About 40 percent of Spector's firm's time now goes to pro bono cases of Mexicans seeking political asylum in the United States. Some weeks he wonders if he can make payroll. He says, "There was a time I stopped doing these cases, and that's when I got fucked up. This is now a calling for me, not a profession."

In the United States, there are reports of a war between the Mexican government and the drug business. In the United States, drug laws fill prisons and recruit citizens to be convicts and rural Americans to be jailers. In Mexico, the whispers are of the Mexican government killing Mexicans. In Mexico, the secret history of the American War on Drugs is being written on the corpses of the Mexican people.

Carlos sits at the fiesta in his backyard surrounded by messengers from the dead.

An all-too-common scene in Veracruz.
Miguel Angel Lopez Solana
An all-too-common scene in Veracruz.
Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, aka Milo Vela, his wife, Agustina Solana, and son Miguel Angel Lopez Solana
Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, aka Milo Vela, his wife, Agustina Solana, and son Miguel Angel Lopez Solana

Sara Salazar is silent, her hair gray, a face carved from stone.

Miguel Angel López Solana and his wife smile.

They also know things Americans find hard to believe.

They must tell their stories.

It is all they have left.


Miguel is determined to remember. When the killings come to his life, he sits down and writes: My father, Miguel Angel López Velasco, known as "Milo Vela," began working at Notiver about thirty years ago. My mother, Agustina Solana, was a homemaker. My younger brother, Misael López Solana, was a photojournalist and worked with my father. Milo's journalism was characterized by publicizing citizens' complaints, exposing corruption and narcotrafficking. He expressed his opinions about all of these things. Milo Vela's journalism was critical.

In the old faded photograph, Miguel the son is 2 years old and sits at the keyboard of a telex wire machine in the newspaper office in Veracruz.

Milo Vela spent most of his career at Notiver, the daily paper of the port city of Veracruz. He covered crime, became a columnist and edited the police section. He taught his sons not to believe in political parties, since they all lied and were corrupt. He taught his sons that news was a calling. Sometimes Miguel and his father would simply sit in a car outside of the Red Cross center waiting for an accident to be called in. They were newsmen.


Ever since I was a child, I remember that my father worked all day for the newspaper, Notiver. I only saw him sleeping while I was getting ready to go to school in the mornings, because by the time I got home from school, it would be the next morning before I would see him again in bed. ... I got to know his co-workers, among them, Yolanda Ordaz [de la Cruz], who covered the police beat. Nothing kept any of them from covering any kind of news. I remember once in the 1980s, Yolanda and my father were beaten up by federal police when they went to cover an intensive operation carried out in the area near the port — apparently something to do with securing a shipment of weapons.


In 2007, a severed head is delivered to a corner near the newspaper offices. Then a video appears on YouTube claiming that Milo Vela, his reporting partner, Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz — called the "fat black woman" in the video — and the son Miguel Angel take money from the criminal group called Los Zetas and go to parties with them. Everyone but the father flees the city of Veracruz temporarily.

The family home is brick, two stories and modern, with lots of windows, two blocks from the police station. Miguel's brother Misael, 21, lives at home and works as a photographer at Notiver. Miguel lives 10 minutes away and is also a photographer for the paper. They are given to family dinners and celebrations. On June 19, 2011, Miguel and Vanessa attend a Father's Day dinner and eat salpicón made with crab and a seafood stew.

There had been signs of trouble before the dinner. Something was bothering his father, but Miguel knew better than to ask. A week before, at the funeral for an uncle, he mentioned to his father the attack against another reporter.

His father said, "Don't worry."

Miguel noticed that for the past month, his father had begun calling him early each morning and again in the evening to make sure he was OK. A few days before the dinner, his father had a loud argument with the nephew of the governor over his paper's stories, and the morning after Father's Day, he had a column coming out that questioned the reputation of two candidates for chief of traffic police in Veracruz.


During his first term at Notiver in the 1980s, Milo Vela was attacked on his way home to sleep. I don't remember the date, but I do recall that his car was shot full of bullet holes. ... I remember asking him once about what had happened and he didn't tell me much. "Well, I was driving down the Morelos bridge and passing the factory when these dark guys pulled out like 'bats out of hell (hechos la madre)' and I realized they were chasing me, so I sped up, but I saw they were going to catch up with me so I pulled over and jumped out of the car and ran toward the beach. ..." This is all he told me, but then he turned around and said, "But, Miguel, this is all over now."

