Friday – 18 October 2018. Two men are murdered in broad daylight on a public beach in Acapulco in front of thousands of horrified bathers. After a few initial moments of terror, the beachgoers, numb to the violence around them, go back to swimming and sunbathing. The police cordon off the area around the bodies, which are only feet from men, women and children eating, drinking and acting like nothing happened. Life goes on.
Monday – 22 October 2018. Residents of Acapulco are forced to drive around the dismembered body parts of at least two men, which have been strewn along a main street in town and dumped in the parking lot of a downtown store.
Thursday – 26 October 2018. Seven people are killed in various armed attacks in Tijuana.T he number of homicides rises to 177 for the month. Within days Tijuana will go over 2000 murders for the year, breaking its own record for deadliness, set the year before.
This is Mexico in 2018, dismembered bodies, decapitations and murder on an almost inconceivable scale. One recently discovered, clandestine grave alone may contain as many as 500 bodies according to authorities.
Morgues in Guerrero and several other states in Mexico have been overwhelmed by the number of bodies found. Refrigerator trucks are pressed into service to handle the overflow of the dead, and months later the bodies are still stacked to the roof, unprocessed and unidentified. Violence is skyrocketing everywhere, and increasingly citizen groups are taking the law into their own hands and arming themselves in self-defense.
Mexico is not alone. Latin America is far and away the most violent region on the planet. Of the 50 most dangerous cities on the planet, 42 of them are in Latin America. Twelve of those are in Mexico alone.
Other crime is exploding in Mexico as well. Trucks are hijacked routinely on the street. There is a flourishing trade in fuel stolen from pipelines. Entire freight trains carrying cars and other products from factories to port cities, are routinely derailed and their cargos stolen. Near the town of Acultzingo alone, this year there have been over 500 train robberies. Three out of four Mexicans say they live in fear of becoming victims of crime.
This is the ugly reality behind the debate over border security. This is the what proponents of open borders and the abdication of control over immigration do not want to discuss or others to see. It is not pretty. It is not pleasant. It is the truth.
Mexico is teetering on the edge of becoming a failed state. Other Latin American nations are not far behind. Organized crime syndicates, awash in cash from the sale of drugs and other commodities, challenge the Mexican government for control, not simply in some abstract sense but in the most literal sense possible. They are armed to the teeth with state-of-the-art weaponry, and in many cases can outgun law enforcement agencies charged with controlling them.
Five Mexican states have been designated by the US Department of State as areas to which American citizens should not travel. Among them is Guerrero, where Acapulco is located. Acapulco, once one of the world’s great tourist destinations is now grimly referred to as Guerrero’s Iraq. According to the State Department, “armed groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and may use violence towards travelers.”
According to Senator James Lankford, who recently returned from a trip to Mexico to assess the situation, Mexican drug cartels now control 45% of the land mass of that nation. This is on a par with the size of the territory ISIS controlled at its peak. In many areas, cartels are replacing the Mexican government entirely and establishing what amounts to parallel governments.
In 1916 the US government sent General “Black Jack” Pershing and thousands of soldiers, among them my grandfather, Charles I. Faddis, to the Mexican border in response to the actions of the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa and his raid on Columbus, New Mexico. While Villa himself escaped, his army was defeated, and the Mexicans were brought to the negotiating table where they agreed to prevent any further actions on US soil. The security of our southern border was restored.
Action by the US Army on Mexican soil in the present circumstance seems unlikely and unwarranted. What is required, however, is that we remember some things we apparently knew instinctively in 1916.
A nation, which cannot secure its own borders will not long remain a nation.
However, much we may wish otherwise, the world is a dark and dangerous place filled with great danger.
The only thing that separates San Diego from Tijuana and the horrifying bloodshed stalking that city’s streets is a border.
We either defend that border and control who crosses it, or we will soon find that the darkness on the other side has made its way here.