Things That Matter

As Violence Rages On In Tijuana, One City Newspaper Has Started Publishing A ‘Deathometer’

The border town of Tijuana has long been a hot spot of criminal activity due to the proximity with the United States. This port of entry is one of the busiest border crossings in the world. The city is also a convergence point for migrants from all over the world who wish to get to the United States, and criminal gangs, sometimes aided by corrupt authorities, have taken advantage of this situation. These factors, of course, brings numerous challenges when it comes to achieving a much needed and wished for stability. 

But illegal markets for drugs, prostitution and all sorts of illicit activities have made security a real challenge for tijuanenses. And today the consumption of meth has boomed in Tijuana. Drug related violence in Mexico is usually attributed to external markets, but today Tijuana is facing what experts call a meth epidemic. Academics blame this surge in the local market for the ever-increasing body count in the city. 

Murder numbers have not been lowered by the authorities and the bloodshed seems to have no end.

Credit: Balacera Sacude

Regardless on who sits in the presidency (casualties of the cartel wars have not gone down during the Andrés Manuel López Obrador administration, as many had hoped), criminality is hard to curb in Tijuana. Since the days of the once untouchable Arellano Félix brothers, two of the most powerful drug lords in Mexican history, networks of corruption and crime have dug deep roots into the city’s political and social life. This has made it an inhospitable territory for anyone who dissents, from activists to journalists who are constantly targeted.

Today, a Tijuana newspaper even has a Deathometer: there have been 1,800 murders in 2019 alone.

It might sound as a joke to some, but a Deathometer is an indication of hopelessness, an acknowledgement that the savage dogs of war will continue to be fed. A Deathometer is a sort of acceptance of defeat.

As recently reported in an investigative journalism piece in The Guardian, 2019 has been a particularly deathly year in the city, with murders expected to reach 2,000 by the time 2020 arrives. As the Guardian reports: “Tijuana has seen a methamphetamine-fuelled murder epidemic which produced a record 2,518 murders in 2018 and looks set to cause even more this year”. In Mexico overall, there are 100 murders per day on average. Those are wartime statistics. 

Women, men… no one seems to be safe.

Tom Phillips visited Tijuana for a week to write his piece in The Guardian. And he encountered a grisly scenario in just his second day. He writes: “At 6am a man’s body was found dumped in the eastern neighbourhood of EmperadoresAt 11.35am a decomposing pair of legs were spotted on wasteland in the city’s south. And at 2.45pm an unidentified killer barged into a home on Calle Tamaulipas, pulled out a gun and brought an unidentified male’s life to an end”.

This is the daily life of a city of 1.3 million inhabitants and other handful of millions of visitors per year. The authorities have stated that the murder rate has not affected the vibrant and growing economy, but critics say that this is basically tapar el Sol con un dedo (covering the Sun with a finger, a traditional Mexican saying). 

The high cost of impunity: only 10% of crimes end in actual sentencing.

Crime and impunity are like two monsters that feed off each other. In Mexico, about 90% of crimes go unpunished. This is a scandalous statistic that puts into question the efficacy (if any at all) of the judiciary system. Sometimes criminals are found and then set free due to a lack of evidence, corruption or fear of retaliation.

The AMLO government is predicating a strategy based on fixing the social fabric of the country to fight crime. “Abrazos no balazos” (hugs, not bullets) has been used as a mantra when it comes to the new government’s approach to crime. However, as the bloodshed in Culiacan to liberate Ovidio Guzman (El Chapo’s son) and the wave of killings in states like Guerrero and Michoacan have proved, so far this strategy has proven ineffective. 

Let’s not forget that for years Tijuana has been used as a frat boy playground by gringos.

Of course, the influx of American tourism is not the only or most important culprit for the inestability in Tijuana, but it is certainly a factor. Thousands of US citizens cross the border every year to party hard and with very little repercussions. This has led to a constant demand for drugs, but also to human trafficking and child abuse.

This Couple Traveled To Tijuana To Collect Rent From Their Tenants, Now Police Have Found Five Bodies On Their Property

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This Couple Traveled To Tijuana To Collect Rent From Their Tenants, Now Police Have Found Five Bodies On Their Property

Unsplash

Last week a California couple was reported missing by their family in Garden Grove – a suburb of Los Angeles. The couple had traveled to Tijuana (where they were originally from) to collect the rent from the tenant who was living on their property. Unfortunately, they never returned home.

With the ever increasing violence in Tijuana, their family feared the worse and a few days later was confirmed when police located their bodies. However, the story continues to develop as a total of three more bodies have been found on their property.

Investigators say that two more bodies (for a total of 5) have been discovered on a Tijuana property where a California couple disappeared.

Credit: Fiscalía General / Baja California

Jesus Ruben Lopez Guillen, 70, and his wife Maria Teresa Lopez, 65, of Garden Grove, a couple with dual U.S.-Mexico citizenship, vanished on January 10 after they crossed the border to collect more than $6,700 in rent from tenants of two houses they owned in Tijuana. Their bodies turned up in one of the houses, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, citing Mexican investigators.

The attorney general’s office for the state of Baja California, just south of San Diego, said late Saturday the second set of bodies – one male and the other female – are in a state of advanced decomposition. All four bodies were covered in lime when they were found by investigators.

The story started when the couple traveled to Tijuana to collect rent on properties they owned – and then never returned to California.

Credit: Garden Grove Police Department

When the couple failed to return home the next day, their daughter, Norma Lopez, reported the couple missing.

Garden Grove police opened a missing person case after the Guilléns were reported missing. Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney said their daughter had been tracking her parents though the Find My iPhone app, which last showed the couple at their property in the Colonia Obrero neighborhood south of downtown Tijuana, about four miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Then the phone went dead, and she could not track them anymore, Whitney said.

Police have since arrested their son-in-law in connection with the murders.

The man accused of killing the couple, their son-in-law, was ordered by a judge to remain in police custody while the state’s prosector’s office continues to gather evidence. According to authorities, they likely have enough evidence to charge him the murders of each of the victims found on the two properties.

Authorities suspect the man killed his in-laws in a dispute over money. They say he confessed to burying them on one of their properties, where he lived.

The judge during the hearing Sunday ruled Santiago will remain in jail under “forced disappearance” charges.

A “forced disappearance” charge is not as serious as a homicide charge, but it is still a felony in Mexico. It means the man is accused of trying to make the couple disappear. The charge can be used in cases of living or deceased victims. The man also was accused of something similar to obstruction of justice, for allegedly misleading investigators and refusing to assist in the investigation.

Prosecutors said investigators have obtained cell phone records, text messages and video camera footage of the defendant and of the victims’ truck — evidence prosecutors said contradicted his statements to police.

Hundreds Of Mexicans Being Treated For HIV Were Being Given Obsolete Medications From The 1980s

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Hundreds Of Mexicans Being Treated For HIV Were Being Given Obsolete Medications From The 1980s

Gobierno de Mexico

For a long time, it was considered that Mexico had averted the worst of the HIV/AIDS crisis that has plagued much of the Americas. For a country of its size and population, Mexico historically has had a very low incidence rate of HIV infection – even among populations considered at a high-risk.

Mexico is also a nation that has a robust public healthcare system that provides medical care to its citizens free-of-charge or at very low prices, including HIV medications.

Many looked to Mexico as a role model for developing countries confronting the worldwide HIV epidemic. However, after recent reports about obsolete medications being given to HIV and AIDS patients many are beginning to question that way of thinking.

Mexico’s Health ministry revealed that Mexico had been buying outdated medications from suppliers that no longer worked.

Credit: Gobierno de Mexico

Hugo López-Gatell, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, revealed this morning that some drug providers were selling outdated and obsolete HIV drugs to the federal government. Many of the drug being used by the government to treat HIV-positive patients were from the 1980s and have been proven ineffective around the world.

At a press conference, he explained that in late 2019, authorities realized that drug companies were intentionally manipulating the public bidding process in a scheme to sell outdated drugs to the public health ministry.

“The combination of medicines tells us about the enormous lack of proper HIV treatment because they [the HIV medications] are not adequate. In many cases we found the use of old medicines, we found the use of the first HIV drug that was invented or discovered at the beginning of the 80s. It is a drug that is already obsolete worldwide and in Mexico was still being used,” he said.

According to the government, however, it was the fault of the drug companies that were gaming a public health system.

Credit: Gobierno de Mexico

“What did we find?” That here were pressures from representatives of the pharmaceutical industry. We discovered that it was one group who made the medicines and that there were very few who distributed them. But they tie up the government with exclusive agreements to the different companies that manufacture the medicines,” he explained.

So basically, the distributors put pressure on doctors who specifically prescribed retroviral medications. He also clarified that purchases have always been made at the national level, however, they made no sense with the amounts of what they asked for in each state.

Despite this troubling revelation, the Ministry of Health has restated its commitment to securing the best care for those in need of HIV treatment.

Credit: Gilead Sciences

The undersecretary added: “In May, we completely modified the HIV treatment scheme. First, we made it clear that we wanted the best medications, the most effective, the safest; second, we identified how many people could have this ideal medication scheme and it turns out that there were many more than those who were taking advantage of it.”

This latest news comes just months after the country reformed its HIV treatment regime, leaving many fearful of shortages.

Public health officials warned of the possibility that thousands of Mexicans who rely on HIV treatment could be left without life-saving services after the government changed the way it funds treatment.

Reforms announced last month to centralize drug procurement risk sparking shortages, they say, while the government counters that it has ample supplies and hopes its changes will save money and cut corruption in the drug buying process. It’s these reforms they say that will help combat problems such as being sold outdated and obsolete drugs.

However, many HIV activists warn of a public health crisis.

In February, the government also said that it would no longer fund civil society organizations, leaving more than 200 groups fighting the disease without resources for core activities, such as HIV testing.