December 16, 2008
Mexico Narco Wars Blog
Watch the program: Part 1 - Part 2

On my first day in Mexico city I was amazed to see people stroll past news stands with barely a glance at the gruesome colour pictures splashed on the front pages. For me, 14 headless bodies piled on top of one another in a field was a graphic image. It certainly caught my attention.

For the first few days, breakfast felt like a macabre ritual. I would sit down to coffee and pastry and read the papers. Police killing gangsters, gangsters killing police, gangsters killing gangsters, kidnap, torture, assassination, mass killings, decapitation …

It was all there, including of course, the collateral damage: Innocent people caught in the crossfire. Within a short time I had become as accustomed to this horror as the Mexicans around me. Of course deep down people despair at what is happening in their country.

Like their contemporaries elsewhere, older Mexicans reminisce about the good old days when life was simple and community and church was strong enough to sort out social problems.

Now, the warring parties are so well armed and the violence so extreme that people don’t know what to think. I spent a lot of time wondering what I would do if I were president of Mexico.

Would I do as President Calderon is doing and take on the cartels in the hope that voters don’t tire of the slow progress and outrageous body count? Or would I have left things as they were… very little violence but with the tentacles of organized crime reaching right into the heart of my government?

It’s a hard choice. In Sinaloa state in the north, which has seen fierce battles between cartel members and police as well as between rival cartels, everything seemed eerily calm on the surface.

I learned from local journalists to eat lunch quickly in case we had to rush out to film another dead body on the roadside.

It’s a surreal job at times. At all the different crime scenes I film, information is very hard to come by. Witnesses who saw everything, saw nothing. Trust appears to be in short supply around here and nobody believes they have anything to gain from talking to a journalist.

I was told over and again that one of the answers lies over the border in the world’s largest drug market … that the U.S. should be working harder to reduce domestic demand. They say it is only logical that by doing this, you attack supply.

To me, It feels a little too late for that now. But that’s another story.

-- From David O’Shea
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