Thursday, March 18, 2010

Four Corners, “Mexico’s Drug Wars”

ABC1 / Monday 22nd March 2010 at 8.30pm

This week on Four Corners, “Mexico’s Drug Wars”: a horrifying account of the brutal war that’s raging in the towns that dot the border between Mexico and the United States.

BBC’s This World reporter Katya Adler reports from the frontline of the conflict involving rival drug gangs and the Mexican government. In every sense it’s a major battle. On one hand the drug cartels are fighting each other in a vicious turf war for control of the multi-million dollar drug trade. Meanwhile, the Mexican Government has vowed it will stop the fighting and bring them to heal. So far no one is winning the war and the death toll keeps rising.

In Tijuana a middle aged Mexican couple are weeping. They believe their eldest son is dead, killed by a drug gang. They tell how they were sitting at home one evening when they heard a knock at the door. A gang of heavily armed men, claiming to be police, came into their house and took their son away. They quickly discovered these were not police but a drug cartel militia. Their son has never been seen again.

They are not alone in their torment. Each year thousands of Mexicans are dying as a result of their country’s drug war.

Tijuana is now effectively ruled by the country’s most powerful drug runner, Joaquin 'Chapo' Guzman. “Chapo” as he is known, began his life as a drug trafficking boss in the centre of Mexico but quickly decided he would move north and take control of the border regions. The result? A major battle as his men took on rival gangs. At one point “Chapo” was captured and put in jail. His time there was short. Last year he simply disappeared from a maximum security jail and police say he is now back running his drug empire.

The government’s response to the crisis has been to declare war on the gangs. From a distance it sounds like a good policy. But as Four Corners reports the heavily armed drug militias have responded with their own brand of force. As a result citizens have been caught up in what amounts to a civil war.

Tijuana is not the only city feeling the impact of the violence. The city of Ciudad Juarez to the east is also a battleground. There, reporter Katya Adler discovered a city under siege. Last year 2,500 people were killed in drug related assassinations. The situation in the city was so bad that a new mayor, elected on a law and order ticket, was forced to sack all the city’s senior police. Now he has been forced to train an additional 1,000 officers in the hope of stemming the corruption within his force.

The question is, can the war against the cartels succeed and will the new police officers in Juarez keep their pledge to uphold the law, or will they too be sucked down into the pit of corruption, siding with the drug traffickers?