--Zach Schubert and Maura Kelly
Last month, Mexican lawmakers quietly slipped a bill into the books that will legalize small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroine and even methamphetamines. This change of formation is the latest in a drug war that has claimed more than 10,000 lives, more than the U.S. casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. Among the victims are 46 journalists killed since 2000 and another eight reporters who have disappeared for unknown reasons, making Mexico among the most dangerous places in the world to work in the news business.
This year, the US Joint Forces Command published a report listing Mexico just behind Pakistan as the country most likely to become a failed state. Behind the instability, the entrenched battle between rival drug cartels and federal forces offers little promise of a foreseeable end. This week, RUTV will explore its source as well as its wide-ranging effects on life in the country.
At their roots, the Mexican cartels are an outgrowth of the Colombian cocaine industry. When the Colombian police, assisted by U.S. operatives, largely neutralized the primary Colombian cartels in the early 1990s, drug trafficking in Mexico exploded as a result of relaxed competition. In response, newly elected Mexican president Felipe Calderón launched 45,000 army troops in a massive anti-drug trafficking war in 2006. The results have been mixed. While record numbers of cartel leaders have been arrested, this has led in part to the splintering of several trafficking groups. These new rivalries have fueled the bloodshed.
Although they are armed with the machine guns and grenade launchers of a regular army, the drug traffickers' greatest weapon has been official corruption. Last April, General Sergio Aponte made a staggering list of accusations against police in the state of Baja California. According to Aponte, bribed police units had been acting as bodyguards for local cartels. Such occurrences are common in Mexico, where small time drug arrests are typically only used as opportunities for extortion.
Another tactic used by the traffickers has been the intimidation and murder of journalists to encourage censorship by the press. More journalists have been killed in Mexico than in any other country in the Americas. Further, these murders are rarely investigated. Joining us this week will be Mark Read of Friends of Brad Will, an organization founded in the memory of an American journalist who was killed while covering the 2006 teachers' strike in Oaxaca.
Also joining us via skype is Jorge Luis Sierra, a Mexican investigative reporter and editor based in McAllen, Texas, at the US-Mexico border. He reports on a range of conflict-related topics such as drug trafficking, organized crime, counterinsurgency, gangs and immigration. Sierra has a 24-year long journalism career working both as an editor and a writer for influential newspapers and magazines in Mexico and the United States.
We're live at 6pm (EDT) Wednesday and on demand at www.livestream.com/reportersuncensored.