Drug war affects UH

On a trip to visit her grandmother in Monterrey, Mexico, finance senior Rachel Herrera said she turned onto a street where ‘patrullas’, police patrols, surrounded a home. No police tried to enter, but instead they opened fire on the house as she drove by.

Mexican citizens near the American border have become accustomed to hearing about drug trafficking, kidnappings and gory killings in the news. As the violent drug war in Mexico escalates, the families of UH students from the country are feeling the affect. The United States has tried to help Mexico with the Merida Initiative, but the results still have not been seen.

‘They really took away the desire to go back to Mexico. It is a beautiful country, but bad things are happening,’ Herrera said. ‘ ‘ ‘

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Mexico dealt with drug traffickers in a reserved manner, but when President Felipe Cald’eacute;ron was elected in 2006, he devoted thousands of federal troops to a war against drug cartels. Since then, Mexico has become a more dangerous place to live.

Drug-related deaths numbered 5,612 in 2008, more than doubling the 2007 total, according to the Mexican newspaper El Universal. Slayings of high-ranking political figures and police officers also increased.

The Mexican army and the Federal Police have successfully removed some leaders of the cartels, such as Alberto Barron of the La Familia Michoacana and Ever Martinez, a main cocaine supplier to the Sinaloa cartel.

However, Jeronimo Cortina, assistant professor of political science, said this has only made the cartel fight amongst themselves, with new leaders emerging amidst the chaos.

‘When the government apprehends these drug lords, some of the cartels get divided fighting for the market,’ Cortina said. ‘New leaders arise as old leaders are removed, because there are millions of dollars for people ready to step up to the plate and take leadership.’

The Merida Initiative is an alliance between the United States, Mexico and Central America to help combat drug trafficking by offering assistance in the form of money, training, equipment and intelligence.

In December 2008, the United States gave $400 million to Mexico to aid the war on drugs. Critics believe the initiative does not attack drug trafficking, instead avoiding the real problem of a U.S. demand for drugs.

‘What the U.S. government should do is to see the drug use as a health issue in similar fashions as alcohol. The drug war is at the level it is as a result of continuous demand for the consumption of drugs in the U.S.,’ said Lorenzo Cano, associate director of the Center for Mexican American Studies.

Violence rates are highest in northern border cities where drugs are smuggled into the United States, but the problem is spreading to more states like Calderon’s home state, Michoacan.

As the violence becomes more widespread, more UH students like Herrera and sociology junior Lisa Gonzalez will be affected when they and their families want to visit the land of their heritage.

‘My uncle is afraid of going across the border – he is more afraid of being kidnapped than from being shot. The drug cartel kidnaps employees and later asks for ransoms,’ Gonzalez said.

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