Mexico’s war on drugs turns ten… 100,000 dead, 30,000 missing… Narcos beat heat with lavish, air conditioned tombs
Ten years after Mexico declared a war on drugs, the offensive has left some major drug cartels splintered and many old-line kingpins like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in jail, but done little to reduce crime or violence in the nation’s roughest regions.
Some say the war has been a crucial, but flawed, effort. Others argue the offensive begun by then-President Felipe Calderon on Dec. 11, 2006, unleashed an unnecessary tragedy with more than 100,000 people dead and about 30,000 missing – a toll comparable to the Central American civil wars of the 1980s.
In some places, homicide rates have lessened. In others, the killings continue unabated. The drawn-out conflict has also had a profound effect on those close to the cross-hairs of suffering: youths inured to extreme violence; adults so fed-up with poor and corrupt policing that they took up arms as vigilantes; and families who banded together in the face of authorities’ inability to find their vanished loved ones.
A law enforcement official in the northern border state of Tamaulipas told The Associated Press he now routinely encounters young cartel gunmen who have few regrets about their vocation. In fact, they see killing as the best way to afford things like smartphones, cars and girlfriends.
“I ask them, ‘What do you want to be?’ And they say, ‘To be a chief look-out and have a narco-corrido song written about me,” said the official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name. “As young as they are, they have no other aspiration in life.”
Some drug lords take their ostentatious lifestyle literally to the grave: a cemetery in Mexico is blooming with two-story tombs fitted with living rooms, air conditioning and bulletproof glass.
Mexico marked on Sunday 10 years since the government deployed troops in a drug war that has killed tens of thousands of people, with many victims buried unceremoniously in mass graves, dumped on roadsides or left hanging on bridges.
But the drug barons of Sinaloa state, the northwestern bastion of imprisoned kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, have given themselves more dignified final resting places at Jardines del Humaya cemetery in the regional capital, Culiacan.
One crypt looks like a chapel with white columns, angels on stained glass windows and a statue of Jesus Christ standing on the roof.
Others resemble small modern apartments with glass doors, stairs leading to a second floor and living rooms with couches for mourners. At least two of them were adorned with Christmas trees.
A crypt said to hold the remains of a Sinaloa drug cartel hitman has a bulletproof glass door, a cross that lights up in the dark on top of a dome, and surveillance cameras pointing toward the entrance. Inside, a glass case holds four small swords.
As night falls, lights are automatically activated outside several tombs. Many have alarm systems. One has fort-like towers, and another has a roof terrace with fans.
Most crypts have large pictures or paintings of the deceased on the wall — several look like young men in their 20s or 30s — but many of these tombs have no name to identify the person.