I can’t offer you my byline or a dateline for this column, and I wouldn’t describe the scene outside my window even if the drapes were open. They’ve been closed a long time in Mexico, and I don’t think that’ll change soon. I’ve got to stay quiet and out of sight, two things a journalist should never be. I suppose that means I’m not really a journalist anymore, but I am alive. And I’ll only be silent and invisible until it’s not suicidal to stand up and tell the truth again.
We, all Mexicans, are going to have to defeat the drug dealers. They don’t want to negotiate. They don’t want a truce. They want to intimidate or kill anyone who disputes their right to continue terrorizing the nation. Since 1987 they’ve murdered sixty-seven journalists, thirty-three since 2000. A few weeks ago they symbolically attacked all the media by hurling a grenade onto the grounds of the Cambio Sonora Newspaper office in Hermosillo. No journalist in the region had been investigating narcotics traffickers. The message, ultimately, was that the criminals intend to butcher more journalists than anyone in the world except the war-torn Iraqis.
In Mexico our enemies are fewer but strike quickly and without remorse. They assassinated a northern police chief within minutes of his taking office and decapitated two policemen in Acapulco before impaling their heads on spikes in front of an office building. The attached fluorescent cardboard sign read: “So that you learn to respect.” This February five Acapulco policemen and two secretaries were murdered. Judges have also been targeted, and soldiers were recently ambushed in Michoacán.
In 2006 five severed heads of rivals were hurled onto a crowded dance floor in Uruapan, a city in Michoacán. In many places drug traffickers cut off fingers and shove them down throats. Sometimes, with sadistic glee, they slit throats and pull tongues through the wounds to form “Colombian neckties.”
Since President Felipe Calderón took office several months ago and intensified operations against the enemy, more than four hundred people have been murdered. Intolerable though this certainly is, Mexicans can see that only desperate little men would slaughter so many in an effort to stop the slow but inevitable buildup of overwhelming opposition. It is clear. Someday, the drug traffickers are going down. And their graves will be the seeds of a better Mexico.