By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
On February 7, 2011, Sara Salazar is riding with a granddaughter and three other family members: her son Elias and his wife, Luisa, and her daughter Magdalena. All have chronic illnesses and are barely able to walk. Just after they pass a military checkpoint, masked gunmen stop the car. They force Sara and the granddaughter to the ground at gunpoint and take the others away.
On February 15, the Reyeses stage a protest in Ciudad Juárez outside government offices. At the same time, their home in Guadalupe, less than 100 yards from an army barracks, is burned to the ground by armed men. Sara and two other daughters travel to Mexico City to protest, and they speak on national media, begging for the safe return of their missing family members. A couple of weeks later, the bodies of Elias, Luisa and Magdalena turn up by the roadside, covered in dirt and lime. The government announces that they have been killed because of their ties to the drug world.
Now the survivors sit under trees in the yard by the pool in El Paso as children play. More than 10,500 people have been murdered across the border in Juárez since 2008. The city is one of the most dangerous places on earth, with murder rates over the past five years ranging from 150 to 300 per hundred thousand. In the nearby small town of Guadalupe, the murder rate is closer to 2,000 per hundred thousand. New York City's murder rate is about six per hundred thousand.
The United States, the nation worried about terrorism, gives half a billion dollars a year to a Mexican army that murders and terrorizes Mexicans. The United States walls off Mexico on national-security grounds and then decries imaginary violence spilling north across the border. The United States constantly praises the Mexican government for its brave fight against drug organizations, even though in the five and a half years since President Calderón launched the war that has resulted in the murders of at least 100,000 Mexicans, the delivery of drugs has not been disturbed and prices have not increased. The United States has helped to create a death machine, and now the eyewitnesses come north.
Americans must ask themselves this question about their War on Terror: What if the enemy is their treaty ally Mexico, and what if the problem is the state terrorism by that ally against the Mexican people?
A businessman crosses the bridge from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso. The state police came to his business. He could not meet their increased extortion demands, so they held him down in front of his friends and cut his feet off. Now he rolls across the bridge, his mother driving him to safety. He seeks asylum. He calls Carlos Spector's law firm. He enters a system worthy of Franz Kafka.
Of the 20,000 U.S. grants of political asylum in 2010, only 192 were for Mexicans. Most such applicants arrive at the line with no money or papers. Many are cast into the gulag of U.S. immigration prisons for months or even years. If released, they are unlikely to be allowed a work permit for months. If entered into the process for political asylum, they could wait years for a hearing. No Mexican is likely to apply unless death stares him or her in the face. Political asylum is not some tactic Mexicans use to game our system. But it is a test of our claims of being for freedom and justice and elemental human rights.
After the spate of killings in Guadalupe, fliers circulated saying, ''Si no se van del pueblo, les pasarán lo mismo que los Reyes Salazar'' (''If you don't leave town, you will get the same as the Reyes Salazars.'') Most of the Reyes family still waits to have their pleas for asylum heard. The doors to their country have closed forever behind them. A surviving sister, Marisela Reyes, says: "Nuestro nombre en Mexico significa la muerte.'' (''Our name in Mexico means death.'')
There is a rhythm to state terrorism in Mexico. First there are threats, such as the footsteps clearly heard by Miguel's father in the days preceding the slaughter of the family. Then there is the killing itself, the indifference of the police, the pious laments of government officials. Then more terror, such as his father's partner, Yolanda, being decapitated, such as Miguel's fellow photographers winding up dismembered in garbage bags. And finally, if one refuses to follow the rules, there is the destruction of a person's reputation. This last stroke is inevitable if the person speaks out about the nature of the Mexican government.
Miguel speaks out at a forum in Austin, Texas, in late May 2012 about the controlled nature of the Mexican press and state-sponsored terror in Veracruz. He repeats the same things a week later at an El Paso press conference with Carlos Spector.
Two days later, Notiver, the paper to which his father devoted his life, announces that the son never really worked there but was simply kept around as a kind of pet because of his father. They say Miguel could solve the murder because he probably knows who killed his family. They imply that he is an informant for the DEA or the FBI – a dangerous allegation in Mexico. Proceso, the influential news magazine, repeats most of the charges without any questions. The charges are all lies or smears. But that hardly matters.