December 8, 2011
Five years ago on Sunday, President Felipe Calderón kicked off his presidency by declaring an offensive against the drug cartels whose escalating turf wars along a major cocaine supply route north had started to become a real problem in a few areas of Mexico. But in the five intervening years, the military-led onslaught has served only to multiply the carnage. At least 46,000 people have been killed – one an hour – making some Mexican cities among the deadliest in the world.
Calderón remains defiant in the face of growing criticism of his strategy. “We are going to continue defending the citizens until the last day of my term,” he said at an event to mark the fifth anniversary of his government last week. “Those who say that it would have been better not to confront the criminals are completely mistaken. If we hadn’t done this, they would have advanced in our communities and our institutions.”
Feeding corn on the cob to her three-year-old child outside their home in one of the poor barrios that line the road to the airport and the motorway to Mexico City, Marley is unconvinced. “The president says the good people outnumber the bad people but that isn’t true,” she said. She did not want her surname revealed for fear of being identified. “I see more bad people every day and I don’t trust anybody anymore.”
On at least five occasions, the young woman said, she had had to bundle her children indoors when armed groups started shooting at each other or at the police. Two months ago she was caught in the middle of a gun battle while at the market, and had ran for cover in a shop.