Remembering Charles Bowden

 To recognize Chuck’s contributions to the literary world one simply has to takeaway all his works and realize the void that remains. He shared his vast knowledge of and passion for the Southwest specifically the violence in Mexico through his works notably Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family, Murder City, and El Sicario, edited with our own, Molly Molloy. He once said*, ““I’m a reporter. I go out and report. I don’t keep a [expletive] journal” and report he did. Much has been written about him as a reporter, friend and all-around unique and sometimes eccentric figure, in the following weeks we will feature pieces commemorating Chuck from Listeros and, of course, Molly.  In the meantime, Molly wanted to share information regarding his memorial along with a private photo of Chuck.
“My great pleasure is to go into the wilderness, get myself lost under the big sky out there, and I’ve written books full of words trying to capture that feeling and describe that landscape.” **

If you are interested in contributing a post about Chuck, please email us at fronteralist@gmail.com

DOWN BY THE RIVER…Rhapsody for Chuck Bowden

Sunday afternoon, September 28, 1-5 at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, near Mesilla, NM
Chuck out in nature, his favorite place to be. Photo courtesy of Molly Molloy

Chuck out in nature, his favorite place to be. Photo courtesy of Molly Molloy

* Quote from the LA Times

**Quote from The Guardian

Charles Bowden…”I have spent my life trying to learn…”

To all of our friends on the frontera list… Jose Luis Benavides sent me this great note, including Chuck’s own words about his life and work… It says things far better now than I can…Thanks to everyone who has written to me.  I hope I can respond personally in time… molly

From Jose Luis:
Yesterday, I checked Chuck’s bio he sent me back when we invited you and him to CSUN for the first time. I liked it because it captures his mood at the time, so I couldn’t resist the temptation of sharing it with you:

I have spent my life trying to learn. I once taught American history at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle Campus but my real education has come from working on newspapers and magazines and from writing books. I started out interested in nature (Killing the Hidden Waters, University of Texas Press, 1977) but got sidetracked by the endless wars of the border–wars against drugs, wars against the migration of the Mexican poor and wars against decent wages (see Juarez: the laboratory of our future, Down by the River, Murder City, El Sicario, Exodus). I have also co-produced a documentary film, “El Sicario/room 164.” I have not controlled my life or work but been controlled by events. I could not stand by in silence as the war on drugs killed tens of thousands, imprisoned millions and squandered over a trillion US dollars. Nor could I ignore the massive flight of the poor unleashed by NAFTA, especially since the Mexicans who come north to survive are often demonized by politicians and portrayed as a national security risk. I constantly try to abandon my work. Recently, I bought a backpack, threw forty pounds into it and returned to walking the hills. I’ll see if this effort at a cure works. It never has before but I am a creature of hope.

Q & A with Frontera List’s Molly Molloy

What are the current stats and how do they compare to previous years?

There are two main sources of official Mexican government statistics on homicides. INEGI, Mexico’s National Statistics Institute, tallies numbers of murder victims based on data from medical examiners in morgues across the country. A death is counted as a homicide when a legal medical specialist determines that homicide was the cause of death. These statistics are cumulated and generally reported in July or August for the previous year. The INEGI report for 2013 came out in late July and provided the figure of 22,732 intentional homicides—an average of 1,894 homicides each month. This figure is down from the figure of 25,967 in 2013 and from the highest number of 27,213 in 2012—an average of more than 2,200 murders per month.

The national murder rate in Mexico in 2013 was 19 per 100,000, down from the highest point of about 24 in 2012.  When evaluating murder rates, we also have to consider that many cities, states or regions in Mexico have much higher rates than the national average. The state of Guerrero has a murder rate of 63—the highest in the country—and the city of Acapulco is at the top of the list of violent cities. Chihuahua state had a murder rate in 2013 of 59, about the same as the murder rate in Ciudad Juarez. This is a dramatic decrease from the highest murder rate in the world in 2010 (approaching 300 per 100,000) but still the second highest state murder rate in the country.