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15 comments
crew
crew

Why does Mexico have an army anyway...a fear of invasion?

cesar39nt
cesar39nt

if they took up arms against their oppressors as we did in 1776 then their problem would be what do we do with our freedom, instead they run away hide and complain about the violence? and expect America to fix it? we have enough of our own problems when you fix ours begining with illeagel immigration then we might be willing to listen to your complaints

Humanbeing
Humanbeing

Was it the war on drugs that killed all of these people or was it the drug war that killed these people?

trudat
trudat like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

 @Humanbeing

 ...what's the difference?.... If the business of trading in these various commodities was legal and regulated (as is tobacco and tequila), would these gangs be viciously killing innocent men, women and children in the streets of Mexico?  The prohibition drug policies of the world have not improved our quality of life.  Instead; those who are willing to destroy peace and tranquility have been allowed to advance their agenda of death, destruction and evil. 

 

It's past time for a major change in world wide drug policies.

Humanbeing
Humanbeing like.author.displayName 1 Like

Maybe it is time for some change. But the fact of the matter is the drugs are not legal right now and won't be for in the near future. I don't see any organized movement to legalize them as of yet anyways. And until they are legal, maybe people should take an ounce of personal responsibility for their actions. The fact of the matter is that if you are currently using drugs that have come through Mexico you are the end consumer in a business model that has brutally killed tens of thousands of people. You have have blood on your hands. Everyone just goes to the "they should legalize it" line. It's a cop out and it's selfish. Take some responsibility for yourself the effects your actions have on the world.

trudat
trudat

 @Humanbeing

 Although it will not solve every problem, legalization and regulation will be a clear improvement of the situation.  And just so you know, I support legalization for the worldwide effects that it would have - not the personal/selfish effect.  I am not an illegal  "drug" user.  And if you would look around, you might find a few organizations that are having degrees of success in their legalization efforts . As a matter of fact, the Texas Democratic Party put legalization on its' party platform this year. It appears to me that somebody is taking responsibility and showing initiative in a good way on this issue.

Humanbeing
Humanbeing

 @123blowme I have no connection to the alcohol industry and I didn't single out pot users. The question is, do you think a legalized industry of hard drugs would lead to more or less deaths than the current alcohol industry. I would argue that it would be worse.

123blowme
123blowme

 @Humanbeing  Do you work for the alcohol industry?  More people die each year due to alcohol-related death and violence than all drug cartel killings combined over the past five years.   So yeah, pot users may have blood on their hands but not near as much as boozers.

AnnaGoAnna
AnnaGoAnna

Enough of the handwringing.  Legalize drugs in a regulatory fashion starting w/ marijuana.

AtomAunt
AtomAunt

 "The United States walls off Mexico on national-security grounds and then decries imaginary violence spilling north across the border".  Was a pretty good article until that kneeslapper. How's the weather in your world Senor Bowden?

trudat
trudat like.author.displayName 1 Like

Words that attempt to describe the catastrophic disaster that is taking place across the border will always be insufficient.  The problems that are coming from the mindset that brings on drug use and drug wars should be addressed by an international summit and task force.  Public policy that will turn the habits of the worlds population into assets as opposed to liabilities is necessary right now!  I am encouraged that the Texas Democratic Party has included the legalization of marijuana in its' party platform this year.  This is a good first step toward solving the problems brought on by the stupidity of drug interdiction policies. Drug interdiction policies do not work and cost too much money and waste too many lives.  Its past time that people in this country try a new approach to this problem.

devildog943
devildog943 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

One thing that could work to greatly reduce drug-related crime; legalize drugs in the US, regulate strength and purity and sell them OTC to adults, applying 'sin' taxes as is presently done to alcohol and tobacco.

This is unlikely to happen for several reasons; inertia, the money to be made by the 'justice' and penal systems from prohibition, and outright bribes to legislators to maintain the status quo.

Bitterclinger
Bitterclinger like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

Been a Bowden fan for years. His research and writing on the morass that is Mexico today is very interesting and enlightening. What does amaze me is the utter ignorance in the States about what is truly going on in Mexico now.  I was visiting Jalisco last month, a relatively safe state, and had the opportunity to meet with Mexicans that live above the poverty line and they all said they are truly scared about the random nature of the violence. They are more frightened by the military, state and local police than they are the Zeta's or other narco's.

 

The shear volume of bodies in many of the mass killings in the last couple years is astonishing.

 

How does a band of criminals kidnap, torture and dismember 50 people and dump the body parts  on a major urban highway during rush hour with no one noticing it.

 

Hijacking full buses traveling through Tamaulipis and killing people 20 to 30 at a time. 70 migrants lined up and shot dead in a barn near San Fernando.

 

The videos of people being decapitated while still alive. The killing of innocent family members on video to extort money.

 
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