News Coverage

Sam Quinones writes about Mexico in the Foreign Policy online magazine:

I’d recently lived in Mexico for a decade, but I’d never seen anything like this. I left in 2004—as it turned out, just a year before Mexico’s long-running trouble with drug gangs took a dark new turn for the worse. Monterrey was the safest region in the country when I lived there, thanks to its robust economy and the sturdy social control of an industrial elite.

That week in Monterrey, newspapers reported, Mexico clocked 167 drug-related murders. When I lived there, they didn’t have to measure murder by the week. There were only about a thousand drug-related killings annually. The Mexico I returned to in 2008 would end that year with a body count of more than 5,300 dead. That’s almost double the death toll from the year before—and more than all the U.S. troops killed in Iraq since that war began.

But it wasn’t just the amount of killing that shocked me. When I lived in Mexico, the occasional gang member would turn up executed, maybe with duct-taped hands, rolled in a carpet, and dropped in an alley. But Mexico’s newspapers itemized a different kind of slaughter last August: Twenty-four of the week’s 167 dead were cops, 21 were decapitated, and 30 showed signs of torture. Campesinos found a pile of 12 more headless bodies in the Yucatán. Four more decapitated corpses were found in Tijuana, the same city where barrels of acid containing human remains were later placed in front of a seafood restaurant. A couple of weeks later, someone threw two hand grenades into an Independence Day celebration in Morelia, killing eight and injuring dozens more. And at any time, you could find YouTube videos of Mexican gangs executing their rivals—an eerie reminder of, and possibly a lesson learned from, al Qaeda in Iraq.

Of course, when it comes to the traditional media’s coverage of the drug war, the devastation in Mexico isn’t as interesting as whether or not Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane was going to arrest Michael Phelps.


  1. 1

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:


    Any background as to the why of this incredible escalation of drug gang violence? It really has gotten pretty ugly these last few years.

    If only Wall Street bankers did this to each other. The world would be a much better place.

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Gee, it appears Mexico is a good example of laissez-faire capitalism with no government intervention.

  3. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    No government = no rules
    No rules = anything goes

    As for taxes, the local warlord collects as much as he wants, as often as he wants

  4. 5

    Michael spews:

    I heard that Roscoe decided not to charge Phelps because he thought Phelps was just a good old boy never meaning no harm.

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

  5. 6

    Michael spews:

    The Tacoma paper prints just enough stuff about drug violence in Mexico that they can trot out a story or two if someone calls them on the carpet about it.


  6. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    News item: Muzzamil Hassan, a New York businessman who started an English-language cable TV network to counter Muslin stereotypes, has been arrested for cutting off his wife’s head.

  7. 8

    John425 spews:

    Wonder what this blog will say when one of these poor, misunderstood minorities turns up beheaded under the I-5 freeway near downtown Seattle.
    Think you’ll reconsider deporting illegals by then?

  8. 9

    My Goldy Itches spews:

    Mexican President Felipe Calderon has waged an unprecedented crackdown on the cartels, unleashing the Army and its special forces on them and taking down a number of top cartel leaders. Some of them are now on trial in San Diego, CA having been extradited. Arellano Felix was wanted by the DEA. The violence is largely the result of smaller players in the narco trafficking business fighting for control of smuggling routes and territory. I grew up in Chula Vista, CA….south of San Diego down close to the border. For years and years, Tijuana was just like another part of town. We’d go down to have tacos, bet on football and basball games, drink cheap beer, and try to pick up on hot Mexican chicks. Now days, I would not cross the border. None of my friends who still live in the area go down there either. Its a tragedy of incredible proportions. I have known many residents of Tijuana over the years and I can only imagine what it must be like living with this level of violence.

  9. 10

    Blue John spews:

    Think you’ll reconsider deporting illegals by then?
    I’m all for deporting illegals now. Rule of Law matters, even if you are a Republican. Of course, I’m also for enforcing business regulations, like employing illegals is also illegal.