The other major source of crime statistics is the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP), part of the Secretariat of Government (SEGOB). SESNSP provides data on homicides from crime scenes as reported on a monthly basis by the Fiscalias (the Attorneys General) in each state. These numbers are generally lower than the cumulative figures reported by INEGI and can probably be explained by the fact that those injured in violent crimes may die later and eventually be categorized as homicides. Also, SESNSP data reports a separate category of homicidios culposos (negligent or unintentional homicides) in an initial crime scene investigation, but some of these may also be determined to be intentional at a later stage of investigation.  A total of 9,303 homicidios dolosos (intentional homicides) are reported for January-July 2014, an average of about 1,300 homicides each month.  In comparison, there were a total of 18,388 intentional homicides in 2013—an average of about 1,500 per month—somewhat lower than the cumulative INEGI total. For more on the SESNSP data, see: http://www.secretariadoejecutivosnsp.gob.mx/es/SecretariadoEjecutivo/Incidencia_Delictiva_Nacional_fuero_comun

Adding the INEGI numbers for 2007-2013, and the SESNSP numbers for January-July 2014, there were a total of 153,648 murder victims in Mexico during the past 7.5 years. That averages to 1,688 homicides per month since the hyper-violence began in Mexico.

And, these numbers do not include the estimated 30,000 people who have been officially reported missing or disappeared.  Mexican government spokespeople have addressed the issue of the disappeared, most recently in a press conference yesterday resulting in a flurry of media coverage trying to explain the “disappearing disappeared.” See: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2014/08/22/politica/005n1pol

http://www.animalpolitico.com/2014/08/existen-22-mil-322-personas-localizadas-en-mexico-9-mil-790-fueron-reportadas-este-sexenio/#axzz3B8q3D4LM

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2014/08/21/world/americas/ap-lt-mexico-missing-people.html?ref=americas&_r=1

http://www.thepanamericanpost.com/2014/08/mexico-revises-number-of-disappeared.html

The reality is that there are no accurate or reliable numbers on people who have disappeared. The government never says how many were found alive and how many are confirmed dead. And it is certain than many of the dead are never found. One recent report by Michelle Garcia and Ignacio Alvarado Alvarez for Al Jazeera America concludes:

“People began to disappear in Mexico in large numbers after President Felipe Calderón launched his war against drug traffickers in 2006. By 2013, the Mexican government, under a new administration, pegged the number of disappeared at 26,121, adding that not all were criminally related.

Experts and several human rights groups, however, estimate that reported cases represent roughly 10 percent of the total, as most people are reluctant to appeal to authorities who were either involved in or suspected of having ties to organized crime groups. Based on their calculations, the actual number could be closer to 200,000 people.”

What is the most informative literary work to come out in the last year regarding the violence in Mexico? Why?

 The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail, by Salvadoran journalist Oscar Martinez.

Amnesty International estimates that as many as 70,000 Central American migrants have disappeared in Mexico in the past 10 years. Published in Spanish as Los migrantes que no importan…The Migrants who Don’t Matter, The Beast is by far the best account I have read of how criminal/government networks actually work and how and why the massive death toll in Mexico and in Central America keeps rising. The book not only helps us to understand Mexico, but it also is the skeleton key to understanding the recent crisis in child migration from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. At least 60,000 unaccompanied minors have made it to the United States border in the past year and we do not begin to know how many have been lost on the journey—not to mention the numbers of adult men and women who die in the migration. Here is one paragraph from Oscar Martinez’ interview below with the Texas Observer:

 “TO: What do you hope Americans will learn from your book?

OM: I believe the worst tragedies along the path—the rapes, the mass kidnappings, the torturing done by Los Zetas, the fee to cross the border—are things that the migrants who have suffered them, in my experience, dont even tell their own families. Im convinced that its something they dont tell their employers or their friends if they have any friends in the United States. I think people in the U.S. know that migrants have a long and hard journey. But Im convinced that the country in which they work—where they cut tomatoes and clean houses—has no idea at all that what the migrants are going through is actually a humanitarian crisis. In other words, its a humanitarian crisis where organized crime takes care of extracting the very last drop it can from people who are already leaving their country with practically nothing.”

