Things That Matter

A New Study Finds That Mexicans Are Dying Because Of Guns Illegally Coming In From The U.S.

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The conversation of gun control is back on the consciousness of many Americans after the deadly shooting of 31 people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The 21-year-old gunman of the El Paso shooting reportedly chose a powerful AK-style rifle to commit what is being called “the deadliest attack targeting Latinos in recent U.S. history.”  However, these types of weapons have also made their way across the U.S.-Mexico border where many are being brought there illegally by mostly American citizens.

In 2018, the homicide rate in Mexico hit a record high of 35,964, which is up 12 percent from the year before, according to the country’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography. Of those killings, at least 20,005 were gun-related deaths.

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As the number of homicides has risen in Mexico due to gun violence there is a growing sense of urgency from Mexican officials to see something get done. The AK-47 has been known to be the gun of choice for cartel groups and is being used to kill countless Mexican citizens, every week. 

As these powerful assault rifles make their way illegally from the U.S. into Mexico, they are being used in cartel-related violence and drug trafficking efforts. The overwhelming majority of guns used by drug cartels in the country’s deadly turf come illegally from the U.S., since the Mexican army is the only legal seller in the country.

According to the San Diego Union- Tribune, the illegal trafficking of these powerful weapons has fueled the already increasingly dangerous and deadly conditions in the country. The underground market for the weapons is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and will only keep rising. 

Jack Riley, a retired DEA agent, told the Union-Tribune that these cartel groups are choosing these U.S.-made weapons for two primary reasons: their efficiency and because the weapons are a status symbol. He also says that the majority of these funneled weapons are passing through Mexican ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, which includes on the busiest, the San Ysidro-Tijuana port.

“It is really important to these criminal organizations, who stay in business by the threat of violence and through the use of violence; and the tools that they prefer to do that with are American-made guns,” Riley told the Union-Tribune. “There is a tremendous market for them and unfortunately there’s a ton of people in the United States willing to do business with some of the cartels.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is now urging the United States to “control the indiscriminate sale of weapons” after recent mass shootings.

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The shooting in El Paso, Texas has prompted President Lopez Obrador to put pressure on the U.S. to curb the gun proliferation that is now taking the lives of Mexican citizens. He has also mentioned that the Mexican government was looking into the possibility of accusing the El Paso shooter of “terrorism” and requesting his extradition to face charges in Mexico.

“We are very respectful of what other governments decide, but we think that these unfortunate events, which occurred in the U.S., should lead to reflection, analysis and the decision to control the indiscriminate sale of weapons,” Lopez Obrador said at a news conference in Mexico City last Monday.

Similar to the U.S., citizens in Mexico have the same right to bear arms but when it comes to the sale of weapons, the country has tighter restrictions. Most citizens are only able to purchase lighter handguns or nothing more powerful than a .38 caliber gun as assault weapons are banned. Also, the sale of weapons from one citizen to another is prohibited.

The numbers show that the gun problem in America had crossed over across the border as 70 percent of guns seized across all of Mexico have U.S. origins, According to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

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Mexico is in the midst of turbulent times as the number of people murdered hit more than 33,000 people last year, a record high. This was especially the case for Tijuana, where the popular tourist city that saw more than 2,500 homicides just last year. This gave the city the unwanted distinction and title of “the most violent city in the world,” where almost every single gun that was seized by police since 2016 came from the U.S., according to the city’s chief of police.

There is an “importance of going after both of these things, not just immigration, narcotics, the flow of illegal money, but the tools with which these criminal organizations rely,” Riley told the Tribune. “And for far too long there hasn’t been enough emphasis both by the Mexicans and to a certain extent by us, for a variety of political reasons, to really go after the gun smugglers.”

Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here.

