An Entire Village Flees Mexican Drug Violence The devastating drug wars ravaging Mexico have escalated to a new and disturbing level. Violence between rival cartels has forced the population of an entire town to flee for their lives, a refugee movement unseen in the country since the Mexican Revolution. Host Liane Hansen speaks with NPR's John Burnett about a Mexican border town where nearly all of the residents have fled in the wake of drug cartel violence.
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An Entire Village Flees Mexican Drug Violence

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An Entire Village Flees Mexican Drug Violence

An Entire Village Flees Mexican Drug Violence

An Entire Village Flees Mexican Drug Violence

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The devastating drug wars ravaging Mexico have escalated to a new and disturbing level. Violence between rival cartels has forced the population of an entire town to flee for their lives, a refugee movement unseen in the country since the Mexican Revolution. Host Liane Hansen speaks with NPR's John Burnett about a Mexican border town where nearly all of the residents have fled in the wake of drug cartel violence.

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

NPR's John Burnett joins us from Miguel Aleman, a town on Mexico's border with Texas. And, John, what are we talking about? Where did these refugees come from? Why did they flee their town?

JOHN BURNETT: And I am sitting in front of a Lions Club in the nearby town of Miguel Aleman, where about 400 of them have come for refuge.

HANSEN: Can you describe that scene for us, John, at the Lions Club?

BURNETT: The narcos have burned buildings. They've hung limbless corpses in the central plaza. They've burned all the police cars. It's an extraordinarily frightening situation.

HANSEN: And you said the Mexican army is not able to provide security. Can the Mexican government do anything about this?

BURNETT: No. I mean, this city is pleading for help from the federal government so that they can put down these two drug mafias and allow people to live safely in their own city. And that's absolutely not happening. The narcos own the town and they do what they want to at will with utter impunity. And right now, people have all had to flee for their lives because of it.

HANSEN: You know, many Mexican citizens and officials are pointing a finger at the U.S. as the source of arms for these conflicts. Do you think that's an accurate accusation?

BURNETT: Mexico has been screaming about the flow of weapons from the U.S. to the drug cartels for about five years now. And they claim correctly that the Mexican organized crime is armed by arms sellers, largely from the United States, largely from the border states. And, in fact, Houston is sort of a number one gun market for the cartels. And so they've been clamoring for the U.S. to do something about this, to cut down on this flow of illegal weapons going south.

HANSEN: It may be coincidence, but there was a review last week of the U.S. program to stop the movement of guns across the border. What was in that report?

BURNETT: But to be fair, they also flawed the very permissive gun laws in the U.S., the lack of reporting requirement for multiple sales of rifles. So that anybody can go into a gun store in the U.S. and buy a number of rifles, and there's no reporting requirements and there's no way to trace those. And long rifles are the weapons of choice by the cartels.

HANSEN: Any chance this report will make any difference?

BURNETT: Well, the ATF has responded and said they are going to try to improve the failings of this program. So we'll see.

HANSEN: NPR's John Burnett in Miguel Aleman, a border town in Mexico. John, thank you very much.

BURNETT: Thanks, Liane.

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