What has been one of the most surprising news story you’ve read this year? why?

The rise of ISIS, or the Islamic State terrorist military force and its lightning take-over of much of Iraq and Syria. I know, it has nothing to do with Latin America. Or does it?  I think of the several trillion dollars and thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives lost since our invasion of that country in 2003 and even more deaths caused by massive destabilization in the region, in part sparked by our interventions. And for what? The result seems to be the creation of one of the most violent and dangerous threats the U.S. has faced, ever.

Then I look at the media storm in response to the massive numbers of children fleeing from intolerable violence in the small Central American countries. And I think about the illegal U.S. proxy wars against “the Communist threat” in those countries resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans in the 1970s and 1980s. Our policies and actions 30+ years ago sowed the seeds for the destruction of these societies and now we are reaping the crops.

What do you see happening with immigration in the U.S. and how will it affect Latin America?

I am appalled by the inhumane reaction of our government to the recent Central American migration. Instead of seeing the migration as a human rights crisis, our government is determined to detain and deport people as quickly as possible with not even lip-service to human rights, international law, or due process in our own courts.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/08/22/70696.htm

http://www.legalactioncenter.org/litigation/artesia-resource-page

The American immigration gulag is expanding and becoming more repressive at every turn. And the loudest protests call for more repression, not less.

While the administration and activists continue to talk about the president bypassing the stonewalled Congress to mandate immigration reform through executive action, I fear such action will result in more draconian border security measures and provide little if any benefit to the immigrants most in need of relief.

I hope my sad predictions are all wrong.

Q & A with author Todd Miller

Todd Miller is  a Tucson-based freelance journalist who has covered the U.S.- Mexico border for the last 15 years for publications including The Nation, NACLA Report on the Americas, and Mother Jones. His first book, Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Homeland Security explores border security post 9/11 and examines what he calls the “new world border.”  To learn more, visit his website.

**********************************************************************************************************************

You’ve been reporting about the border for several years now, what made you decide to focus on border patrol and what surprised you the most in your findings?

One of the first acts of journalism that I did was photograph a crew from the U.S. Army corps of engineers when they were building the wall between Douglas and Agua Prieta in the late 1990s. That was when Border Patrol was concentrating agents and technology, and building walls in the urban areas along the 2,000 mile U.S. Mexico border. Then in 2001 I was working for a binational organization in Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora when 9/11 hit. With this, I witnessed first hand the advent of the homeland security era of the Border Patrol. The results of this have been nothing less than startling.

For Border Patrol Nation, I interviewed public information officers in places like Puerto Rico, El Paso, Tucson, and Detroit. However, I also interviewed many individual agents who had a wide range of perspectives. I interviewed from the most gung-ho to those with serious critiques about the agency. I met their kids, and went to their homes. I found that most agents think that they are in an insular world, and nobody really understands what they do. Many feel they are criticized by all sides of the political spectrum. I felt like when I was able to humanize the agent, I was able to see that they were only a small part— though a powerful part—of a much bigger world. Border Patrolling has become an industry, a technological innovation, a problem to be “solved” by engineers. There are many, many people of all perspectives involved with this domestic national security monolith, of which Border Patrol by virtue of its uniformed presence is its most public face. That was one surprise. The other surprise was when this world revealed itself, I saw that it was much bigger, and had penetrated the country (and more and more the world) in more startling and powerful ways than I was even aware of. To find these angles became, in a sense, one of the prime missions of the book.

Could you explain what you mean by the “new world border”?

