Torreón: This is what a drug war looks like

By Sarah Ostman

We’ve been hearing a lot about Mexico’s drug wars in light of the country’s bicentennial: the chaos, the killings, the big men with guns turning themselves in to other big men with guns. But never have I gotten so clear an insight into what this drug war actually looks like than by reading this really good Guardian article.

The reporter, Rory Carroll — who, judging from his glamour pic, looks to be about 24 years old — goes into the northern Mexican city of Torreón, the “the city that conquered the desert.” The city of 550,000 is a transit hub for people and drugs; there are an average of three murders per day. Ads for coffins are all over the pages of local newspapers.

What Carroll finds is that Torreón two warring drug gangs — the Sinaloas and the Zetas — have a stranglehold on every aspect of life in the city. The images this reporter recreates are incredible: Gangsters tearing through the floors of hospitals, trying to plant a final bullet in a victim who’d gotten out alive, while hospital staff cowers out of sight. A group of gunmen busting into a party with assault rifles blasting and massacring 17 (non-drug-dealing) people. (The clincher on that one is that the gangsters were actually inmates at a nearby prison; the director let the gang members out at night to go on their killing missions. They were even the prison’s guns.)

Even the city is thinking about choosing sides, Carroll finds. It’s a sort of “the devil you know” mentality — back one side and let them run the drug cartel. At least then, officials tell him, the violence will stop.

Thumbs up, Rory Carroll. Also, I want your job.

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