Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Wrong Influence of Violence

Recently there has been an influx in drug related killings in Mexico, where often innocent civilians and police officers are sprayed down with AK-47s. On March 7th 2011, 18 people were killed in the city Culiacan, which was the result of a feud between the Zetas and Gulf cartels. Because of the institutionalized corruption, there is usually very little the police force can or will do in terms of retaliation or bringing justice. The four major cartels, known as the Zetas, Juarez, Beltran Leyva, and Arellano Felix, control everything from the towns to the provinces. As for the economy, these gangs probably inject more money into the economy than the government. For reasons such as that, these gangs are tolerated by the masses because they pervade all levels of society.

When I was traveling in Mexico for spring break, I was on the lookout for these gang members and mass murderers. I was very disappointed. Sure I saw a few police officers and security officers carrying M-16s, but nothing that the media addresses as widespread. Not say it isn’t there but just that I was never in any gunfire running for my life. Nevertheless, this did not stop me from asking questions and one local waiter was willing to spill the beans. After a few coronas and walks down sketchy streets, I asked about the marijuana drug trade. He said that they grow it right up in the mountains, which were in the horizon about 15 miles off. This instantly provoked the question of what prevents others from discovering, stealing, or confiscating it. He responded, “No one fucks with anybody’s weed up there because they do not know exactly who it belongs to, if it’s the mafia, the will blow your head off on the spot.” This was the only way he could describe the retaliation for messing with the mafia’s supply, your head is going to be blown off.

Hearing this from such a first hand account had quite the impact on me compared to a CNBC special. These acts of violence happen frequently and are a common ordeal for the typical citizen, something that I cannot comprehend. I have enough time dealing with Ithaca parking tickets rather than worry about being caught in gunfire or stumbling upon the wrong neck of the woods. It’s a shame that kids in Mexico can’t simply enjoy Lucha libre as there only form of violence.


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  2. It's seems like you are implying that Mexican kids idolize the drug cartels as they do their favorite Lucha Libre wrestlers. I doubt this is the case. Probably as is the case with gang violence in America and extremist groups in the middle east, marginalized members of society may seek to join the drug cartels, but I doubt that any significant portion of the society looks at these people as heroes.

    That being said, I find the Mexican drug war to be fascinating to follow. Some of the cartels are straight out of a Hollywood film. Los Zetas, are headed by a group of defected special operations soldiers form the Mexican military. They are highly trained, and armed with advanced (and expensive) weaponry. Recently, they expanded operations into El Salvador while openly challenging the government to do something about it. This paramilitary organization is better trained, funded, and armed than the government solidiers and police they are up against.

  3. One of the most entertaining depictions of the drug war is from season 5 of Weeds. It's addressed slightly indirectly, but makes a comedic and interesting viewpoint.

  4. Where'd you travel to in Mexico? My parents and siblings have lived in different parts of Mexico for the last 12 years, both south of Cancun and outside Mexico City. Though neither places suffer from extreme violence, I've seen my share of drug-related "activity" to be able to say Mexico's war on drugs is much more serious than ours, at least near Cancun. I've been stopped for "random searches" countless times by military personnel armed with M16s. Twice, I've had gatling guns (mounted on Humvees) pointed in my direction. Helicopters and planes fly down the beaches constantly looking for dropped drugs, and machine gun toting cops in fatigues are common.

    However, marijuana was recently decriminalized in Mexico, and in the village south of Mexico city where my parents currently live, marijuana is sold openly in the markets. The cops still have big guns, but they don't mind a little pot in our otherwise peaceful town.


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