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Mexico's 'never befores' hit a new low

Reuters

Police and members of a forensic team stand around the 35 bodies abandoned on a road on the outskirts of Veracruz on Tuesday.

By Julio Vaqueiro, Telemundo Correspondent

MEXICO CITY – The scene was shocking. Masked gunmen blocked a busy road in the once-quiet port city of Veracruz, abandoning two trucks with 35 bodies inside, near a big shopping center. It was Tuesday at 5 p.m., broad daylight.

People on the streets watched the corpses being left at an underpass. Some of the victims had their hands tied and showed signs of having been tortured. The picture could have been extracted from a horror movie.

According to Veracruz state Attorney General, Reynaldo Escobar, 23 of the victims were men and 12 were women. “We have never seen a situation like this before,” said Escobar.

His words resounded across the country: Mexico is becoming the country of “never befores.”

Never before had we seen so many corpses dumped together on a busy avenue in a tourist port. Never before had we seen 52 people being killed inside a casino in the city of Monterrey until a group of criminals burned the place on Aug. 25. Never before had we seen a car bomb explosion in a Mexican city until it happened on July 2010 in Ciudad Juarez. Never before had panic gripped fans during a shooting near a soccer match until it happened in Torreon, Coahuila state. Within seconds of the first pops of gunfire, people ducked under their seats for cover, then thousands rushed onto the field, seeking escape, some carrying children.

But we have seen all of that now, and the new problem seems to be that we are running out of “never befores.”


‘Lack of governability’
More than 36,000 people have been killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched his crackdown on Mexican drug cartels in December 2006, according to figures released by the Mexican government in January 2011. But many put the number closer to 40,000, and the deaths include suspected drug gang members, security forces and innocent bystanders.   

Criminal organizations have thrived here for decades, smuggling narcotics north into the United States. The cost to the Mexican people, though, has never been this high. The public brutality of the killings has terrorized whole communities.

Narco culture permeates Mexico and is leaking across the border into the U.S. Click on the photo above to see a complete slideshow about Mexico's narco culture.

“These crimes occurring during day light prove the lack of governability we’re living in,” said security analyst José Reveles. “You shouldn’t be able to drive two trucks full of corpses around the streets of Veracruz. But these criminals did.”

Many feel let down by the authorities. Corruption is rampant, and the presence of the army and federal police in the country’s drug hot spots seems to have only created an upsurge in violence.

In many cases, authorities say it is just a matter of criminals killing criminals, and they rarely investigate the murders; however, the situation is much more complicated than that. It is true that among the 35 bodies found in Veracruz, many had criminal records, but it is also true that one of the victims was a police officer, and two of them were under 18 years old.

Furthermore, every one of the 35 men and women dumped there, and every one of the tens of thousands killed during this war, has left behind a family in grief.

Many of the victims’ relatives have given up hope of finding justice. Many Mexicans who have witnessed the violence on the streets live in fear and in silence. Some never even report the deaths of loved ones to the authorities out of fear of retribution.

‘Enough is enough’
Poet Javier Sicilia is a leader in the fight against the rampant drug violence. The killing of his 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, in an episode blamed on drug gangs during March of this year, has made him the loudest voice condemning the bloodshed that has ravaged parts of Mexico. He has given a face and a name to the victims and their relatives. Now they are expressing their anger and giving a more transparent picture of the damage these atrocities have had on Mexican society.

“I’m a moral voice – I have to do this out of my moral convictions, because people have asked me to do it,” Sicilia has told the media more than once. Thousands have followed him in four different marches across the country with the rallying cry “enough is enough.”

Watch a clip from President Felipe Calderon's new TV tourism campaign called "Mexico Royal Tour."

The massacre in Veracruz is only the latest in an ongoing stream of horrors.Just as the 35 bodies were dumped in the tourist zone in Veracruz, Calderon unveiled a new TV program to try to lure tourists back to the country. The timing couldn’t have been worse.

“It’s between ridiculous and pathetic to see President Calderon taking his time to go around the country’s beauty in the times we’re living in,” journalist Carmen Aristegui told Telemundo. “It’s black humor.”

The images from the travel television program – a happy president climbing Mayan pyramids, and more – clash with the pictures of the half-naked bodies on Veracruz’s road. Just as the country Mexicans actually want to live in clashes with the reality of it.