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Spotlight: LA Times deciphers Mexico’s drug war in multimedia detail

LatinaLista — We’ve all run into people, whom just by their body language and how they reply to our questions, immediately trigger our gut instincts to the possibility that they are lying, or at the least, being purposely misleading.
I had never felt that feeling as strongly as when I happened to have a particular conversation about the Mexican drug cartel violence.
It was a couple of years ago when stories were first surfacing about the Mexican drug cartels’ escalating violence and their “buyout” of people in high places. I was at a cocktail reception attended by newspaper executives from around the world.
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Mexican police find a Tijuana massacre as a result of the ongoing drug cartel violence.

While having a friendly chat with a jovial, white-haired newspaper executive from a Sinaloa, Mexico newspaper, I asked him about the drug violence increasing in his area. He looked at me point-blank and told me that news accounts of any cartel violence was exaggerated and it was not happening in his area.
Immediately, I felt the man was lying. His quick denial, the toothy smile that never left his face and his attempt to downplay my questions about it, convinced me he either didn’t want to believe it or he himself might have been involved more deeply than I could have guessed.
Today, were I to have that same conversation with that newspaper executive, it would be harder for him to deny that the drug cartel violence does not exist, not only in Sinaloa but throughout Mexico. As we know now, the country’s drug smuggling was born in the man’s own state of Sinaloa.
In fact, an in-depth report by the Los Angeles Times, Mexico Under Siege, reveals that there have been more casualties in the drug violence in Mexico than there have been casualties in Iraq. The article is correct to label this a war on our doorstep.
As such, the threat from this war is far more complicated, immediate and potentially deadlier than our war against Al Queda. With the help of this report, we learn who the players are, where the violence is taking place and what’s at stake if the cartels win.

“Mexico Under Siege: The drug war at our doorstep” is an excellent analysis of the history of the cartel violence.
The report features a timeline, a photo gallery depicting the gruesome realities of this bloody war and an interesting interactive map that shows and identifies the cartel leaders by region. Yet, one of the most interesting features is the Q & A on the site where questions are posed to the reporters who created the multimedia project and they answer via pre-taped video.
However, the LA Times isn’t just releasing the report and moving on to the next assignment. As the project’s editor, Geoff Mohan explains, the paper is committed to extended coverage of this issue.

The Los Angeles Times is committed indefinitely to covering this issue, and we are updating the website with new stories on a regular basis. We’ve written 15 stories this year, on top of nearly 70 since last June.
The issue is not going away, and is rising on the security agenda of the Obama administration.

In a move that underscores the newspaper’s dedication to this subject, the project’s editors and writers will appear in a panel discussion on the campus of the University of San Diego later this week.

Appearing alongside experts from the paper’s collaborators in the report, the University’s Trans-Border Institute (TBI), panelists will hold a free, public forum on the issue.

Mexico Under Siege
Alberto Capella, Ex-Secretario, Secretaria de Seguridad Publica, XIX Ayuntamiento de Tijuana
Jorge Chabat, Centro de Invesigacion Y Docencia Economicas, A.C.
Geoffrey Mohan, Los Angeles Times
Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times
Sam Quinones, Los Angeles Times
Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
David Shirk, Trans-Border Institute
Anna Cearley, Trans-Border Institute
MORE THAN 5,000 DEATHS IN 2008 resulted from Mexico’s war on drugs, with most killings concentrated in the border states of Baja California and Chihuahua. As part of the TBI Justice in Mexico Project and the L.A. Times series titled “Mexico Under Siege,” this panel discussion will feature a group of distinguished academics, journalists, and experts who will discuss Mexico’s ongoing struggles against violent drug-trafficking organizations. The event will take place from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. in the Joan B. Kroc Theatre.
The event is free and open to the public.

Panel discussions regarding this problem is necessary for right now to garner the kind of attention from Washington it deserves.
Mexico City’s El Universal reports that the National Defense Commission of the Chamber of Deputies is reporting that the drug cartels are now recruiting teenagers along the Mexico-Guatemala border, such as in Chiapas, Tabasco and the Yucatán to train them as assassins.
Down by the Mexican border with Guatemala, drug cartels are replenishing their forces by recruiting men, women and children who see a lifestyle fueled by drug money to be far more desirable than the poverty they endure.
Unless the President and Congress see this situation as a “Level Orange alert” and realize that it’s easier to control the situation now rather than two months from now, it won’t be long before the story won’t just be about Mexico losing control of its drug war but how the U.S. failed to see how it affected us until it was too late.
Some argue that it has already reached that point.

