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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Life on the Border

He went to Matamoros to resupply his medications, which are much cheaper in Mexico. As he was leaving the pharmacy, a burly man brandishing a gun told him to turn over everything, including his truck. This is a common story that illustrates two important social factors 1) Joblessness is Mexico is much higher than what the government claims and 2) Local police forces are totally corrupt and/or incompetent. My friend did not bother calling the cops as he knew that his assailant was most likely one of them. Carjacking takes place in broad daylight as testified by this young American tourist who was simply waiting in line to cross the bridge; a pair of ruffians just told her to get out of her Camry or suffer the consequences.

A Tale of Two Cities

Brownsville and Matamoros, just like Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, or El Paso and Juarez, or San Diego and Tijuana, are all twin cities on the border with Mexico which share a lot more than a bridge and brisk trade. Many American families have relatives on the other side and many Mexican businesses have opened a similar one on this side. They share the good and the bad, just like a married couple; in fact, they are joined at the hip, an analogy that illustrates how any serious problem in one city affects the other one. Maquiladoras for example, which are American factories on the Mexican side, offer better paying jobs to thousands of families while reducing their cost thanks to lower salaries. They too are closing their doors until a safer climate returns.

All these border towns are presently suffering from a grave illness: violence and the loss of trade that results from chronic insecurity on the Mexican side. The two examples I cite above are not simply isolated cases, they are weekly events that tell American citizens not to travel to Mexico. Dollars are no longer flowing to local businesses in Matamoros the way they used to only a few years ago. Restaurants and bars that used to cater to American crowds are closing their doors, thus eliminating much needed jobs and pushing more young Mexicans toward the drug trade.

Spill Over

The violence has started to spill over on this side and local law enforcement are beefing up their resources to face possible cartel threats. That is, with the exception of a few cops who take bribes to look the other way. Governor Perry is right in at least one aspect: The federal government must pay more attention to making the border safe; the billions spent in foreign wars can be better used here in the United States to fight drug traffickers. Every week its seems a new safe house to stash drugs or illegal immigrants is found in a border town. We as citizens living close to Mexico must keep our eyes open and report any suspicious activity....and we do.

Armed and Dangerous

Another crime spree is occurring in cities in the Rio Grand Valley; home invasions are becoming more frequent and more criminals have been shot and killed by homeowners. The bandits are often drug users looking for money to feed their addiction or Mexican nationals unable to make a living in their country. Since Texas has some of the most permissive laws regarding gun possession and use, most people are arming themselves to fight off a possible intruder. Nothing wrong with that, as long as parents make sure the revolver is not loaded and/or accessible by kids. But the message to criminals is clear: stay out of my house or risk getting killed. A homeowner is safe from prosecution while defending his house and family...and that's the way it should be.

As a national election for president is getting closer in Mexico, most citizens in that country are hoping that a new administration can restore the peace and prosperity they used to enjoy.

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