Miguel and Vanessa are paralyzed. For three days they cannot leave their Mexico City apartment. They have entered a new phase of exile. First they lose their native state. Now they feel their nation slipping away. In Veracruz, 15 crime reporters flee the city. Gabriel Huge gets a call informing him he will be killed. He flees, also.

Miguel had tasted threats before, as had his father. But things began to change in 2006, when the new president, Felipe Calderón, announced that he was hurling the Mexican army against drug organizations. Strange criminals suddenly appeared in Veracruz, guys who did not even know the streets, their reckless driving causing more car accidents. And killings. Miguel is covering a crime scene or accident, and someone shoves a gun in his mouth and lectures him on how he should do his job. Death threats mount.

One night in May 2010, a cop pulls Miguel over. Vanessa is riding along. The cop is hostile but allows Miguel to drive on. A few minutes later, the street is blocked by guys with AR-15s wearing federal police uniforms. They tell him, "Right now you are going to get really fucked up." ("Vas a ver, hijo de la chingada.") They take him, leaving the girl behind. They go behind a hotel, beating him all the way there.

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

At least four more vehicles arrive and a man with one glass eye and the look of the boss gets out and tells him that what he was doing could get him killed. Miguel asks the man if he is a Zeta and he nods. He asks Miguel if he wants to die and Miguel says no. The man says, well, you can go this time, but the next time we will kill you. They dump him where he was originally snatched. He calls his father, who advises him not to report the incident.

Miguel explains, "In Mexico, you learn to live with fear. You see bodies decapitated, you see police covered in blood. The fear just gets bigger and bigger. You see the decay of everything."


By July 2011, when Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz is butchered, she is the seventh Mexican reporter killed that year, the third in Veracruz.

On September 20, during the afternoon rush hour, two trucks block the viaduct by a high-end shopping mall in Boca del Rio, a suburb of Veracruz. Drivers watch men methodically dump 35 bodies, 12 of them women. The men then leave, and no one stops them and no police come. The bodies are marked with the letter Z to suggest they are members of Los Zetas, a criminal organization that began as a special military unit created by the Mexican government and trained by the United States to fight drug organizations. The unit was designed to be incorruptible. Almost immediately, the DEA began secret payments to the group. Eventually, its members left for the better employment benefits of the drug industry and became the Zetas. The dumped bodies in Boca del Rio are bound with plastic ties at the wrists and ankles, restraints only available to the police and army.

The official story, that the dead are Zetas, holds for a while and is widely reported in the U.S. press. Then it cracks. Reforma, a right-of-center pro-government paper, talks to the families of the dead and discovers that they are mainly petty criminals, drug addicts and prostitutes, if they had any criminal records at all. These facts are hardly reported in the U.S. press and soon vanish from the press in Mexico for fear of repercussion.

Miguel gets reports in Mexico City. His friend and fellow photographer Guillermo Luna has a cousin who is walking to get a bag of ice in Boca del Rio on September 16, Mexican Independence Day, when he sees some adolescents celebrating in the street. Police sweep in and take the kids.

A woman goes to the police station seeking her teenage son. She is told he is not in custody. Later she learns his body is one of those dumped by the fashionable mall. A video circulates on the Internet from a group called the Zeta Killers. They wear masks and sit at a table and claim credit for the killing. Miguel learns that they are really former Veracruz policemen playacting.

Miguel and Vanessa spend the rest of the year in limbo. The United States usually denies political asylum to Mexican reporters, because to grant it would constitute an admission about the real nature of Mexico. They return to her grandparents in Veracruz and hide. Then they fly to Reynosa, on the Texas border, and begin the paperwork for a U.S. visa. They return to Veracruz, get their car and fling themselves into a new land.

They go to Corpus Christi and end up in a cheap motel as their tiny hoard of cash dribbles away. They cannot legally work. They yearn for Mexico. At times Miguel can hear his mother's voice.

The years passed, and at the beginning of the 1990s my father left Notiver ... above all because they were censoring some of his articles and his columns. ... Then my father ended up without a job and went to work as a taxi driver, saying that he knew the city perfectly from covering the news and it would be an easy job for him. 

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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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