READ: This Heartbreaking Interview With An 11-Year-Old Girl Sees Her Pleading For Her Parents To Not Be Deported

Mexico And The World Mourn The Loss Of Celso Piña, One Of Mexico’s Greatest Musicians

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Mexico And The World Mourn The Loss Of Celso Piña, One Of Mexico’s Greatest Musicians

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If there’s one instrument that best describes Mexican music is has to be the accordion. While the musical key instrument known as a squeezebox has its origins in Europe, it indeed came alive in Mexico as the staple sound in rancheras and cumbias. There is only one musician who thrived through the accordion sound, though sadly that is now a thing of the past.

Celso Piña, known as the “The Accordion Rebel,” died yesterday at the age of 66.

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The Mexican musician was in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, and was soon scheduled to g on tour, but had a heart attack and died at the hospital.

La Tuna Group, Piña’s record label, confirmed in a statement that he died yesterday at 12:38 p.m. after suffering a heart attack.

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“Today is a sad day for La Tuna Group,” they stated, “Our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and followers. We are left with an intense emptiness, but he leaves us his great legacy forever. We appreciate respecting the privacy of the family.”

Piña seemed to have been in good spirits earlier in the day and tweeted for the final time. “No one can resist the cumbia,” he said.

The self-taught musician had been touring off and on for months. He also had upcoming shows in Georgia and Texas.

The Grammy-award winning musician had a musical career that spanned 40 decades, and aside from his musical stylings as an accordion player, he was also a composer, singer, and arranger.

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Piña had collaborated with several contemporary artists including Lila Downs, Julieta Venegas, Cafe Tacvba, and Gloria Trevi, Variety reports. He was also more than a cumbia musician. His sound also fused into other musical genres, including norteña music, hip-hop, ska, reggae, and more.

Several celebrity fans and collaborators tweeted their heartfelt condolences.

According to the Grammy Academy, Piña got his hands on his first accordion in 1980. He taught himself how to play and performed with his brothers. “Together, they went on to play norteña and tropical music, eventually adding cumbia to their style,” the Academy states. “The brothers became known as ‘Celso Piña Y Su Ronda Bogotá,’ giving a nod to cumbia’s motherland.”

Fans on social media also expressed how much Piña meant to them.

One fan, @iphadra, tweeted, “his greatness of # CelsoPiña is not due to its successes or fame in the 5 continents. It is because it was he who came to claim the music of the marginalized.” @JJ4rmCh tweeted, Rest In Peace Celso Piña, no one fucked it up on an accordion like u did.” But this tweet we could totally relate to from @jennjenn1_  who tweeted, “It wasn’t a real quince or wedding until you played some #CelsoPiña ❤️🇲🇽 🎶🎶🎶 may his music live on for generations to come.”

Writer Melissa del Bosque had the honor of being able to interview him. She tweeted, “Hearing ‘Barrio Bravo’ for the first time was a life-changing experience. Celso Piña and Toy Hernández, of Control Machete, had created a whole new hybrid mixing Colombian cumbia with the anarchy of urban streets. I went directly to Monterrey to interview El Rebelde del Acordeón. Here we are at Cafe Brasil, one of his favorite haunts. As I wrote then, when ‘Cumbia Sobre el Rio hit the airwaves there wasn’t a car from Chicago to Chiapas that didn’t have the bass booming and the sonic onslaught layered with accordion rattling their windows.’ #RipCelsoPina.”

Last year, Piña visited one of his biggest fans, who is also an accordion player just like him. The two performed in the streets of Tamaulipas, Mexico.

Herrera recalled what it was like hearing that his musical idol had died. The young musician told El Universal that he was with his daughter when he heard the news that Piña had died. He said he couldn’t believe it, and all the memories from his incredible visit with him last year rushed back to him. He said it was a dream to have been able to perform with him. 

Here’s a couple of his most beloved and hit songs.

Here’s “Cumbia Sobre el Rio Suena” live and with an orchestra! He had such a distinct voice and sound. There was no one else like him.

“No Sea Conmigo”

This was his collaboration with Cafe Tacvba. So lovely! We dare you not to dance to this one.

