The call comes at 6 a.m. from a fellow photographer at the paper, Gabriel Huge, a man who survived a bad accident and rides a scooter to crime scenes and walks with a cane. He is also a man who does not back down: Miguel has photographs of a swarm of federal police in flak jackets surrounding him for taking pictures without their permission. In the images, his face looks fierce and empty of fear.

Gabriel says, "You need to come to the house. Something has happened."

When he arrives, the city police have taped off the residence.

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

Gabriel says, "They have killed your father, mother and brother."

Miguel walks up the stairs to the second floor. His mother is outside the door of the bedroom, face down in a puddle of blood. His father is propped in a sitting position on the bed, his face destroyed by bullets. Down the hall, his brother Misael, known as el gordo in the family because of his weight, is face down in blood. He is wearing yellow shorts his mother had made for him because it was hard to find clothes in his size. He has three rounds in the back of his neck and head. Miguel thinks of all the times he has come here early in the morning or late at night and tiptoed down the hall lest he wake anyone. He goes back into his parents' room, sits down in front of their bodies and says goodbye. He is weeping now.

The police ask, "Is there any electronic surveillance or closed-circuit TV at this house?"

He says, "No."

Miguel knows what the question means: If there is a security camera, they want to know so they can destroy the evidence.

He helps carry out the bodies. First, his mother wrapped in sheets. Then his father — he remembers thinking as he carries him of reproaching him for not having any security measures in the house. And, finally, his brother, el gordo, the fat one, his brother wrapped in an old red bedspread. It is very hard to get him down the stairs. Miguel breaks down sobbing. He asks himself, "What happened here?" His family has just been annihilated by 35 gunshots fired at close range. While the state police are still at the house, they tell him they will send a special team of bodyguards.

No one asks him for a statement.

At the funeral home, Miguel makes arrangements. A reporter from La Jornada, a major left-of-center Mexico City daily that both he and his father had done work for, tells him he must get out of Veracruz if he wants to live. He remains at the funeral home all day, and just before dawn, makes a quick trip to his parents' house with Vanessa, then his fiancée, to get some clothes. The bodyguards ride with them. On the way back to the funeral home, a taxi follows them for 15 blocks. The guard draws his gun, tells Miguel to speed through a red light at a roundabout, and they manage to lose the tail. They get back to the funeral home, and it is under 24-hour guard by Mexican Navy troops wearing ski masks and Veracruz state police. At the funeral, he writes down later, "A neighbor told me that he had seen three trucks and two people who had gone into my parents' house. Another neighbor told me she had heard shots and that for about a week before, she had seen a group of people on motorcycles who seemed to be watching. ... She had heard them talking on their radios, saying, "We are already here guarding the spot."

None of these neighbors give statements to the police.

Officials are at the graveside, the caskets lowered into the sand that is Veracruz. Navy vehicles escort the cortege. State dignitaries promise an investigation, justice and punishment. The ceremony is surrounded by soldiers. This does not make Miguel feel safe.

The day after the funeral, the security detail escorts him and Vanessa to the airport and they flee the city where his father is famous, where he has spent his entire life. Miguel ponders the military precision he saw at the crime scene and the neighbors' whispered accounts of the killings.

He remembers opening the door to his brother's room that morning and wanting to say, "Wake up! Wake up!"

Miguel goes to the Mexico City headquarters of La Jornada. The editors give him a desk job because they do not think it is safe for him to be out on the street. Simply leaving Veracruz cannot protect him.

Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, Milo Vela's reporting partner, is found at 4 a.m. July 26. For the past month, she had been investigating Milo Vela's murder and had gone missing two days before. The body is dumped outside another Veracruz newspaper, Imagen, the head cut off. A message left with the corpse advises, "Friends can also betray you." The attorney general of Veracruz announces that this "unusual assassination was due to the fact that the woman and single mother maintained links with criminal gangs." He asserts her murder has nothing to do with her work as a journalist.

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My Voice Nation Help
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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