Posts Tagged ‘Drug trade’

Knock, knock…

July 19, 2010

On Thursday evening Americans could see and hear a car bomb as it exploded in downtown Juarez — the city I just returned from a few weeks ago. The blast hit a Federal Police convoy and killed 3 people, rattling law enforcement on both sides of the border and creating fears that the bombings that shook Colombia throughout the 80’s and 90’s could make a comeback a few hundreds yards from the US border.

Investigators and bystanders gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Colombia.

When I saw the image of the burning police trucks on the El Paso Times website, I felt a personal connection. During my visit to Juarez in June, I spent a day interviewing the Federal Police and riding in one of their convoys, as the video in my previous post shows. With this attack, the Juarez Cartel — which claimed responsibility for the car bomb — puts itself on the same level as Jihadist groups like the Pakistani Taliban, which attempted to bomb Time Square with its own explosive-laden vehicle in May.  The Juarez hit, however, suceeded…and just a short stroll form the United States.  The explosion of car bombs and the rattle of AK-47 is knocking on our door…and its even found a way in.

Here are the links to my articles about Juarez. The first one was published on July 2nd and the second came out on July 9th. A third installment will follow at the beginning of August — this time around, I will be reporting from Phoenix.

Government-run tour

June 24, 2010

Hello everyone…my apologies for not posting in a while. I have been quite busy…and as you can see, my time away from the blog has been well worth it. On Tuesday evening I returned from a trip to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico — the flash point in Mexico’s drug war. I have been following the situation in this city even when I was in South Asia.

The Federal Police allowed me to embed in one of their convoys and make this video. I know the sound of the wind and the traffic sort of gets in the way, but I feel its important for people — particularly Americans — to see how hard the police in Mexico are working. Remember, this is one of the most violent cities in the world.

I’m in the process of putting together a story together for the newspaper about this and it should be published next week.

Bienvenidos A Tijuana!

April 13, 2010

The biggest story coming out of Baja California right now may be the recent 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit near Mexicali, but I would like to talk about my experience, which happened a few days before the quake hit. Two weeks ago, I went down to Tijuana for a report I am putting together about the drug war and the effect it has had on Mexico, both culturally and in regards to tourism. I saw all of Tijuana’s major districts and neighborhoods — and the contrast between some of them is stunning. Zona Norte is a particularly unsafe area to be in Tijuana, largely due to its close proximity to the US border. In spite of this, my friend and I handed the driver of a taxi libre $20 and asked him to take us through the red light district, the border, and other neighborhoods for an hour.

A patrol car passes through Tijuana's famous arch on Avenida Revolucion (photo/Corey Hunt)

Zona Norte begins just after passing through Tijuana’s famous arch, which stretches across Avenida Revolucion, the city’s main tourist district. It was nerve-wracking, especially since the driver of another cab I had taken to La Gloria earlier in the day said to me in a half-joking and half-serious way that I know too much information about the drug war. He had said this after  two hours of conversation about the fall of the Arellano Felix Cartel, the capture of “El Teo”, and what is next for Tijuana and its role on the border between the United States and Mexico.

Late afternoon in Zona Norte...not one of Tijuana's safer areas, especially at night (photo/Corey Hunt

While in Tijuana, I made several videos with my friend Anthony, who is also a fellow journalist (We’re still trying to break them up and get them on our Youtube channel…should be soon). Before we spent the night exploring Zona Norte, we were able to visit a police station and interview several police officers, including the Tourist Zone Supervisor. While they acknowledged the levels of chaos facing cities like Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, they were adamant in saying that Tijuana is much safer today than in recent months and years. Hector, one of the officers, even said that Tijuana is not the 14th most dangerous city in Mexico, compared to the 2nd most dangerous just a few months ago, when violence was rising in the run-up to El Teo’s capture.

Tijuana is a fascinating and cultural city…and it’s definitely worth a visit. But if you decide to go, keep in mind what’s going on there. Violence still occurs, and the decline in violence may have less to do with police and military action and more to do with the violent power struggles emerging in central and eastern Mexico between the largest drug cartels. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is locked in a brutal fight with the Juarez Cartel and the Gulf Cartel is teaming up with the “La Familia” drug gang to finish off their former hitmen for hire, the Zetas. None of the big guns are likely to try and snatch the lucrative trade routes from Tijuana into the United States in the immediate future, seeing as they have enough on their hands already. However, splinter cartels and common criminals remain abundant and its best to keep this in mind, wherever you might be in Baja.

That said, try to appreciate the culture in Tijuana and remember that Avenida Revolucion and Playas De Tijuana are only tourist attractions.

