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General Mario Acosta Chaparro

I have now been in Mexico, my home country, for almost two months. Yesterday afternoon, as I was leaving the capital to travel back to the northern states, General Mario Acosta Chaparro was assassinated. A man with a dark history since the late 70s, he was considered one of the strategists behind Mexico’s dirty war against the armed insurgents from the state of Guerrero and the 23rd of September Communist League. As well, he was accused of torture, forced disappearances, corruption and drug traffic and also as a government middle man with organized crime.

In an interview given to Mario Avila and published today online, journalist and analyst Ricardo Ravelo of Proceso Weekly Magazine, speculates that at the time of his death, Acosta Chaparro was linked directly with the goal of pacifying the country and lowering the volume of violence, among other delicate tasks. Astonishingly, according to Ravelo, up to his abrupt political execution, the general was under assignment by the Calderon administration to engage in talks with “El Chapo” Guzman to insure the consolidation of the Sinaloa Cartel as the most powerful drug organization in Mexico, an expected accomplishment by the end of this presidency.

It’s now Saturday April 21, and I’m back in Torreon, the city of my birth. Because there was a two-and-a-half hour delay on my arrival, there was no family welcoming party. But in the aura of the beautiful morning, as I was moving through the city, I began to get a whiff of another chilling welcoming party, the party of Calderon’s war, which has devastated the country with close to 60,000 deaths, possibly ten thousand disappeared, 160,000 people displaced this year alone, hundreds of thousands abandoned homes and businesses, devastated the economy to the tune of adding 15 million more to the ranks of poverty during his presidency and much more.

I left the bus terminal about 7:30 AM on my way to my cousin Eduardo’s and as is my custom, I engaged the taxi driver. “Como esta maestro y la ciudad -- How are you and the city doing?” He was serene and responded, “It was peaceful yesterday. We had a concert until 3 in the morning with La Banda del Recodo and nothing happened. People had a good time.”

However, sometime during the night at another part of the city, there was a reported shootout between the police and organized crime that left two dead and several arrested. Additionally, in Saltillo, the Capital of Coahuila, about 150 kilometers southeast, about the same time of the concert, a drive-by commando launched and exploded a hand grenade at a Chrysler dealership, damaging the commercial surrounding area, including several vehicles.

The perpetrators fled, but nearby police went in pursuit and a shootout ensued, which left two dead, including one who was killed as he tried to lob another grenade, this time at the pólice. Reports say the object exploded inside the vehicle, which went up in flames and the man’s body was mutilated and incinerated.

Saltillo is today one of the most violent spots of the war in south of the border, but it is also a crossing point in the daily migrant route to the north and it houses one of the 56 known migrant shelters in the country. It is also the home of two of the most committed and influential priests in Mexico on the issue of immigrant rights: el Obispo Raul Vera and Pedro Pantoja. I just met them in Mexico City and I will try my best to visit them in Saltillo next week.

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Further north in the border town of Piedras Negras, where my cousin Angeles lives and which I will also visit soon on my way to Juarez, a military column was reportedly attacked from a moving vehicle resulting in one death and a citywide persecution.

But it was in the region of Chihuahua, the most violent state in Mexico, which on Friday at 11:20 PM, suffered a massacre of 15 killed and 4 wounded at the “El Colorado Bar and Restaurant” in the capital City of Chihuahua. The savage attack was conducted by another commando of sicarios apparently against the clientele, including two journalists and two waitresses employed at the restaurant bar. Recent reports say that 30% of all the nation’s dead stem from this state.

As a child in the late 50s, before immigrating to the US, I actually lived in Juarez, Chihuahua, for seven years, so anytime I come to the north of Mexico, it is special. At the start of this trip, on March 2, I was part of a delegation that delivered a convoy of ten tons of humanitarian aid to three Tarahumara communities in the Sierra Tarahumara, near Chihuahua, the capital.

javier rodriguez

To get there, the nine-vehicle truck convoy entered through Palomas, a wartorn border town that’s the site of a massacre and the murder of a mayor and chief of police. From there we traveled through several cities to reach the Municipality of Cachiric.

Yesterday on the radio, it was reported a series of robberies on the highways have taken place in this region where the criminals actually pose as passengers and at a certain moment through out the trip, the thieves stop the bus and rob every one.

"Peaceful," the taxi driver said, that’s the language of hope in a state of war.

Javier Rodriguez
from Torreon, Mexico

Posted: Sunday, 21 April 2012