This term comes from a chapter where I spend quite a bit of time on the Dominican Haiti international boundary. There, before my eyes, was a rustic version of the U.S.-Mexico border. Along the Massacre River, which demarcates the divide between the two countries that share the same island, were protest barricades placed crookedly and serving as a rudimentary barricade. Behind the barricades the Dominican Border Patrol, known as CESFRONT, sat their Xs, watching their sections of border like agents in the United States. When I asked these Dominican agents if they had received training from the U.S. Border Patrol they said yes. Not only has there been training, but also the United States sent resources. In fact, the whole idea that the Dominican Republic needed its own border patrol came from a U.S. report issued in 2006. Turns out, the United States, and its Border Patrol, has done trainings across the globe in more than 100 different countries. And it further turns out that the global market for border security is in an “unprecedented growth period,” hundreds of billions of dollars potentially. From Asia to Africa, from the Middle East to southern Europe, from Brazil to Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, hardened enforced boundaries are becoming the norm, particularly between the global south (and its different gradations—the Dominicans can police the Haitians, but the Dominicans need to be policed by the United States) with the global north. As former Customs and Border Protection chief David Aguilar said, Border Patrol’s work in the “hemisphere” is to protect “our way of life.”

You say that since 9/11,  Border Patrol has more than doubled its ranks, has roughly 21,000 agents nationwide and continues to expand. What do you see as the outcome of this growth and expansion?

At a recent community meeting on the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona the speaker—who was looking into Homeland Security abuse on the Nation–asked a group of approximately 100 O’odham seated there how many had been pulled over by the U.S. Border Patrol. For those that don’t know, the Tohono O’odham reservation shares a 70 mile border with Mexico, but their aboriginal land extend hundreds of miles into Mexico. When the borderline was drawn through its territory in 1853, the O’odham were not consulted. Yet, for years, and up until around 9/11 the O’odham simply ignored the boundary line, crossing back and forth to visit family, go to school, go to work, go to cultural and ceremonial sites. Up until the 1990s there was almost no Border Patrol presence (the agency began in 1924).

Now, at that community meeting, every single person raised their hand. Every single person had been pulled over, at least once, by Border Patrol. The degree of the shift of the Homeland Security presence on the Tohono O’odham Nation is a perfect reflection of Border Patrol growth. If you were to go to the O’odham reservation right now, you might see more green-striped Border Patrol vehicles, than normal ones. There are ATV and horse patrols. There are surveillance towers and surveillance drones overhead. There are Blackhawk helicopters and military style Forward Operating Bases.

People on the rez are complaining of tailgating, of Border Patrol spotlighting into their vehicles at night. People talk of interrogations, being pulled out of their cars, of being pepper sprayed. On all paved roads leading out of the reservation there are checkpoints: Heading west towards Phoenix in Gila Bend, Heading north to Casa Grand, Heading east to Tucson. If you speak the Tohono O’odham language to the agents, like Tohono O’odham member Ofelia Rivas, expect secondary and your car to be searched. You will be detained. This is one of the sharpest examples—but only one example of many– of the giant Homeland Security complex spreading across the country into many places—including places where it had very little presence before such as Rochester, New York or Erie, Pennsylvania. Since this type of expansion is basically unquestioned, unless more people step up and challenge it, we can only expect more of the same.

Could you talk more about the Border Patrol youth programs?

In every city and town on the southern U.S. border, and increasingly in the north are programs that the U.S. Border Patrol has with youth. One of these is called the Explorer program, which comes from the Boy Scouts of America. With the Border Patrol, teenagers learn handcuffing techniques and with “red guns” (fake guns) take down potential terrorists and other threats. They learn how to do interrogations (or “field interviews” as Border Patrol calls them) and to question people about their documents. When I met with the Explorer post in El Paso at dawn, they were doing uniform inspections, and then marched in lock step around the Border Patrol Training Center. The kids learn what it takes to become an agent. And, as many agents have pointed out, Border Patrol can identify possible recruits for an agency that is always expanding and always on the lookout for more agents.

But there is more to the creating of the fertile ground upon which the homeland security state can grow. As one of the agents working with the kids told me—it’s more than recruiting. He told me about the Thanksgiving parade in El Paso. He said that when the Border Patrol marched at that parade, they would get a mixed reaction at best. But, he said, a couple years ago the youth Explorer post began to march right along with them. The applause from the crowd was wild. The families, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends of the kids were all in the audience. The kids, this agent told me, were “the key” to Border Patrol’s relationship with the community.