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  • Panchito
    February 17, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Neither Mexico nor the U.S. can win this fight as long as the dope heads on both sides of the border stop using drugs. We can blame the entire world for our drug problems but ultimately it comes down to taking personal responsibility for our own actions.

  • Patrick Sperry
    February 18, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Excellent article about a problem that people just don’t seem inclined to recognize. At least until it is on their very own doorstep.
    I have been writing about it off and on for several years. This isn’t about a few guys trying to make a few extra bucks once in a while sneaking some mota across the border to sell. It’s a huge industry, and the kind of money it generates attracts ruthless people. You might want to look up a program from “The History Channel” that examined MS 13, and other criminal organizations involved in the drug trade.

  • Panchito
    February 20, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    So stop writing about it and start by telling your kids to stop smoking pot- you dummy. Their actions have consequences! “You might want to look up” some of the newspapers in the Midwest. People are trying to get high on cow manure. We can’t even go to the pharmacy and buy cold medicine for our children because dope heads have figured out a way to get high with it.

  • Patrick Sperry
    February 22, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    If you were talking to me I hate to disappoint you but none of my five children use drugs, and only one even drinks on occasion.
    As for me being a “dummy?” Just how many people’s lives have you saved that were overdosed, or shot in relation to the drug wars? I lost count in the eighties. I’m a retired Paramedic.
    People were abusing cough syrups clear back in the early sixties as well as cold inhalers back then. So that’s nothing new. Cow manure..? I live in cattle country and have not heard about that one. It just goes to show that some people will do anything for a high…

  • Panchito
    February 22, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    I can give you my qualifications but it wouldn’t matter since, on-line, we can all be anything we want to be.
    What matters are the ideas we present. My point is we, Americans, have to start taking responsibility for our actions. Everyone blames the Colombians for growing it and the Mexicans for sneaking it in but we forget that our citizenry are the ones selling it to each other and using and abusing the drugs. The tragic consequences go beyond the health of of children. The drug violence we witness on our televisions have our signature all over it. Only, we do not want to admit it. It is more convenient to blame it on foreign narco- traffickers and some Latin gang.

  • Alessandra
    February 23, 2009 at 9:23 am

    I agree that as long as their is a demand for drugs, and lots of profit to be made off of it, we will have a major problem. The U.S. is a great market for drugs and Latin America is supplying the demand.
    I don’t really know what the answer is. Some say that legalizing and controlling the drugs would take the criminal element out of it, much like ending Prohibition and regulating alcohol consumption ended organized crime’s exploitation in that area. I don’t think that would only open up another can of worms, though.
    All I can say is that our local schools had a very aggressive drug education program beginning in the earliest grades. We were all exposed to what drugs could do to a person’s life and health. Images of meth users made a particular impression. We also had assemblies where former drug users and suppliers came to the school and gave their personal stories. They would even come into the classrooms and talk to the students. These first-hand accounts were even more powerful.
    I can say that none of my friends have used hard drugs.

  • Lee
    March 1, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Another sad reality in this picture is the fact that poverty is an excellent tool abetting the criminal element recruit participants. When we accept that the growing disparity between the wealthy and poor, and that the unbridled license for the wealthy to get more wealthy as the poor fall farther behind actually helps the traffickers and dealers, we begin to accept responsibility for the results. We need to change the US’ economic and tax structures and provide more support to middle class and provide more opportunities for the poor to move up. That will help alleviate some of the ability of the criminal element to recruit willing help.

  • Horace
    March 1, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Lee said: “….that the unbridled license for the wealthy to get more wealthy as the poor fall farther behind…….”
    Oh really? Would it be in the best interests of a nation that prides itself on the generation of wealth to have the work ethic stifled? The goal should be to give opportunity to all, not to discourage the rich from getting richer or transfer wealth from the rich to the poor. The wealthy are the entrepreneurs who have the capital to invest in the industries that employ the poor and the middle class. Would you prefer communism, Lee?
    Lee said: “We need to change the US’ economic and tax structures and provide more support to middle class and provide more opportunities for the poor to move up.”
    The only way you can give more support to the poor and middle class by changing tax structures is to make the rich make up for the deficit that it would create in doing so. The truth is that the wealthy are already burdened with paying for most of the federal budget. And you want them to pay more? You must be a Democrat, because you think that money grows on trees. Why should the rich bother to create wealth by investing in our economy if the government is only going to take most of it away from them as they move up to higher tax brackets? The only way for the poor to improve their lot is to provide an environment for economic growth, i.e. create jobs, and that’s been the Republican position for decades. Democrats think otherwise; that taxing wealth and redistributing it is the path to prosperity, but in this they are dead wrong.

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