Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Embedded with Narcos
Living in city of Culiacán is a dangerous past time; almost everybody is under the shadow of the Narco. A city of over half-million, most of its people are indirectly involved with the business the drug-money brings. Behind what appear to be flourishing high streets with expensive cars is a city at war with almost a hundred murders a month.
Impotent in the face of brutal violence, the government has made few if any advances. Mexico now surpasses Colombia in its levels of drug violence, and has overtaken Iraq in its number of kidnappings. This year alone 3,000 people have been killed.
Culiacán is home to the blood-thirsty Sinaloa cartel, whose ambitions and tenticles lie far beyond the country’s borders. Historically, Sinaloa began as the area where opium poppies were grown used for morphine for the American soldiers in the 2nd World War. This was then substituted for the American underground market, from where the cartels grew out of the impunity the state gave them.
Javier Valdez, 41, works for the weekly local newspaper called Rio Doce. Founded by himself and three other journalists the newspaper almost exclusively covers the trafficking phenomenon. Mexico is considered to be the most dangerous Latin American country in which to be a journalist; 30 reporters have died or disappeared in Mexico since 2000. Though as yet no worker at Rio Doce has died few people knock on the door looking for work. Similarly no company is willing to sponsor them for fear of reprisals.
Based in Culiacán’s city centre, Valdez witnesses and covers the violence on a daily basis. “You no longer need to be a Narco for it to effect you. The Narco is part of our daily lives. The people themselves have abandoned the street. From the bench of your house, to the your neighbour’s porch, there is now a vacuum. Here the risk is staying alive, not of being a Narco or a gunman.”
Javier says he even has friends that are Narcos. Once seen as Robin Hood figures the Narcos that once constructed schools and gave medicines to the poor, now look for survival within a highly lucrative, competitive and violent market. Yet as long as Javier does not cross certain codes he will continue to write his columns. Through them he attempts to cover the twisted universe created by Mexican gangland culture, contrasting it with everyday life and the government’s corruption and ill equipped way of managing the escalating violence. His real tale is one of constant treading on thin ice, creatively telling stories, omitting the names and facts that could prejudice his life or that of others.
Married with two children aged 14 and 10, his wife often pleas for them to move abroad. Violence is now so well spread around the country, he says, there wouldn’t be anywhere that would be safe. Still, until the newspaper does finally fall, Javier will keep on writing.
Extract from article - CARROS LUJOSOS
Sabía que lo iban a matar: la balanza se movía para un lado, el contrario, y a los que tanto había golpeado les tocaba responder, y a él perder.
Veinte años en la Policía. Ahora de comandante. Casi en su totalidad al servicio del director y éste a las órdenes del “jefe”, “el patrón”, el de los maletines de billetes y de los negocios.
Luchas intestinas le quitaron terreno y convirtieron las calles en una guerra en la que primero caen los pistoleros.
Y él era pistolero. Decían que lo usaban para resolver problemas. Más bien los alimentaba y multiplicaba: los muertos siempre traen muertos, pero no se sabe cuándo ni cuántos.
Duro, cabrón. Lo mandaban a comunidades pequeñas, aparentemente insignificantes, pero de importancia para el movimiento y el teje y maneje.
Díganle que vaya, que lo arregle. Era la orden. Y él llegaba y pum, limpiaba.