Saturday, April 16, 2011

Death on rural roads: Mexico

San Fernando Township in Northern Mexico is a dangerous place.  The slaying last August of 27 immigrants was huge news, and now there has been another mass body find.
The victims in the August slaying were immigrants trying to make it to the United States across the flat sparsely inhabited area.  Less than 60,000 people live in the area, with isolated sorghum ranches being the chief income for the rural population.
In the August massacre, the immigrants were intercepted by the Zeta drug gang.  The Zetas were in the process of forcing them to work as drug runners or assassins, but something went wrong and all of them were killed.
After the massacre, two investigators were assigned to the case.  They were killed within days.
In the months [after the] massacre, San Fernando and surrounding Tamaulipas state have become a no-man's land. Piles of bullet-ridden bodies have been found along the county's roadsides, in various states of decay. Shootouts between sport-utility vehicles—cars popular among drug traffickers—have erupted nearly on a daily basis. On most days, when twilight settles on the area, the streets of San Fernando, the county seat, empty as residents give way to the criminals who own the highways and country roads, residents say.  Nicholas Casey, Murder in Mexico, The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2011.
The local police station with only four officers on duty has been shot up twice.
Now 116 bodies, with more possibly coming, have been found in mass graves at a secluded ranch.  The dead include Mexican locals on a bus that was stopped and all of its passengers taken.  The roads are so dangerous that the bus lines have suspended services through Tamaulipas state.
It should be noted that this not a completely lawless place, the way that the location of our recent post apocalyptic combats were.  The Mexican government does have patrols on the main highway, and if the drug dealers have to show some care on the main routes.  But the presence of the army also makes it impossible for large groups of people to go in armed convoys.   Fractional police protection often causes more problems for the honest citizens than the criminals.
It does beg the question of how safe a completely rural retreat would be…

However, in a news flash (per the following quoted article), apparently there is no specific concern for Americans.  It is comforting to know that we are not targeted.  Of course the fact that an American would be more likely to have money to pay a ransom and less acustomed to the measures needed to protect oneself is beside the point.

Nicholas Casey, Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2011

State Department Spokesman Michael Toner said, "we thought it was credible information, and then it was later deemed that it was not credible enough to warrant it remaining on the website."

The warning, the first indicating Americans were being targeted by drug traffickers, said U.S. officials had "uncorroborated information that Mexican criminal gangs may intend to attack U.S. law-enforcement officers or U.S. citizens in the near future in Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and San Luis Potosí" states. Among the cities affected by the warning was Monterrey, the country's northern business hub.
Which leads us to:
Douglas Adams, Arthur Dent in "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy"

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