Just across the Mexican border into the city of Ciudad Juarez there is a war going on that's taking the lives of thousands of people, most of whom will be buried without ceremony or memorial. They are the lost, the forgotten, the dead. I don't know them, and they ain't no friends of mine. I don't care. Most of the dead seem to deserve whatever horrible fate they meet. But....(Graphic: Chris Howard)
Yes, they seem, these thousands of dead in Mexico's drug-wars, to be worthy of murder. I can't say more than to grump; but if I could, I wouldn't. It's not my place in this world to decide such things. I do though make it my task at times to look into things that my business is no part of. I don't care about that either. I want to know, and sometimes to record, the stories of the people I meet, their lives and doings, the little meanings they have in this life, the time they were here and what it meant, if only to them. Everyone has a story, no matter how bitter or evil such a story might be. If possible, someone, (says me,) should record it and save it for those whose curiosity might be as wide and pointless as my own. I hate to see the nameless dead dumped into mass graves, people lost, forgotten, and just plain dead. They have a story, and they could well tell us something, if only something bad. Recuerdo.
“That’s 12 today?” a young man standing nearby asks, in the matter-of-fact tone of a baseball fan confirming the number of strikeouts. “Ten,” I answer, meaning that 10 people have been slain in Ciudad Juarez so far on this chilly Tuesday. It is barely 3 in the afternoon. Seven more people will die later, bringing the day’s total to 17 in the city of 1.3 million residents.
The young man nods. Around us, amid cut-rate dentist offices and bars with names like Club Safari, the looky-loos keep their rapt silence as workers from the coroner’s office wrestle the newest victims from their car.
Ken Ellingwood, a reporter quoted in Columbia Review of Journalism, Dec. 2008.
The death toll in Ciudad Juarez, "more than 1,350 slayings in 2008, about a fourth of the country’s total,” is, of course, far higher today, closing in on 7,000 this year, as of early days in August 2010.
William Booth from The Washington Post wrote about his visit to the Juarez city morgue, [headed by morgue manager, Alma Rosa Padilla]:
“In the Juarez morgue, the three walk-in freezers are filled to capacity with more than 90 corpses, stacked floor to ceiling, in leaking white bags with zippers. After a few months, those who are not identified are buried in a field at the city cemetery at the edge of the desert.” (Ibid.)
This "drug war" seems to have a beginning: "At the end of 2007, authorities in the city began hearing rumours that hostilities were about to break out. 'They even had a date, Jan. 7,' local lawyer Jose Reyes says. 'It actually started on Jan. 5.' "
"The municipal graveyard, called San Rafael, on the outskirts of town, [is] near the trash dump. The dirt road leading there is carpeted with fallen garbage from the passing trash trucks. This is the final resting place of the drug war's unidentified dead. [....] The unknown are buried separately in the fosa comun, or communal grave, without headstones or crosses."
Though there is a great deal of violence among drug gangs, it doesn't stop there, according to geweedopig.com in Sept. 2009:
"[T]here is near-absolute impunity for murdering “malandros,” a colloquial term for an underclass of young addicts, small-time drug dealers, homeless people and others at the bottom of the social pile, according to Gustavo de la Rosa, a senior investigator of the Human Rights Commission of the state of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juarez is the biggest city.
"We estimate that between 300 and 500 malandros have been killed since July of 2008,” de la Rosa said in an interview. “Not a single one of these murders has been solved, which leads one to believe that what is going on is ’social cleansing’ with the tacit permission of the state.” Oscar Maynez Grijalva, a former state forensics chief, has talked about death squads whose activities should be, but are not, investigated.
It ain't too pretty, and the picture keeps getting uglier. We see at Stop the Drug War. org. that the death toll In Ciudad Juarez is worse than ever, as of last week, over 6,000.
Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed nearly 25,000 people (the Mexican attorney general put the death toll at 24,826 on earlier this month), with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 6,000 so far in 2010.
Saturday, July 24
In Ciudad Juarez, the murder rate passed 6,000 since January 1st, 2008. As of Saturday, there had been 235 murders in July, and 1,645 so far in 2010. In 2009, there were 2,754 and 1,623 in 2008. On Saturday, 10 people were killed in several incidents in the city. Four of the dead were killed when gunmen attacked a barbershop, and another three were killed in an attack on a house.
And here, a few days later, we find that someone is killing and making sure others know why:
Wednesday, July 28
In Ciudad Juarez, two severed heads were discovered in coolers with the bodies left nearby. Along with the bodies were left notes which read "I'm a kidnapper and extortionist. I'm an Azteca" and "I do carjackings and work for La Linea and the Aztecas." The Aztecas are a street gang affiliated with the Juarez Cartel, and La Linea is the enforcement wing of the Juarez Cartel.
Total Body Count for the Week: 236
Total Body Count for the Year: 6,671
That note looks mightly much like the work of the police, though I could easily be totally mistaken. It's not my place to make any judgements here about who is killed or why or whether they should be. Whether the police and military are killing the lumpen proletariat of Mexico is not my business, no moreso than whether it is internecine murder among drug gangs. Regardless, the dead had names at some point, before they were lost, before they were forgotten. I say that someone should record.
Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold.