jueves, mayo 10, 2007

Navy Attacked by Gunmen in Ixtapa

While watching the last minutes of LOST at my mother's home in normally peaceful Ixtapa last night, our attention was quickly drawn to what sounded like gunfire somewhere not too far off in the neighborhood below us. For about 15 or 20 minutes we listened to hundreds of rounds of gunfire from automatic weapons interspersed with what also sounded like handguns and a shotgun, and culminating in what sounded like a tiro de gracia at the end. Since we couldn't see where the firefight was taking place, we could only guess that it was coming from somewhere near the residential section of Golondrinas near the intersection with Pelícanos. So many rounds were fired that we feared a stray bullet, so we kept our heads down and tried to stay out of any possible line of fire. We were somewhat surprised not to hear any sirens for what seemed like a long time, but eventually we heard them and saw a couple of police cars drive past on the road below us. My wife and I had to call a taxi to get to our home in Zihuatanejo, and we were concerned they might not come due to the apparent danger. Fortunately APAAZ sent us a taxi, and it just happened to be one who had tried to drive by the scene of the crime to see if the white vehicle reported in CB radio broadcasts was a taxi, but he was waved off by police who had closed the road. He said he saw one body in the road, and during our ride back to Zihuatanejo we listened to quite a bit of radio chatter about the shootout. However, we were quite surprised and disappointed that no roadblock had been set up between Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa. With the morning news I found out that the firefight was apparently between narcos and members of the Armada de México when gunmen allegedly ambushed the Comandante del Apostadero Naval de Zihuatanejo as he was driving past the water treatment plant in Ixtapa on Paseo de los Viveros. According to newspaper reports, one marino was killed at the scene and two others injured as they attempted to repel the attack. The attackers allegedly carried off their dead and/or wounded, fleeing the scene in their vehicles. As far as I know they were not apprehended. Also this morning several helicopters of the Sector Naval have been busy circling over Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa since about 9 o'clock, giving the feeling of being in a war zone. With the ambush and murder of 5 members of the Ejército de México last week in Carácuaro, Michoacán and this latest ambush of members of the Armada de México in Ixtapa it appears clear that the narcos have declared war on Mexico's military, something that has never happened in Mexico's history. They have certainly stirred up a hornets' nest, since by directly attacking Mexico's armed forces they have assured that the military will mount a relentless campaign against them to hunt them down and kill or capture the aggressors. The local population has long been calling for the military to take over from the police, who are not trusted, prepared or trained to take on narcos or organized crime. Unfortunately, the governor has been trying to restrict the role of he military in Guerrero so as not to frighten tourists, several who have been injured in attacks over the past two years. Now even the PRI and the PRD at the national level are calling for Presidente Calderón to send the military back to their barracks, against all logic. This only raises suspicions as to the lawmakers' own involvement in narcotrafficking and organized crime, since it is widely known that most police forces at all levels are infiltrated and corrupted by narcos and criminals. If a war is to be waged against organized crime only the military is currently capable of waging it. Yet it begs the question: Even if the military wins, what will be left of Mexico after such a war? Currently in many communities across the country the narcos provide important income, community works and even social assistance where the government has long been failing. Farmers who would otherwise have to leave their lands to seek work either in the cities or across our northern border are currently able to survive and maintain their families only with the money their illegal crops bring. More and more it appears that the only way to put an end to the bloodshed, the corruption and the crime associated with the narco trade, and to save the billions in pesos spent by the government on an unwinnable war, is to legalize and regulate "recreational" drugs as well as to distinguish between truly hard drugs and those less harmful. The money saved as well as the money generated by such measures could be much better put to use educating our youth against drug use as well as rehabilitating drug addicts and making them productive members of our society instead of filling up jails with people who commit victimless crimes. Such a measure would also go a long way towards reducing corruption in the public sector and keeping citizens who are going to use drugs anyway safe from having to deal with underworld criminal elements.

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