  10. 11

    My Goldy Itches spews:

    10 – This is a pipe dream. Take it from someone who has lived on the front lines of illegal immigration most of my life. The US cannot build walls high enough, or deport people fast enough to stop people that have no money, no job, and have a family to feed. The hardships faced, and indignities suffered by these people make the obstacles proposed by immigration opponents laughable. They are some of the most screwed over people on the planet and nothing the US does can or will stop them. This is why the only solution that will work is to have a guest worker program that will legalize them and then they can cross the border like anyone else. No more smuggling across massive deserts, mountain ranges, and stuffed under car hoods next to red hot engines. They are your produce pickers, your dishwashers, your gardners, your hotel maids, your construction laborers, and your domestic help. This has to be done by somebody, and Americans won’t do thse jobs in large enough, or efficient enough numbers to sustain these businesses.

  11. 12

    rhp6033 spews:

    So why won’t the Mexicans prosecute the drug kingpins, instead of extraditing them to the U.S. for prosecution?

    Because they can’t prosecute them. The drug gangs will offer everyone involved the “silver or the lead” (accept a bribe, or be shot). They know that they can always find enough people who are either greedy or afraid for the safety of themselves or their families that they can effectively sabatoge the government’s case by kill witnesses, bribing or intimidating prosecutors, jurors, and judges, or simple clerks in the prosecutor’s office of courts. Even if that fails, the probability that they could have an easy sentence in a jail with “in/out” priviledges is pretty likely, until an escape or pardon is arranged. If all of that fails, then they simply try the Columbian strategy: all-out-war on the government and civilians until a cease-fire is declared and drug kingpins are pardoned.

    It’s been thought that sending them north to be prosecuted in the U.S. avoids that result, because it is much harder for them to obstruct justice in the U.S. But as the money and level of violence in the drug gangs increases, then it might well be revealed how vulnerable our justice system really is. Unlike Mexico, we don’t have round-the-clock security for prosecutors and judges.

    The only answer is to cut off the money supply to the gangs. Since interdiction has been tried for the past 30+ years and hasn’t really worked, I’m willing to experiment with controlled and regulated legalization.

  12. 13

    Broadway Joe spews:

    This is why I think you’ll eventually see an overthrow of the elected government of Mexico, and martial law in the country for years, perhaps decades, because no matter the best efforts of the Calderon administration, the Mexican federal and state governemnts are simply too corrupt to deal with the cartels. It’s only a matter of time before the Mexican Army comes across some really high-ranking gov’t figure with his hands in the cookie jar, and the Army will decide that the government is too far gone to be of any help.

    When that happens, we should support the overthrow, so long as the Army promises to restore civilian rule once the problem is solved, and as long as they don’t use this as an excuse to eliminate any other annoyances they might have, say like what remains of the ‘rebels’ in Chiapas….

  13. 14

    My Goldy Itches spews:

    13 – I’m afraid you might be correct. My wife is from Aguascalientes and she tells the most amazing story about the Governor of her state. He’s the son of a former state Governor and is, as she tells it, a drug addict. The Governor overdosed one time and at the hospital, they cleared an entire floor just for him to recover from his O.D. Could you imagine a Governor of a US state in this position?

  14. 15

    Broadway Joe spews:

    I think it’s inevitable. Mexico is pretty much a two-class society (realistically, it’s been that way since the Aztecs), and the corruption caused by generation after generation in power, and the arrogance/complacency that comes with it, runs deep and is likely beyond the capacity of any democratically elected government to cure.

  15. 16


    He’s the son of a former state Governor and is, as she tells it, a drug addict. The Governor overdosed one time and at the hospital, they cleared an entire floor just for him to recover from his O.D. Could you imagine a Governor of a US state in this position?

    After what we just saw from Governor Blagojevich, I could imagine that and more… :)

    Thanks for the good comments.

  16. 17

    Steve spews:

    @9, 11, 14

    You bring an interesting perspective to this thread, Mr. Itches.

    @16 “good comments”