You write, “Predawn house raids have become a routine tactic for ICE, it’s a time when most people are at their most vulnerable: at home and unconscious.” Why do you think the Homeland Security agents have been using such tactics?

The predawn raid is a military tactic to get to somebody when they are at their most defenseless. The Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic documents cases of ICE agents storming into people’s homes– in one occasion pulling the covers off of a sleeping woman, shining a bright flashlight into her face and her child’s face who began to wail in terror. In another incident, in Massachusetts, ICE agents kicked in the front door of a house, leaving splintered wooden fragments on the floor. Like in a war, they commanded every one to lie down and stay still. They shined bright lights directly into people’s faces. These tactics, and others– such as Border Patrol agents shooting into and killing people in Mexico—give credence to the idea that Homeland Security is acting in some sort of war posture, even in their domestic operations. The priority mission of Customs and Border Protection, for example, in the post 9/11 era is to stop “terrorists” and “weapons of mass destruction” from penetrating our borders. They are on the front lines, the rhetoric goes. They have lots of weaponry and high-powered and sophisticated surveillance equipment at their disposal. They have drones flying overhead, some with radar systems imported from U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan, such as the VADER system. They have high-tech war rooms with expensive video walls for “situational awareness.” The tactics of war are very much a part of today’s Homeland Security operations. Predawn raids are just one part of that.

What would you propose as a solution?

What I know, first and foremost, that a much more holistic dialogue is needed which includes a variety of voices such as those most impacted by the Border Patrol expansion like the Tohono O’odham people mentioned above. The notion, even the term “border security” I believe needs to be challenged. It implies that this expanding security monolith is indeed protecting “us” from some sort of ill-defined “them” who are out to get us. By far the brunt of Border Patrol arrests are of people who are coming north to find a job. People who probably didn’t want to leave their communities, their loved ones, the food that they eat, and the language that they speak, but felt their hand was forced by an untenable economic situation or a situation of spiraling violence and threat—or both—speaks to the need for a much more profound analysis around the immigration debate.

The fact that the immigration reform bill (passed in the Senate a year ago) is more than 1000 pages long– and with the Hoeven-Corker amendment includes a provision for $46 billion designated to “border security”–with no mention at all about, say, the impacts of the North American Free Trade Agreement in Mexico, seems like an omission of extraordinary proportions. If U.S. economic policy– or say a set of policies such as IMF structural adjustment (in effect in Mexico since 1982)–has anything at all to do with anyone losing their livelihood and having to move or migrate in order to find work, such policies need to be scrutinized. And this needs to be a part of any immigration reform debate. In the immigration debates, and thus the immigration reform bills, this part of it is so roundly ignored that to bring it up almost seems like you are coming from left field, and at times openly disdained.

However it was former INS chief Doris Meissner who argued to Congress in 1993—indeed she was arguing for the militarized border apparatus that we see now with Operations Hold-the-Line, Gatekeeper, and Safeguard—who said “Responding to the likely short- to medium-term impacts of NAFTA will require strengthening our enforcement efforts along the border.” Before it even happened, Meissner prophesied Mexico’s post-NAFTA exodus.

Right now economic systems in the world are structured in such a way that we are seeing unprecedented inequality, few extremely rich and many, many poor. The solution lies in a wider discussion that includes unprecedented world-wide inequality as an important reason why so many people are migrating and that treats cross-border immigration as an international issue.

With the constant talk of immigration reform, how do you hope your book will inform policy makers?

Border Patrol Nation offers a contribution to an ever-evolving landscape, and I hope it indeed will inform both our policy-makers and their constituents and at least contribute to a more robust debate. The idea that the debate around “border security” is one that occurs at the fringes has to stop. The idea that money is continually thrown to this border fortifying initiative without much debate at all needs to stop. If there’s one contribution that my book makes at this level, it is at the very least that this debate needs to happen. But I also hope the book drives home the point that this debate is also important to the very direction of our country and to what we are becoming.

