In our latest newsletter we're briefly mentioned the security situation here in Monterrey. Here's a few more details.
Over the last couple of years the level of violence has increased in Mexico generally, and particularly in the north. This violence is almost exclusively related to drugs. There are several cartels that operate major trafficing routes through Mexico into the US, and hence the northern borders of Mexico tend to be the places where they have their power struggles.
In the past there has been violence, but the violence has either been gang on gang, or gang on police / military. News of armed police raids and gang reprisal attacks were common. However, because it was all gang related, there were only ever a few unlucky everyday citizens who got caught up in the crossfire. It happened, but it was extremely rare.
On a personal note, on the way home from Bible study one night last year, I was stuck in a traffic jam, the cause of which was a gang vs army shootout.
However, in the last year, or even less, the violence has changed for the worst.
The gangs are still fighting each other - but the complete disregard for anybody else seems to be increasing. Just last week, a person was shot in the carpark of the supermarket we often use. The wounded man ran into the supermarket, around the checkouts (this is a big place, maybe 35 checkouts) and the gunman followed him in and shot him again - wounding a 14 year old girl in the process. Again, the injured man ran, this time into the carpark again, where the gunman caught him and put a bullet in his head. This all took place at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon in the last week of the school holidays!
This is very disturbing, but the violence is also changing in that it is now taking a political edge. It would appear that the gangs are trying to 'get at' the government by making life more difficult for ordinary citizens, which will in turn create more political pressure.
This is done in two ways. First, government officials are becoming more of a target. Just last week the mayor of Santiago (a pretty town of about 20,000 30 mins south of here) was kidnapped and 2 days later found executed on the side of the road. I have friends who worked with him on various projects and they say he was a good man. Apparently the reason for his execution was that he refused to cooperate with those who wanted to bribe him. Of the six arrested in connection with his killing, 5 are policemen.
My friend who lives in this town says all the police and officials have left - presumably in fear of their personal safety.
The second event which is happening more often around the city is a blockade. These is where gunmen hijack some cars - usually between 5 and 20, and create a roadblock which either just creates a nuisance traffic jam, or blocks up an area so the police are unable to enter and the gang can 'take care of business'.
Last Sunday afternoon, in a gang incident, 3 teenagers were executed in a suburb not far from here. As a result, between 7pm and midnight on Sunday night, there were 39 blockades across the city, causing huge disruption to traffic. Keep in mind its school holidays and Sunday afternoon / evening is out visiting families, enjoy the long evenings etc.
As a result, the local government has formed a new, heavily armed 'flying squad' with orders to respond to such incidents. Last night as I drove in the city there were many more groups of police parked on corners, on streetsides etc.
So how do we feel about all this?
Well, its terrible. We feel sad because the whole society is being affected here. In many ways what is happening is a form of terrorism and everyone is feeling and tension it causes. Everyone talks about it.
We don't feel personally under threat, although we're being a bit more cautious around the place, and tend not to go out at night if we can possible avoid it. We do what we can to keep a low profile. Thats been a bit easier because its been school holidays and our routine has been flexible, but school starts again this week so we'll see if there is any change.
Please pray for our city and the country of Mexico. Please pray for justice and incorruptibility in the government. Please pray that God would hold back the hand of those who want to be violent, and that those in positions of authority would make right and wise decisions.