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Mexicans In U.S. Fear Violent Mexico

New America Media, News Report , Manuel Ortiz, Translated by Elena Shore Posted: Jan 23, 2010

Traduccin al espaol

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.Poverty and joblessness arent the only factors keeping Mexican immigrants in the United States from returning to their home country. Now they have another reason -- panic over the high levels of violence, a result of the so-called war on drugs launched by President Felipe Caldern.

Of the more than 16,205 murders committed in Mexico during the Caldern administration, the majority has occurred in the states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Baja California, Durango, Michoacn and Guerrero. The most violent year in the last decade was 2009, with 7,724 murders, in addition to a spike in kidnappings (mostly committed by drug traffickers), reaching 111 per month.

Luis Carvajal, a 30-year-old immigrant from Sinaloa, says he feels very sad over what is happening in his state. All my relatives who are there, he says, tell us the violence has reached a degree theyve never seen before.

And while the federal government has launched an intensive media campaign to gain the trust of the Mexican people (both inside and outside of the country)constantly ensuring them that it is winning the warthe dire statistics present a different reality. In January 2010 so far, 370 people have been killed in Sinaloa, including three journalists.

Sinaloa has always been known because thats where the big drug lords are from, says Carvajal. I remember when I lived there, there was violence, but nothing compared to whats happening now. In my neighborhood (Los Mochis) there were never shootings, and now they happen every day, at all hours. People are killed daily.

Carvajal, who has lived in the United States for six years, adds with obvious indignation, A few days ago, they killed and hanged two people from a bridge in Los Mochis. That was unthinkable two years ago.

The federal government, in its attempt to clean up the bad image created by the violence, has tried to show that many of the deaths were attributed to drug traffickers, and that the high levels of violence are an indication that they are fighting organized crime effectively. Indeed, the data shows that the vast majority of those murdered had a connection to organized crime, or were members of the police or military.

However, as noted in an editorial in the Mexican daily La Jornada last week, civiliansincluding women and childrenare often caught in the line of fire. In fact, one of Carvajals own relatives was murdered recently in Sinaloa. "He went to a car wash and a group of people went there to kill someone, but several innocent people were killed in the shooting.

As a result of the violence, Carvajal explains, "People like me who used to dream of returning, or even go there on vacation, are thinking twice about it. On the other hand, a lot of people there want to come [to the United States] because theyre afraid.

Elizabeth Aguilar, a 36-year-old Sinaloa native who works cleaning houses, agrees with Carvajal without hesitation. "I wouldnt go back to Sinaloa to live. I really like my country in general. But everything has turned into chaos. Sinaloa is governed by drug traffickers. Everyone there knows it."

Although most of Aguilars family lives in the United States, her parents still live in Sinaloa. "I worry that they are there, Aguilar says. Id really like them to come to the U.S. Whenever I talk to them, I ask them to come here. I think everyone, not just my family but everyone I talk to here, is really stressed out about whats going on there."

Journalists, too, are afraid to return home. "In recent years, journalists have been forced to leave their country to save their lives, Sanjuana Martinez writes on her blog. Some have decided to seek asylum in the United States and Canada on grounds of persecution."

"What's happening [in Mexico] is very serious," says Mexican journalist Francisco Barradas. Barradas, who lives in San Francisco, says he is shocked and saddened, especially by the murders and disappearances of journalists. In the last decade, 65 journalists were killed in Mexico, making it the most dangerous country for journalists in all of Latin America. None of the journalists cases has been solved.

"Dozens of attacks and 14 murders have taken place in the last year [2009]. When journalists denounce the complicity of authorities, police, or political leaders in organized crime, sparks fly. And the warnings may come in the form of threats by phone or email; being followed; verbal or physical attacks; robberies; attacks on their homes or cars, or other crimes," says Martinez.

On Dec. 8, 2009 Amnesty International (AI) held worldwide protests against the human rights violations and abuses by the Mexican Army. In a report, the human rights organization warns that in the last two years, violations of individual rights, such as forced disappearances and torture, have reached scandalous levels.

"Although we live far away, as long as the violence continues to grow in Mexico, as long as we hear about shootings and murders every day, and many of these victims are innocent people who had nothing to do with drug trafficking, we wont stop feeling sad and living under stress here in the United States," says Carvajal.

Manuel Ortiz is a Mexican journalist and photographer based in northern California. This article is part of an investigation into the effects that Mexicos war on drugs is having on the civilian population.

Translated by Elena Shore

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