What’s your favorite Celso Piña track? Let us know in the comment section below. Rest in power, Celso!!

READ: This Isn’t Your Mama’s Cumbia: The Eclectic History Of Latin America’s Classic Music Genre

A Judge In Mexico City Has Approved One Couple’s Request For Recreational Cocaine

Things That Matter

A Judge In Mexico City Has Approved One Couple’s Request For Recreational Cocaine

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In a historic step toward ending the country’s deadly “war on drugs”, a judge in Mexico has approved the request of two people to legally possess, transport and use cocaine. Víctor Octavio Luna Escobedo, an administrative court judge in Mexico City, made the historic decisions saying “the consumption of cocaine doesn’t put one’s health in great risk, except in the case that it’s used chronically and excessively.”

Mexico United Against Crime (MUCD), a nongovernmental organization filed injunction requests on behalf of the two individuals. It pursued the case with goals to trying to change Mexico’s drug policy. At the core of the organization’s argument is that criminalizing consumers causes even more violence. If the ruling is ratified by a higher court, it would be the first time any cocaine use has been legal in Mexico.

According to Mexico Daily News, the Mexico City judge set a string of stipulations for the unidentified couple in order for them to use the cocaine. This includes regulating the amount they intake to 500 milligrams per day and not working, driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence of the substance. This also includes not being able to consume cocaine in public, in the presence of children, or even encourage others to consume it.

So is cocaine really legal in Mexico? Here’s what you need to know. 

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The order by the judge to the country’s health authority has many wondering if one day Mexico could, at some point, legalize cocaine use, but only on a case-by-case basis. As of now, the judge’s ruling must be reviewed by a higher court panel of judges for the case to move forward. 

“We have been working for a safer, more just and peaceful Mexico for years, and with this case we insist on the need to stop criminalizing users of drugs other than marijuana and design better public policies that explore all available options, including the regulation,” Lisa Sanchez, director of MUAC, said in a statement.

The judge wrote in his ruling that the use of cocaine has certain benefits if consumed responsibly. “Ingestion can have various results, including alleviating tension, intensification of perceptions and the desire for new personal and spiritual experiences,” the judge said.

While two people have been allowed to take the drug, there is a bevy of injunctions and court orders that have followed. Which means the judge’s decisions could still be overturned.

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 Cofepris, Mexico’s national health regulator, is being ordered to authorize the two people to legally possess, transport and use cocaine. But Cofepris says that such authorization is outside its power and has now blocked the court order as a result. The rulings are set to be reviewed by three collegiate court judges that will then set forth the legal standing of judges ruling.

The next step in the decision will be an appeal to the circuit court. This essentially means that the case could land all the way up to Mexico’s Supreme Court. Even if the decision is then upheld, cocaine wouldn’t suddenly become legal in Mexico. While in the U.S., a Supreme Court ruling makes it the law of the land, In Mexico the Supreme Court must hand down similar rulings in at least four other cases.

“This case is about insisting on the need to stop criminalizing users of drugs… and design better public policies that explore all the available options, including regulation,” Sanchez said.

The ruling could be a landmark moment and opportunity for debate in Mexico, where a 15 year-long drug war has taken the lives of many. 

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Mexico has become a central battleground and transit point for cocaine being transported to the United States. Trafficking gangs have also grown immensely since 2006 when then-President Felipe Calderón sent in the country’s army to fight drug traffickers. More than 20,000 people have been killed and 40,000 disappeared since then. This year has already been a stark reminder of the deadly drug war as Mexico is on pace to have the most murders on record.

“This case represents another step in the fight to construct alternative drug policies that allow [Mexico] to redirect its security efforts and better address public health,” Sanchez said. “We have spent years working for a more secure, just and peaceful Mexico.” 

READ: This Shipment Of Jalapeños Turned Out To Be One Of The Year’s Biggest Marijuana Bust

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