Slumdog Billionaires

January 11, 2010

If you’ve ever seen the stories of people who are addicted to meth, cocaine, and other drugs, its tragic. But there is A LOT more too it, because these people are not only ruining their own lives — their actions are fueling what has become a civil war south of the border. This can no longer be ignored…its time for action, and not just from the besieged government of President Felipe Calderon in Mexico. This battle demands the involvement and decisions made by the individual, in addition to international governments, police, and the military.

Avenida Revolucion in Tijuana (Photo by Corey Hunt)

Considering the lack of coverage this phenomenal situation south of the US border has recieved on television news, you might be shocked by this:

Mexico opened the new year with what could be its most dubious distinction yet in the 3-year-old battle against drug trafficking – 69 murders in one day.

The country resembled a grim, statistical dart board Saturday as law enforcement and media reported the deaths from various regions, including 26 in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, 13 in and around Mexico City and 10 in the northern city of Chihuahua.

More than 6,500 drug-related killings made 2009 the bloodiest year since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in late 2006 and deployed 45,000 soldiers to fight organized crime, according to death tallies by San Diego’s Trans-Border Institute.

Two weeks into 2010, gang bloodshed is becoming more grotesque as drug lords ramp up their attempts at intimidation. Last week a victim’s face was peeled from his skull and sewn onto a soccer ball. On Monday, prosecutors in Culiacan identified the remains of 41-year-old former police officer divided into two separate ice chests.

This goes beyond words. I only wish that the meth, crack, and pot heads getting a fix every night here in the US knew where their stashes were coming from and worse, who is profiting from it.  Years of bringing drugs across the border into the United States has made people like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most wanted man,   billionaires…If “Slumdog Millionaire” had a dark version, these guys would be the stars, recruiting hundreds, if not thousands of young Mexican men from the poorest neighborhoods into a Jihadi-style violence mafia, where anyone deemed as a threat is done away with in the most psychopathic of ways. In fact, comparing Jihadis and Al-Qaeda to the above violence might not be enough, because over the last couple of years, more beheadings have taken place in Mexico than anywhere else in the world. Even Hakimullah Mehsud, the Taliban leader mentioned in my last post, might cringe at the thought of stitching a rival’s face onto a soccer ball. Exactly how evil does a Homo Sapiens have to be to do something like this?!

Religious beliefs and politics don’t have much of a place in Mexico’s violence…just pure human greed and a desire to come out on top. It makes me angry when I think of America’s obsession with drugs. Is it really worth sneaking out into the dark of night, evading the cops, breaking the law, and enabling what is tantamount to a civil war  just to take a hit of crystal meth? Its people like this that are empowering the drug cartels and making them the “Slumdog” billionaires of a country that is increasingly becoming North America’s version of Somalia.

Some people will say we need to legalize drugs and that will stop the violence. Maybe that’s true, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon. So for the time being, the best advice I can give to my fellow Americans is PLEASE stop using drugs! Mexico has become the world’s meth lab and it needs to be shut down…if only people cared more about the children of Mexico than rotting their teeth out with meth and tweaking with crack and LSD. Mexico’s slumdog billionaires have the clueless drug-using population in America and the terrorized people of their own country in the palm of their hands. It’s like a playground where Satan would frolic with Jeffrey Dahmer and America won’t stop its investments.

Startling Numbers

December 1, 2009

Where do you think the most dangerous place on earth would be? Would it be in Somalia? Iraq? Perhaps somewhere else in the Muslim World, like Afghanistan or Pakistan?

An overpass in Tijuana, Mexico. Drug cartels have taken to using them as a way to show off their victims. Photo/Corey Hunt

President Obama is set to define the Afghan Mission as a war of vital defense and many of his advisers have labeled the Taliban strongholds of Pakistan as the world’s most dangerous places. But guess again. The most dangerous place for for well, just about anyone, is right over the US border, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s volatile border city of Ciudad Juarez has the world’s highest murder rate, followed by Caracas, Venezuela, and the US city of New Orleans, a Mexican security watchdog said Wednesday.

Ciudad Juarez — the scene of regular and brutal score-settling between rival drug gangs — has 130 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, said the Citizen’s Council for Public Security (CCSP) in a statement.

Caracas has 96 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, and New Orleans registers 95, said the Mexican non-governmental organization, which based its figures on media reports and an FBI report for the United States.

Caracas was listed as the murder capital of the world in the September 2008 Foreign Policy magazine, quoting official figures of 130 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

The Mexican NGO put Baghdad, Iraq, in 10th position with 40 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, and another Mexican border city, Tijuana, in fourth place with 73.

