A Mexican officer claims the military is indeed atwar with drug cartels for territory in northernMexico and that vast numbers of children have been left homeless and hungryby the war in the seemingly unreachable cartel-controlledterritory.
The officer spoke with me in person on the condition of anonymity. When Iasked him to explain which cartels were fighting in Nuevo Laredo, heexplained that things were not so simple and not so easily defined.
Theofficer did not speak in law enforcement terms but instead used militaryterms. It grew clear that the troubles facing Mexico hadprogressed from “criminal” to “fighting a well-armed insurgency.”
He stated that the Nuevo Laredo police force has been entirelydisbanded, and only the military functions as law enforcement–that all order comes from the military presence in thecity. He claimed that the police were not disbanded dueto corruption but because they all fledfor their lives. He said the cartels had begun targeting themand their families at their homes.
I asked the officer about the existence of children who had beenleft homeless, parentless, or were otherwise suffering due to the cartels. Hereplied that they would not be found in the city but that they existednearby on the outskirts, towards the west. He stated that I couldpossibly go to see them, but the territory was controlled by cartelsand that they would surely kill me if they knew why I was going there.
He stated that I would maybe live if I went but did not ask anyquestions of any person. I asked if the military or police were notpresent there, but he stated that the military was not able to go into thatterritory due to cartels.
Many of the details offered by the Mexican military officer wereconfirmed during a face-to-face interview with members of the Laredo, TX policedepartment. Laredo Police spokesman Joe Baeza stated that “the entirepolice force in Nuevo Laredo had been disbanded,” and “there is nopolice presence there, no one to keep law and order, no one to guarantyanyone’s safety.”
Baeza contradicted the Mexican military officer’s assertion thatthe police had all fled and claimed, “Many of them were corrupt. Therewere instances of the Nuevo Laredo police shutting down entire blocks sothe gangs could do their business and killings.” He alleged thatthe Nuevo Laredo police either helped the cartels or they were targetedand killed for not doing so. “But a lot of them were helping thecartels,” he said.
Baeza cited statistics showing how law enforcement has reduced crime on the US side ofthe border. He claimed, “Laredo, Texas is a safe city with a low crimerate. But Mexico is not safe and if you go there asking questions,criminals will likely kill you.”
“There are children there who are in need, but there is nothinganyone can do at this time. If you go there trying to help, someone willtell the cartel bosses and they will simply send someone to get you,”said Baeza.