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'Mexico supplies the drugs. We supply the users'

December 10, 2010 |  2:08 pm

Puebla mexico checkpoint epa

"Over the border and through the cartels to Abuelita's casa we go," begins a recent commentary on the Mexican drug war, published Monday in the Kansas City Star (and also syndicated by Tribune Media Services).

The line by columnist Mary Sanchez refers to the brutal drug-trafficking organizations currently spreading fear and violence across the country, and -- of course -- to the stereotypical sweet grandmother figure that draws so many Mexican Americans back to the country of their ancestors during the Christmas season.

This season, Mexico warned, visitors from the United States should travel in convoys to help avoid the kidnappings and shoot-outs. Feliz Navidad?

Sanchez writes that looking at the drug war in Mexico as merely a south-of-the-border problem ignores half of the equation. The violence, she says, is rooted in competition over which groups get to supply the lucrative demand for narcotics in the United States, the largest drug market in the world, and which groups the Mexican government is attempting to dismantle. The writer argues:

It's easy to cluck our tongues about the gruesome violence "over there," but to do so is to absolve ourselves of the role our country plays in this bloody import/export business. Let's be honest: This is a trade relationship. Mexico supplies the drugs. We supply the users.

Read the entire column here.

The states of Tamaulipas and Michoacan, along with Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua, are currently bearing the brunt of what that "import/export business" can produce when attempts are made to stop it. See recent related La Plaza posts here and here.

On Thursday and Friday, much of Michoacan was on lock-down as the major local cartel, the cult-like La Familia, battled federal forces. The 36-hour siege gripped a dozen municipalities in the state and paralyzed the capital, Morelia, as gunmen yanked random citizens from their cars and trucks and set fire to vehicles to block the five roads that provide access to the city.

Eight people died in Thursday's fighting, including an 8-month-old who was struck by a stray bullet in the town of Apatzingan (link in Spanish). This is where the heaviest gun battles took place as federal police chased a top figure in La Familia, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez. The capo, known as "El Chayo," is believed to have been killed, the government said Friday.

At least 30,000 people have died in four years of fighting in Mexico. Every day, as Michoacan demonstrated this week, that number grows.

So what do you think, La Plaza readers? Are the debates over the Mexican drug war -- the question of whether the violence is "spilling over" -- inherently asymmetrical, as Sanchez argues? Is the United States government doing its part, doing enough to recognize the war as a binational crisis? How about the American news coverage?

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: A woman stands besides her car at a military checkpoint near Puebla, Mexico, in November. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency

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