The Most Violent City in the World

Selected from http://www.delanceyplace.com
12-11-09
In today’s excerpt – by the estimate of journalist Philip Caputo, the most violent city in the world is not located in Afghanistan, Iraq or some Sub-Saharan African country, but across a river from the United States in Juarez, Mexico. And in the almost three years since President Felipe Calderón launched a war on drug cartels, some 14,000 people have been killed in the country of Mexico, and part of the country is effectively under martial law:

“The U.S. government estimates that the cultivation and trafficking of illegal drugs directly employs 450,000 people in Mexico [out of 110 million people]. Unknown numbers of people, possibly in the millions, are indirectly linked to the drug industry, which has revenues estimated to be as high as $25 billion a year, exceeded only by Mexico’s annual income from manufacturing and oil exports. Dr. Edgardo Buscaglia … concluded in a recent report that 17 of Mexico’s 31 states have become virtual narco-republics, where organized crime has infiltrated government, the courts, and the police so extensively that there is almost no way they can be cleaned up. The drug gangs have acquired a ‘military capacity’ that enables them to confront the army on an almost equal footing. …

“Of the many things Mexico lacks these days, clarity is near the top of the list. It is dangerous to know the truth. Finding it is frustrating. Statements by U.S. and Mexican government officials, repeated by a news media that prefers simple story lines, have fostered the impression in the United States that the conflict in Mexico is between Calderón’s white hats and the crime syndicates’ black hats. The reality is far more complicated, as suggested by this statistic: out of those 14,000 dead, fewer than 100 have been soldiers. Presumably, army casualties would be far higher if the war were as straightforward as it’s often made out to be. …

“The toll includes more than 1,000 police officers, some of whom, according to Mexican press reports, were executed by soldiers for suspected links to drug traffickers. Conversely, a number of the fallen soldiers may have been killed by policemen moonlighting as cartel hit men, though that cannot be proved. Meanwhile, human-rights groups have accused the military of unleashing a reign of terror – carrying out forced disappearances, illegal detentions, acts of torture, and assassinations – not only to fight organized crime but also to suppress dissidents and other political troublemakers. What began as a war on drug trafficking has evolved into a low-intensity civil war with more than two sides and no white hats, only shades of black. The ordinary Mexican citizen – never sure who is on what side, or who is fighting whom and for what reason – retreats into a private world where he becomes willfully blind, deaf, and above all, dumb. …

“[The City of] Juárez’s main product now is the corpse. Last year, drug-related violence there claimed more than 1,600 lives, and the toll for the first nine months of this year soared beyond 1,800, and mounts daily. That makes Juárez, population 1.5 million, the most violent city in the world.”

Philip Caputo, “The Border of Madness,” The Atlantic, December 2009, pp. 63-69.

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Published in: on December 13, 2009 at 11:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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