I’ll make this point through another comparison. In the month of November, 88 civilians died violent deaths in Iraq, along with 34 members of the Iraqi Police and Army. After 6 years of war, this is considered to be the calmest month ever in Iraq, which now has a murder rate roughly equivalent to the United States. By contrast, more than 200 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez last month, making the Mexican border city pretty much the world’s deadliest place. Remember, Juarez is a city of 1.6 million people, while Iraq is roughly the size of California, making these numbers all the more startling. The incessant shooting sprees, abductions, and even grenade attacks have led some in the global media to believe that the region is “bordering on anarchy”. Reporters who embed with Mexican police and army units follow the same protocol as they would in a war zone, donning bullet-proof vests and helmets. The demented acts of violence committed by the drug cartels mirrors intimidation methods used by Al-Qaeda, redefining the meaning of a terrorist threat.

So what can be done in Ciudad Juarez? Well, the citizens of the border city are starting to feel that an international peacekeeping force may be the only option left, believe it or not. The deployment of thousands of Mexican Army soldiers and Federal Police has only made the cartels, who focus much of their energy on killing one another, even more aggressive. Its basically a ground zero and a gathering point for scumbags, low-lives, and the most grotesque individuals our societies on both sides of the border has to offer. In addition to the drug cartels; sex offenders, serial killers, and other organized crime also operate with impunity across the city, which has resulted in the unsolved murders of hundreds of young women. American citizens should think about this before going out for a fix. After all, its our obsession with drugs that helps these people operate in the first place. A visit to a Mexican border city might be a D.A.R.E. officer’s best way to keep kids off of drugs.

A taste of Tijuana

May 24, 2009

Here is the link to my article published last week in the Brentwood Press. I wrote about my experience and Tijuana–which took place in March–and what I took away from it. I should add I plan on going back to the city early next year to try and write a follow-up story. I’m hoping I can get the coveted interview I narrowly missed last time I was down there.

As I read the horrific details about the killing of four young Americans that emerged from Tijuana last week I felt a sense of horror … it was the second major attack in the city I had read about in less than two weeks, the most recent being a coordinated attack by drug gangs armed with AK-47s that left seven police officers dead and many more injured.

Having been to Tijuana myself, the brutal attacks did not surprise me – just days before I left for my trip, six people were brutally executed; three of them were found beheaded. What did surprise me was the overwhelming coverage of the swine flu outbreak that originated in Mexico City and brought the world to the brink of a “pandemic” just a couple weeks ago. I’m not one to compare tragedies and argue which is worse, but after a week of fear-mongering from media outlets all over the world, swine flu turned out to be far less threatening than we thought.

Meanwhile, the thousands of ruthless drug cartel fighters threatening Americans and Mexicans alike continue to run back and forth across the border, killing people and terrorizing entire cities to the point where mayors and police chiefs are afraid to go to work. In fact, more Americans died in the recent Tijuana attack than in the nationwide outbreak of the H1N1 virus.

Just two months earlier, I was in Tijuana, walking the streets of Avenida Revolucion and the city’s financial district. Common sense kept me away from the most dangerous parts of the city, like Zona Norte, which is arguably the most dangerous place imaginable for a lone traveler to mill about late at night.

I visited the city because I wanted to get an understanding of Mexico’s bloody and lengthy drug war, casualties of which are comparable to Iraq or Afghanistan. During my trip, I got to visit a police station in the center of the city and talk with some of the officers about Mexico’s progress in confronting the increasingly violent drug cartels. I had originally planned to have a solid interview, but the weekend, with its need for more men on the streets, made that very difficult.

Much like the consular official– Press attaché Jessica Lopez from Mexico’s San Francisco Consulate – with whom I had spoken over the phone, who acknowledged that Northern Mexico in general and the city in particular have problems. But Lopez did her best to assure me that Americans should not be discouraged from coming to Mexico despite the travel advisory that was issued.

Most officers were very friendly and I trust that they are doing their best to serve their city, but many were wary when I asked to take a few photos – something that required the consent of a higher-ranking officer at the scene. I assured him I only wanted to show my community how much courage and hard work is being done at the hands of police officers south of the border, which pleased him.

The Army soldiers who patrolled a government office not far from my hotel weren’t too anxious to have their photos taken either, a request I politely asked in my progressing Spanish. Four men occupied a Humvee, one of them sitting behind a .50 caliber machine gun and all of covering their faces in balaclava – I suspected this was out of fear that they would be identified by passersby associated with local cartels, who in turn would come after their families. Unfortunately, this is all too common in Mexico and I was quick to thank the soldiers for their service and apologize for inconveniencing them.

The rest of my story can be viewed here.