico this year; since April, when a surge of federal troops brought a brief lull in the death toll, the city has resumed a pace of eight to 10 murders a day. The violence has also spilled over into the suburban neighborhoods of El Paso.

In a macabre daily ritual, assassins now appear to time their killings so that they get play on the afternoon and evening television news shows, according to Jaime Torres, a spokesman on public security for the Juarez government and former news director.

The city estimates that the violence has created 7,000 orphans and displaced 100,000 people, many of whom have fled across the Rio Grande to Texas. Most of the members of the business and political elite of Juarez, including the mayor, now either sleep or maintain a second home in El Paso. The chief human rights advocate also retreated across the river.

Well-known prosecutors, professors, attorneys, doctors, executives and journalists have been assassinated. Victims also include a growing number of small-shop owners because extortion is rampant; earlier this week an elderly woman selling burritos at a busy intersection near the tourist zone was shot dead. Police counted 36 shell casings at the scene.
Drug prohibition is nothing more than the nanny state run amok. Whatever the impact of drug use may be, surely it is no worse than the impact of the government-led fight against it. More importantly, such prohibition is incompatible with the tenets of a free society based on individual rights and liberty.

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