If people were to take just one thing from this book, what do you think that should be?

Aren’t there much more important things—such as basic services like education, housing, or public transportation—where we can put the billions designated now to Homeland Security? If there is a security crisis in the United States it is that people are losing their homes, their jobs, their transportation. It is not from a non-existent terrorist lurking on the other side of an international boundary line.

 

 

 

Q & A with Alfredo Corchado, author of Midnight in Mexico

Guest Post: Alfredo Corchado

Corchado is the Mexico bureau chief for Dallas Morning News. He’s written extensively on the drug war and recently released his memoir, Midnight in Mexico:Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness. The paperback version comes out May 27. To learn more about Corchado, visit his website.

*******************************************************************************************************

 Q & A with Alfredo Corchado

In the book you mention that in Mexico “you do what you can, not what you want”. Would you say that this survival tactic is due to the drug war violence or due to centuries of political corruption? both?

Definitely both, although it is Mexico’s centuries’ long struggle with building a country of rule-of-law, more equality and opportunity that in many ways led to the increased drug violence we have seen in recent years. For too long Mexicans, as the only way to survive, have had to flee their homeland, go north because of lack of opportunity, because the youth and its energy was sucked away north. In recent years many stayed behind, or were deported from the United States. That only increased the social pressure in Mexico and in some cases, led to more vulnerable recruits for cartels who prey on poor youth desperate to put food on the table, or drive that shiny new car, or truck. In recent years the saying Prefiero vivir 5 años como rey que 50 años como buey – I rather live 5 years as a king than 50 years as a slave – spread away from places like Sinaloa to other regions like Michoacan, Tamaulipas and Chihuahua. 

How have the responses to your book differed between Americans and Mexicans?

Certainly, on the U.S. side while there’s been much curiosity and interest on the drug violence in Mexico, I would say the focus has been more about identity, the universal search for home, where one belongs. It’s the timeless immigrant story that still resonates with Americans. That plus guilt-questions about drug legalization. Is legalization the answer?

In Mexico, the interest is more about drug violence, and obviously the role of the United States. That is quite surprising and in a way a contradiction because I’ve sensed fatigue among Mexicans when it comes to the topic drug violence. It’s an issue that many Mexicans rather not talk about, a time, place and reputation that they rather forget, and yet I’ve been surprised by the number of times I have been asked about Ciudad Juarez, the Zetas in Nuevo Laredo and why Americans are so obsessed with guns, pot and other illicit drugs, and why, how the US media allegedly losses over drug trafficking organizations on the U.S. side. Yes, the drug cartel network is international and the United States has the biggest role, but we don’t see the kind of violence on the U.S. side and so the coverage is different. I do think we as a U.S. media need to do much more, simply by looking at violent crimes committed in the United States and asking the right questions. More often than not we’d see more clearly how U.S. and Mexican drug cartel organizations are that much more intertwined.
In the book you chronicle your search to find out if you are really being targeted by the cartels.  Since the book came out, have you received anymore threats?

I’ve had some questionable moments since the book came out, but I haven’t received a specific threat like those I describe in the book. In this book I am as honest as possible because I still believe that truth matters and truth makes a difference and that truth is our best protection, the best weapon against criminal organizations. Truth, however, may not be the best weapon in a country like Mexico where impunity remains the biggest enemy as homicides are rarely solved. It takes a lot of courage for my colleagues in Mexico to report in areas that are essentially taken over by drug traffickers. We stand as one community in solidarity. No color, no story is worth one’s life. I do think journalists with more protection have an added responsibility to tell these stories, but how and whether we tell those stories is based on a very personal decision. I want to believe that in the United States if and when journalists are targets that law enforcement will actually do something, offer protection and that society in general will speak up because a threat against freedom of expression is also a threat against them.  I don’t see that in Mexico yet and that makes the job of a journalist there that much more lonelier and dangerous.
Now that the book is set to be adapted into a movie, what do you hope audiences who might not have read the book will take away from the film?

