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Between Mexico and the United States… the desert

19 April 2010

Xico raises a good point when she points out that the New York Times’ alarmist headline Fleeing Drug Violence, Mexicans Pour into the US is more than slightly misleading. Xico says “Headlines like the one I mention above, if they were written about the US would say, US RIDDLED BY VIOLENCE when referring to stories about Baltimore.” Actually, I think it would be more like saying US RIDDLED BY VIOLENCE when writing about somewhere like Marfa, Texas or West Branch, Iowa. The gist of the Times’ story is that “drug violence” has led to several residents El Porvenir, Chihuahua (last census, slightly over 1000) moving across the river to Fort Hancock, Texas (last census, slightly over 1700).  You really have to read carefully to get the numbers:

Fort Hancock has had a surge in applications in March and April, officials said. All told the number of people asking for asylum at ports of entry along the border alone has climbed steadily, to 338 for the federal fiscal year ended last October, from 179 two years before.

I’ve said before that the violence in the border communities (El Porvenir has had more than it’s share — a church burning and other arsons, several murders) is more a symptom of social dislocation than the cause of it.

I’ve written about social collapse in Juarez, and why I don’t think the drug war — by itself — is the reason 30,000 residents are said to have moved a few kilometers north into El Paso during the Calderón Administration (which the Times always refers to as “the start of the drug war”… being one and the same thing). I haven’t paid much attention to the rural regions, but maybe I should.

Closing the border was itself, a disaster… both to Fort Hancock (where the Border Patrol is now the largest employer in town) and to El Porvenir. Smuggling is one of the few viable industries around.  The border rural communities are facing not just the pressures that the border towns face, but the added problems rural Mexico faces in general, and the situation is disastrous in small towns like El Porvenir.

The violence in rural border communities is more serious than is being reported.  The Army saying it needs ten years to “win” the drug war;  the United States threatening to covertly intervene intervene in the Mexican theater of operations AND…  over the weekend at the Pentagon there was a sit down between the U.S. Joints Chiefs of Staff  and the Mexican and Colombian military leadership which seemed to focus on means of “containing” narcoviolence on the producer side of the border it’s no wonder I’m starting to hear conspiracy theories being floated.

The Associated Press story on the exodus of El Porvenir mentioned a typewritten note to residents, telling them to flee and signed “Sincerely, The Sinaloa Cartel.”  That doesn’t smell right:  its not their style, and they’re usually not so polite in their correspondence.  Given FeCal’s callous remarks about “collateral damage” this last week, coupled with the military pow-wow and the general tenor of U.S. border policy and it’s no wonder conspiracy theories, mostly involving U.S. or Mexican military plans to clear large swaths of the border are being floated.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 20 April 2010 8:23 am

    I was wondering if you’ve read Narco, La Guerra Fallida, by Jorge Castañeda and Rubén Aguilar V and what you think of it if you have.

  2. 20 April 2010 10:04 am

    Also, you’re absolutely right…in this case, definitely more like Marfa or whatever. I was just meaning that every headline in the NY Times suggests Mexico is in chaos all over. I might add that people in our Colonia are NOT returning to the US as far as I know except for those with work and legal work permits. AND I continue to be amazed by people’s hospitality towards us.

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