All Quiet on the Southern Front
September 25, 2007, 07:07 AM
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Jay Root of McClatchy Newspapers reports on the latest doings in Mexico. As a reader points out, perhaps one reason American newspapers don't cover Mexico much is because it was the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists in 2006, following only Iraq.

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.. gangland-style executions have surged, with the report counting 1,588 in the first half of 2007. For the full year of 2001, there were 1,080 such crimes, the report said.

Mexico's violence is often spectacular and lurid, with tales of street shootouts, decapitations and bomb blasts filling Mexico's news pages and airwaves. No place is immune, including the buildings of the country's news outlets.

In May a severed head wrapped in newspaper was left in a cooler outside the office of Tabasco Hoy in Villahermosa, where drug violence is on the rise. Grenades have been tossed into newsrooms from Cancun to Nuevo Laredo in the past 18 months. The Paris-based organization Reporters Without Borders reported that Mexico was the most dangerous country for journalists in 2006, after Iraq.

On May 14, suspected drug traffickers on motorcycles gunned down Jose Nemesio Lugo, a senior federal investigator in charge of gathering intelligence on drug traffickers, in Mexico City's upscale Coyoacan neighborhood. Two days later in Sonora state, about 20 miles south of Arizona, a five-hour shootout between heavily armed commandos and police left 20 people dead.

The bloodbath continued unabated this month, with the assassinations of two state police chiefs. The first was Jaime Flores of San Luis Potosi state, shot in the head multiple times in front of his wife on Sept. 13. Then on Wednesday came news that Marcos Manuel Souberville, the state police chief in Hidalgo, had fallen in a hail of bullets during an afternoon drive-by shooting.

Many prominent Mexicans have sought refuge in the United States, but that is no guarantee of safety. Mario Espinoza Lobato, a businessman and city councilman from Ciudad Acuna, was gunned down Wednesday at his home in neighboring Del Rio, Texas, authorities said. He was an outspoken critic of the criminal gangs that he said had tried to kidnap him.

Kidnapping is a multi-million dollar industry in Mexico. The report from Congress indicates there are about 4,500 kidnappings a year, about a third of which are reported. Greg Bangs, head of the kidnapping and ransom unit at the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, said Mexico has rocketed past Colombia to become the world's ransom capital.

"Mexico is now very definitely No. 1 in the world in terms of the numbers of kidnappings,'' Bangs said. "Kidnappers are indicating how serous they are by sending parts of ears and noses and fingers and various bodily parts ... they didn't used to do that so much, but that seems to be more prevalent.''

Top officials here continue to insist their efforts are paying off even if the numbers don't show it. At a news conference last week, Medina, the attorney general, told reporters "there is a decrease" in organized crime murders.

But then Medina provided figures for "violent executions" in January and February — 175 and 208, respectively.

"They're going down?'' one reporter asked.

"I wish they were lower than last year,'' Medina responded. "But in the first months of this year there were more than in the same period last year.''

Congressman Juan Francisco Rivera, chairman of the Chamber of Deputies Committee on Security, expressed confidence in the government's crime-fighting campaign. He said pointedly that Americans should not be so quick to judge Mexico.

He described the country's violent crime wave as temporary, while in "cities like Detroit, Houston or Dallas, it has become a permanent thing.'' Rivera also called on U.S. authorities to do more to stop illicit firearms exports. "That's what is killing us,'' Rivera said. "I think if look at the number of arrests, the number of drug seizures, the number of policemen who have risked their lives and who have been killed, I think it shows that our Army and local police forces are engaged in a frontal battle.'[McClatchy Washington Bureau | 09/22/2007 | Mexico crime continues to surge]

My fellow Americans: One way you can help the good people of Mexico out is by not buying drugs. (It will also help the good people of American out, and yourself as well.)

By the way, Mexico also is being plagued by a Marxist terrorist-revolutionary group that has been blowing up petrochemical pipelines.