Hope. That’s the takeaway because even in the worst of moments Mexicans have taught me about hope and the importance of holding on to that, a resilient spirit and of believing in that flickering light even in the darkest of nights. Writing this book was like therapy, of learning not to give up. I spent a lot of time in places like Nuevo Laredo and Ciudad Juarez during some very terrible, bloody, uncertain moments, but it was in that fusion and story of two worlds, in my search for home, that I always find the sweet spot of who I am, who we are. And that’s very hopeful. Turning the book into a movie will be a long process, may take several years, so between now and then here’s to more people reading Midnight in Mexico, especially now that the paperback version is coming out, which will make it more accessible and affordable to readers.

In your book you mention a group called La Linea. Can you explain a little bit about your findings about murdered women in Mexico? Do you feel the media coverage has evolved/improved through the years?

It was the issue of murdered women that compelled The Dallas Morning News to assign me the story for as long as it took to get some answers. And during our investigation we discovered, through documents and interviews, old fashion reporting, that there was a group called La Linea which were the enforcers of the Juarez cartel. They were the real power behind the cartel and the power in the city of Juarez itself. We also discovered a U.S. informant who, with the knowledge of U.S. officials, was taking part in crimes across in Ciudad Juarez. That informant also helped provide insights into La Linea and their role in the killings of men and women. At the time I focused mostly on the cases of some 100 women, but the more I looked and the more I dug I came face-to-face with a sad fact, a fact that remains to this day: Just about anyone is vulnerable in Mexico. Women, men of all ages, many of them innocent people who were at the wrong place and time. In a country with weak judicial institutions and even institutions of corruption anyone can be killed and, aside from loved ones, no one really cares. So yes, many women have been killed, and no justice has been served. Unfortunately, an estimated 100,000 people have either been killed or disappeared in the past seven years and there’s little, if any justice. I personally credit the women of Juarez for helping me understand the endemic impunity. It’s these families who remain vigilant, insisting on justice and became an inspiration to many others. It’s a cry that many other groups share, including journalists. Ni uno mas (not one more).
You are critical of Calderon’s presidency. What do you think of Pena Nieto’s take on the drug war? Do you see any hope for real change in Mexico?

The hope in Mexico lies not in the politicians, whether PRI, PAN, or PRD. Hope lies in the people themselves, in civil society. I can understand how things look bleak from abroad, from the United States. But in Mexico I see a people who are gradually changing Mexico. At times they take one foot forward, and three back, but they keep moving, learning not just to blame the powerful, but also to shame them, hold them accountable. Sometimes in Mexico you learn to walk between fear and hope, hope and fear. And you learn to wait and wait some more, but from time to time you glimpse over and see that some things have changed for the better.

It was clear that the EPN administration came in with the task of changing the narrative, focusing on issues beyond violence. And I get that. A lot of us get that because there is another Mexico in the horizon, a more prosperous country, regions that are creating more job opportunities, some even with higher salaries, but that Mexico continues to be overwhelmed by lack of rule-of –law. It’s difficult to change the narrative when you still have regions with no freedom of expressions, where reporters have to ask cartels permission even to print a condolence, where families have no idea what happened to their loved ones, or where justice is a luxury for the wealthy, the influential. A new narrative doesn’t resonate much in a country with so much inequality and injustice.

CSUN journalism professor José Luis Benavides interviews Charles Bowden

Cal State Northridge, journalism professor, José Luis Benavides, interviews journalist and author Charles Bowden, April 22, 2013.

Over the last twenty years Bowden has authored several books on the violence occurring on the border between the United States and Mexico, focusing on Ciudad Juárez. Benavides and Bowden discuss the factors that led to his decision to start writing about the atrocities that Mexico’s powerful and, well-connected, elite carry out against the poor citizens of the country. At the forefront of his decision were the local street photographers that he encountered during a murder story he was investigating in Juárez in 1995. Bowden continues to tell the true story of why such an overwhelming amount of violence exists in Juárez.

