Mexico - The scourge of the drug trade is
hardly new to Mexico. But the country has never
been hit so frequently, so gruesomely and so
close to home.
a string of ghastly attacks by international
traffickers, Mexico is also struggling to
confront an alarming rise in drug use by its own
More of the
cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines and even
heroin that once went exclusively to eager
clients in the United States are staying in
Mexico. And that domestic trade has contributed
to a wave of violence so mean that the U.S.
Embassy this month issued a travel advisory for
Americans across Mexico.
Not only are the
traditional hot spots along the U.S.-Mexico
border vulnerable. The tourist resort of
Acapulco has been badly bloodied as well. And
here in the central state of Michoacan, police
have recorded more than a dozen decapitations
this year alone.
tearing at a social fabric already under strain
from the ills many Mexican families know too
well: poverty, joblessness, crime and broken
trafficking is already a reality," said Pedro
Isnardo de la Cruz Lugardo, a political analyst
at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
"A trap has been built with the crisis of
values, the increase in families with divorced
parents, the rise in leisure time and the lack
of any guidance from the government.
about a market that is socially and politically
undermining, but that by definition is very
lucrative." De la Cruz Lugardo said
narcomenudeo, the word Mexicans coined to
distinguish the small domestic drug trade from
the large international one, has deeply
penetrated urban areas. Children already hooked
on methamphetamine or other drugs can be found
in at least 20 percent of Mexico City schools,
Mexicans use different words for the different
types of drug trades, the line dividing the two
is not so distinct.
The Gulf and
Sinaloa cartels, currently locked in a bloody
and increasingly personal war over trafficking
routes to the United States, do not care much
about who specifically sells crack, pot or meth
in the main plaza of Uruapan.
Yet those same
cartels are increasingly intent on developing
the internal market. And the drugs they use as
currency in supplying the United States and
Europe are filtering down to the streets of
Mexico's cities and towns.
"There are no
direct links between the top gangsters and the
small gangs," said Jorge Fernandez Menendez, a
Mexico City journalist who is one of the
nation's top authorities on narcotics. "But the
drugs used to pay the hit men, the operators and
the police who work for the cartels end up in
the hands of the local gangs. There is a
symbiosis." Uruapan and its 600,000 people are
getting hit from both ends.
State police say
the local drug trade has grown significantly. In
mid-September, they arrested an Uruapan man with
a large supply of marijuana they believe was for
"Before we saw
ourselves merely as a country of passage, but
now we see that this is a country of consumers,
too," said Ramon Ponce Ponce, the state of
Michoacan's top prosecutor in Uruapan. "Drug use
has gone up a lot in the last three years." The
wider drug trade is battering Uruapan as well.
In the early
hours of Sept. 6, a group of masked and heavily
armed men stormed into the Sun and Shadow
nightclub, ignoring the bouncers and the large
sign that reads: "No guns. No weapons. No
uniforms." They rounded up the 70 or so patrons,
led them all to the dance floor where salsa and
marimba music were being played, ordered them to
lie on the ground and then opened up a black
Out rolled five
severed heads, still moist with blood.
The gunmen then
deposited a written warning: "The family does
not kill for money, it does not kill women, it
does not kill innocents.
Only those who
should die, die. . . . This is divine justice."
Two days later, another six recipients of the
drug trade's brand of divine justice were found
in a place common enough to have its own name: a
"narcograve." The men's throats had been slit.
Their bodies showed signs or torture.
Ponce said state
and federal authorities have identified all but
two of the dead. And while it was probable that
the deaths were linked to the international drug
trade, Ponce said police were still
The grisly late
show at the Sun and Shadow brought to