Friday, April 16, 2010

Just say no...

Keeping the kids off drugs is a concern of any parent, anywhere in the world. But in, say, the United States, it's a relatively simple matter: make sure your kids are informed about the risks, make sure they stay out of jail if they smoke a little weed, keep them off the crack and in school, and there you go.

What about in Mexico? Had a chat with a father of three yesterday, who lives in a Mexican city which is currently plagued by drug violence. Everywhere his kids go, there are drugs. It's not just a temptation, it's an opportunity, he says. He works in a store, he earns a pittence. His kids aren't greedy – they don't pester him for material things, for instance – but they do want to rise up economically. As teenagers, they already know they don't want to live in a one-storey house surrounded by auto repair shops, guard dogs and drug dealers. They know exactly how they can make money; it's a matter of whether or not they will succumb and cross the line. At least they, unlike gomeros in the Sierras, have something of a choice.

They're in school, the dad says, so that's a good thing. But at the university where one of his sons studies, drugs are everywhere, just like any other campus in the world. And the dealers are not just your average prep-school dealer – they're narcos, or one step away from it. Right now, heads are rolling in this city, and one of the recent dead is believed to have been a student. Not some low-level scum as the authorities like to portray the narcos – a middle-class university student who got caught up in the drug business.

At bars around this city, waiters deal coke under the table. Kids are highly exposed to it; these bars are filled with students on the weekends. Apparently, just like in the United States, students are often lured into the drug trade itself in order to support their habit, rather than make huge amounts of money. Except here, having a habit and doing a bit of dealing is dealing with a world far different from the one in the US. Here, if you get caught on the wrong side of any situation you get more than a slap on the wrist; you either wind up in a shitty Mexican jail on drug-related charges or you get your head lopped off.

Nancy Reagan's "just say no" slogan was totally useless, we all know that. But seriously, what is a Mexican kid to say, other than that?

PS - Patrick Corcoran at ganchoblog.blogspot notes the arrest of 10 federal policemen in Ciudad Juarez for extortion, usually a problem among municipal cops. If this is the government's new plan – take away the military and replace with feds like these – then Juarez, we have a problem.

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