After writing a piece about the exceptional work of the Juárez photographers, he discusses the origins of his friendship and collaborative working relationship with Juárez photographer, Julián Cardona. Bowden and Cardona have collaborated on several books. In “Juárez: Laboratory of our Future” Bowden shares how “American generated poverty in factories owned by American companies that pay slave wages,” are not enough for Mexican citizens, working in maquiladoras (foreign owned factories along the US/Mex. border), to survive. The book “Exodus/Éxodo” documents the emigration of Mexican citizens.

El Sicario Room 164 showing at Fountain Theater, Mesilla, Saturday May 5

Film update: El Sicario at Fountain; PCFF forms film club, adds ‘Rocky
Horror’

The *Fountain Theatre* in Mesilla will screen *”El Sicario, Room 164″* the
El Paso-made documentary about a former Juarez cartel hit man, at 1 and
3:30 p.m. May 5.

Las Cruces’ *Molly Molloy*, co-author of the book “El Sicario,” will be on
hand, theater staff says.

Her co-author, *Charles Bowden*, may also appear. He’s written several
books on the border and is co-producer of the film.

“There are NO scenes of violence in the 85-minute film,” the theater’s *Jeff
Berg* said in a press release. “It is a fascinating monologue by the man in
the mask.”

*Variety* called the film, directed by Gianfranco Rosi, as “a minimalist
study in maximum violence.”

Tickets are $6, $5 for Mesilla Valley Film Society.

Theater officials suggest early arrival since the village will be having
Cinco de Mayo festivities nearby.

For more, click here

Crime ranks as one of world’s ‘top 20 economies: UN… Reuters

It has been a while since I recommended the book GOMORRAH, by Roberto
Saviano. It describes organized crime networks in Italy and across Europe
and is one of the keys (IMO) to understanding what is happening in Mexico
and Central America also.  Highly recommended.

Crime ranks as one of world’s ‘top 20 economies’, UN official says

Crime generates an estimated US$2.1-trillion in global annual proceeds – or 3.6% of the world’s gross domestic product – and the problem may be growing, a senior United Nations official said on Monday.

“It makes the criminal business one of the largest economies in the world, one of the top 20 economies,” said Yury Fedotov, head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), describing it as a threat to security and economic development.

The figure was calculated recently for the first time by the UNODC and World Bank, based on data for 2009, and no comparisons are yet available, Fedotov told a news conference.

To read more, click here

Molly Molloy presents talk on ‘El Sicario’ at NM library conference…LCSunNews

you just can’t shut those librarians up….

Molly Molloy presents talk on ‘El Sicario’ at NM library conference

LAS CRUCES — It wasn’t your typical story hour Friday, as New Mexico State University research librarian Molly Molloy told the story, and answered questions, about the book she co-wrote with Charles Bowden.

Many of the librarians from across New Mexico who attended Molloy’s presentation, during the New Mexico Library Association annual conference, at the Las Cruces Convention Center, sat on the edge of their seats as she spoke about “El Sicario,” the autobiography of a repentant Mexican contract killer, who before turning his life to Christ, worked both sides of the drug war in Mexico, particularly in Juárez. Molloy talked about the former commandante of the Chihuahuan state police who also led a double life as a hitman who kidnapped, tortured and murdered people at the behest of Mexican drug cartels.

All who attended Molloy’s presentation listened intently.

to read more, visit Las Cruces Sun-News

 

 

Robert Andrew Powell, CBC interview on Salvation and Soccer in C. Juarez…

The Love is Not for Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juarez

by Robert Andrew Powell

Soccer has a reputation for bringing hope to places where hope is hard
to come by.

One of those is Cuidad Juarez, a city that competes with places like
Mogadishu for the title of world’s deadliest spot.

It’s hard to get an exact count, but by all reasonable estimates, over
two thousand people were killed in Juarez last year. This year, there
have already been over three hundred killings. The majority of these
murders have been victims of the region’s drug cartels, a great many
of them innocent civilians.

To read more and listen to the audio, visit CBC Radio

NY Times- Team of Hope, Gone in City of Violence