Nuevo Laredo


A protest in Mexico City against the drug war
Kara Newhouse, via Flickr

Nick Page and Ryan Geertsma look at the drug war in Northern Mexico. They share the stories of people affected by the conflict.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Nick Page.

Voice 2 

And I’m Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easy for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Between Mexico and the United States, there is a “drug corridor”. In this area, people bring illegal drugs from South America to Mexico. Then, they take the drugs across the border into the United States and sell them. Many people in the United States buy and use these drugs.

Voice 2 

Transporting and selling drugs is dangerous, illegal work. It is work with a long history of violence. Almost every week, people find dead bodies in towns on the border. Some of these bodies do not have heads, hands, or feet. Often, there is a note left with the bodies. This note tells how the dead betrayed the people who sell drugs. Today’s Spotlight is on the drug trade in towns on the US and Mexican border.

Voice 1 

The people managing the drug trade are in groups called “cartels.” The cartels have a lot of power in Northern Mexico. For people in the border towns, the drug cartels are a part of daily life. People go missing all the time. Very often, they are killed because they spoke against the cartels. The cartels threaten reporters and writers for talking about the drug trade. Even government officials cannot stop the drug trade. If they try, the cartels threaten their families.

Voice 2 

The violence of the drug trade is very complex. Ken Ellingwood is a writer for the Los Angeles Times newspaper. He told the news organization NPR:

Voice 3 

“Three different wars are happening at the same time. First, the government of Mexico started a war against organized crime, like the drug cartels. The second war is between drug cartels. They are fighting over land and paths into the United States. And the third war is inside the drug cartels. There are big changes when leaders have been killed or sent to prison. There is a struggle for power within these big organizations, which has led to a lot of violence.”

Voice 1 

There were a lot of conditions that made the drug war possible. When the governments in South America started working against the drug trade, the trade moved up into Mexico. The government in Mexico was not prepared to control the cartels. Many of the police in towns between Mexico and the United States are corrupt. Criminals give the police money and the police do not arrest them for their crimes. This makes conditions worse for average citizens. They cannot trust the police.

Voice 2 

But it is not just corrupt governments and people buying the drugs that aid the drug trade. There is also poverty. Recently, there were many factories in Northern Mexico. US companies built products in Mexico because local labor did not cost a lot of money. But there have been some changes in labor laws. Now, a lot of companies are moving their work to Asia. The factories in Northern Mexico are closing.

Voice 1 

When the factories leave, people have no place to work. They have no way to feed their families. Many people move to different towns. They think that they can live a better life in a different place. Some of them move to the United States to look for work. Other people stay in town and work in the drug trade. For many people, the only way to make money is through crime.

Voice 2 

Braulio Pavón is 34 years old. He lives in a border town called Nuevo Laredo. He used to work in one of Nuevo Laredo’s maquiladoras, or factories. But he lost his job when the company moved to China. Now, during the day, Pavón works at a store. At night, he washes car windows for money. Washing windows and asking for money is against the law. The police will often demand that Pavón give them money or else they will arrest him. Sometimes, they take all of his money. Pavón told Mother Jones magazine:

Voice 4 

“I tell them, you are pushing me to rob!”

Voice 1 

Many former factory workers have the same problems as Pavón. Fela Contreras is another worker who lost her job at a maquiladora. She told Mother Jones:

Voice 5 

“You work all your life and leave your childhood there. And then they say, 'Goodbye, you are waste, you are old.'”

Voice 2 

The drug cartels also know that people without money are more willing to join the drug trade. Some even advertise in major cities. Large signs hang from bridges. The signs read, “Why be poor? Come work for us.” It is very appealing. They offer a life of riches. But it is also a life of violence.

Voice 1 

In the town of Nuevo Laredo, the poverty and the violence affect the lives of all citizens. Nuevo Laredo is very close to the border with the United States. Many different cartels fight over the town. They all want to control the business there. Also, many of the citizens are very poor. This creates a good environment to invite people into the drug trade. It also creates a lot of violence.

Voice 2 

But some people are trying to help. Martha Ojeda was born in Nuevo Laredo. She moved to the United States to work as a lawyer. Now, she helps people in North Mexico. Ojeda negotiates for higher wages and better working conditions. Ojeda hopes that this will keep people from joining the drug trade. But helping the workers is only one step in a very complex problem.

Voice 1 

Ioan Grillo is a writer. He lives in Mexico studying the drug wars and the cartels. In his book, El Narco, he repeats this same idea. He believes that wars happen because people cannot feed their families. People feel like they are not important. They feel angry because they are poor. And the drug cartels use that anger, to get people to work for them. Killing and dying becomes a path to glory. Grillo thinks that this is the main problem - that poor people have no choice in their lives and no help. He told CNN:

Voice 6 

“I would love to see more money spent on these concerns about the poor than on military helicopters and soldiers fighting with the cartels.”

Voice 2 

In the end, it will take a lot of work to solve Mexico’s drug problem. Ashley Fantz is a reporter for CNN. She has reported on the drug war. She says that the problem is far too complex to have a simple solution. She writes:

Voice 7 

“To understand the drug war, one must accept that it is impossible to know all of the people involved. Accept that there is no black and white. There is only grey. A fog.”

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Dianna Anderson. The producer was Ryan Geertsma. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “Nuevo Laredo.”

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

What do you think is the most important method for stopping illegal drugs?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
kenhieuloilam
said on June 28, 2012

Not good things influence the life negatively. Not good things have their very big powers. Deaths and not good things make us sadnesses. Not good things destroy the life. We desire to live our lives for good things. We may fall into not good things. We feel our weaknesses. We need supports of our families, communities and everyone. Problems are very big.  We make much effort for good things. We sacrifice much for good things. Good things need to be developed. Not good things need to be pushed away. Not good things exist. We need everyone’s efforts.

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paulo86nirisco
said on August 18, 2013

It is realy sad we have similar problem in Brazil

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Mss Flamboyant
said on October 07, 2014

The main point we need to know here is that illegal actions and unethical behaviours will happen when citizens lose their belief with government. They can not trust the police when they get bribe. I hope that this situation will be improved. Government should raise citizens’ standard of living and sack bad police.

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Dela
said on October 10, 2014

There is a terrible fact the drug cartels build their business in particular on the people’s poverty, fear, desperation. Of course, the poor people having no possibility to feed their families are certainly more willing to sacrifice their lives to the drug cartels’ illegal trade. Moreover, the corrupt police even aid the cartels’ activities instead of fighting against that. A writer Grillo is right when he see the main problĂ©m in the bad condition of the poor people having no choice and no hope in their lives.
Greetings!

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Hangcoi
said on August 10, 2017

The government have a important role in this problem. The citizens need good people to lead the country. If the government and citizens have determination and cooperation with other. They can make a better future. Hope for the better future in the world.