As Drug War Turns Into Quagmire, Fear Rules Mexico More than 3 1/2 years after Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels, violence in Mexico continues to escalate, with 2010 on track to be the deadliest year so far. And there is no end in sight to the attacks that reach all levels of Mexican society.
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As Drug War Turns Into Quagmire, Fear Rules Mexico

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As Drug War Turns Into Quagmire, Fear Rules Mexico

As Drug War Turns Into Quagmire, Fear Rules Mexico

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

It was four years ago that President Felipe Calderon launched an attack on the drug cartels. NPR's Jason Beaubien begins a week-long series with a look at the social impact of a war that has no end in sight.

JASON BEAUBIEN: The town of Taxco is a major tourist destination in the western state of Guerrero. It's known for its silver mines and fine jewelry. Taxco's narrow cobblestone streets wind amidst jewelry shops, restaurants and small hotels.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

BEAUBIEN: In May, a former presidential candidate from Calderon's own party, Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, was kidnapped and is still missing. In June, the leading gubernatorial candidate in the northern state of Tamaulipas was assassinated just days before the election.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BEAUBIEN: (Singing in Spanish)

BEAUBIEN: At first glance, Ciudad Victoria looks peaceful. But the local Catholic bishop, Antonio Gonzalez Sanchez, says people here are terrified.

BEAUBIEN: (Spanish spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Bishop Gonzalez says the assassination of Rodolfo Torre Cantu, the leading candidate for governor, sent a powerful message that no one in Tamaulipas is safe.

BEAUBIEN: (Spanish spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Along the U.S. border, local news reports indicate that hundreds of thousands of people have fled violence-plagued cities all along the frontier.

(SOUNDBITE OF BANGING)

BEAUBIEN: In a conflict in which bodies regularly get strung up from highway overpasses, and severed human heads are used to send less-than-subtle warnings, the July 15th car bomb represented an escalation of the violence. Politicians and the press debated narco-terrorism and the Colombianization of Mexico.

MONTAGNE: (Spanish spoken)

BEAUBIEN: In early 2009, the Mexican military took control of security in Juarez. Thousands of soldiers patrolled the streets. When that didn't work, the federal police took over, but the violence just continues to get worse.

(SOUNDBITE OF CELL DOOR CLOSING)

BEAUBIEN: Francisco Garcia, a gunrunner for the Aztecas, says the violence isn't going to stop.

MONTAGNE: There's a war going on. Nobody could go in and say, hey, that's it. We can't do that, 'cause they already killed so many people with us and them.

BEAUBIEN: Garcia is a U.S. citizen. He was born in El Paso, but he says the Aztecas in Juarez are his people. His hair is shaved close to his scalp and a green, tattooed tear drips from the corner of his left eye.

MONTAGNE: I came over here, and I got caught on the bridge with two guns.

BEAUBIEN: The 24-year-old says that that was his job on the outside - shuttling weapons from Texas into Mexico.

MONTAGNE: Any kind of guns, any kind of weapons that we could use, I was bringing them from over there.

BEAUBIEN: Garcia says as soon as he finishes his four-year prison term, he plans to go right back to working for the Aztecas on the outside.

MONTAGNE: This is my life. This is what I chose to be, and I can't just walk out.

BEAUBIEN: Jason Beaubien, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: They say truth is the first casualty of war. Tomorrow, journalists in some parts of Mexico have stopped reporting on the drug trade, as their colleagues have been kidnapped and killed by cartels.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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