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Dangerous Neighbors

As a resident on the border with Mexico, I am a witness of the unstoppable violence that reigns in that country. I have friends on the other side who bring horrific testimonies of executions and kidnappings. Every store in Matamoros, according to reliable sources, has to pay a certain monthly amount to survive. Those that don’t heed the warning are either the victims of violence or see their property burnt to the ground. Al Capone was the good guy compared to these Mexican bandits.

The police are completely helpless for two important reasons: they are corrupt (they can be bought easily with their meager salary), or they are completely overwhelmed by the bad guys’ superior weaponry. The few honest agents often lack ammunition for their old pistols, or are told by their superiors to turn a blind eye; hence the intervention by the Mexican army.

But is the army really effective, or are they just another fancy inoperative police force? As I drive into Matamoros, I see two army soldiers mingling with Mexican custom agents; they are holding their automatic rifles by the strap. They are Mexican Indians from the southern part of the country, short, poorly paid, and very poorly educated.

Friends of mine, who recently visited us from Mexico, told us of not one, but two military checkpoints before reaching Reynosa, another border town south of McAllen. Each vehicle had to go through a metal detector, presumably to verify the existence of forbidden weapons. No dogs were present, a strange omission if we remember that drugs go north, and weapons go south. Or maybe that was the point.

Monterrey, a most important industrial and commercial city 150 miles south of Laredo, is living its most dangerous phase since its foundation more than 200 years ago. Friends told me of the harrowing saga of an important family in that city; the husband, a local businessman, was kidnapped 3 months ago and held for ransom, a common occurrence in the last 3 years. The family paid a very high sum as instructed (Mexicans know very well that calling the police is absolutely useless), and the man was released. Two days later, he relocated his whole family to San Antonio, Texas.

More and more rich families and wealthy Mexican citizens are coming to live in the U.S., knowing that the police in this country are able to protect them. It is a trend that mirrors the massive emigration of poor Mexicans who cross the border in search of dignity. But these rich people have the means to come legally, as they can pay for expensive immigration lawyers.

President Calderon is doing what he can and most observers believe that he is sincere in his efforts to curb crime (Previous presidents were often paid large sums by Mafia leaders). But he has inherited decades of police corruption and military autonomy and inefficiency. Mexico has no need for an army! But the hundreds of Mexican generals and admirals are paid very well and they refuse to give up the juicy dividends they receive every year.

What is the solution for poor Mexico? Rudy Giuliani was paid handsomely to clean Mexico City: where are the results? It would take and it will take a new revolution to end the hegemony of criminals, whose tentacles reach into the highest levels of government. Only a President with ample powers could actually do the job; since that is very unlikely, the people will get tired of being victimized and will take matters into their own hands.

Born in Switzerland many years ago and now living in Brownsville, Tx, where I teach special education in a local high school. I love my job and the challenges involved in making a difference for so many bright kids who struggle to overcome their disabilities.
I have followed education topics and international politics for the past 25 years and have lived in Europe and Latin America before settling in the U.S.
My e-mail: [email protected]
My blog:

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