Violence at our local supermarket

Bob Weir
The plight of the Mexican people became stunningly clear to me recently when a friend of mine was visiting my Flower Mound, Texas home with his wife. My friend (who prefers to remain anonymous in this column, so I'll just refer to him as Joe) stopped by to discuss some ideas he has for making a significant and positive impact on the dreadful illegal immigration challenge facing our country.

Joe is a very successful entrepreneur who, through his charitable activities, has donated heavily to people in need, especially to those with a willingness to work at whatever jobs are available. We seldom hear about the immigrants who come to this country legally and make significant contributions to their adopted land. Joe, an Anglo who speaks Spanish fluently, can tell you many true stories of those who did. One is about a man I'll refer to as Sylvio who became part of the crew in Joe's contracting business. Becoming a naturalized citizen a few years ago, Sylvio, his wife, son and daughter began living the American dream. As many immigrants have done for generations, this family of Mexican-Americans were communicating with relatives in their native country and hoping that one day their extended families would be able to join them.

As Joe, his wife (we'll call her Betty) and I were sitting in my den having a spirited conversation about how to join with other caring people to work at resolving the menacing situation along our southern border, Joe's iphone rang. He looked at the face of it and said, "Hey, it's my friend, Sylvio!" He put the device to his ear and began to talk joyously in fluent Spanish.

Suddenly, his smile vanished and he stood up in apparent shock. Betty and I looked at each other and shrugged as Joe began to utter short, inquisitive-sounding sentences that reflected the horror and pain on his face. Since we both have some understanding of the language, we could gather that Joe's friend had been involved in a tragedy.

The strain on Joe's face magnified and he soon broke into tears as it became evident that Sylvio's wife and son had been murdered. When he hung up the phone, he buried his face in his hands and sobbed for a few seconds. After a few deep breaths he told us that his friend's wife and son had been visiting relatives in Juarez when they got caught in crossfire on the street after exiting a supermarket. They were struck by stray bullets and killed.

Often referred to as "murder city," Juarez is one of the most violent cities in the world. In December 2006, Felipe Calderon was elected for a single six-year term as President of Mexico and immediately declared an official war against the drug cartels plaguing his country, unleashing the full power of the Mexican army. Nevertheless, in 2007, there were 307 murders in Juarez. In 2008, there were 1,600-plus. Last year, there were 2,600. What's happened simultaneously is the collapse of the city; 27 percent of the houses (16,000) have been abandoned. At least 100,000 jobs in the factories have disappeared because of the recession. Half of the adolescents in Juarez neither have a job nor attend school. Gun battles on the streets of the city have become a daily occurrence and dead bodies have become part of the landscape. What we're seeing in that God-forsaken city is what appears to be a total disintegration of a society, only a short walk from the United States.  

Even as I was writing this column, a "Breaking News" popup menu on my computer read as follows: "Gunmen burst into a bar called "Desesperados" in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and opened fire...  killing five people and wounding nine others, authorities said. Assailants also killed the state's prisons director and his son in a second attack in the area, which has turned into a deadly battleground for warring drug cartels."

Keep in mind that this bloody battle is happening just across the border from El Paso, Texas, one of the most heavily trafficked areas for smuggling of people and drugs into the US. Violence stemming from drug wars has included beheadings and mass graves to handle the aftermath of the carnage. Our own Justice Dept. said the Mexican drug cartels are the greatest organized crime threat to the US. If we don't recognize this threat and deal with it soon, what happened to Sylvio's family may be coming to a supermarket near us. 

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. E-mail Bob. 
The plight of the Mexican people became stunningly clear to me recently when a friend of mine was visiting my Flower Mound, Texas home with his wife. My friend (who prefers to remain anonymous in this column, so I'll just refer to him as Joe) stopped by to discuss some ideas he has for making a significant and positive impact on the dreadful illegal immigration challenge facing our country.

Joe is a very successful entrepreneur who, through his charitable activities, has donated heavily to people in need, especially to those with a willingness to work at whatever jobs are available. We seldom hear about the immigrants who come to this country legally and make significant contributions to their adopted land. Joe, an Anglo who speaks Spanish fluently, can tell you many true stories of those who did. One is about a man I'll refer to as Sylvio who became part of the crew in Joe's contracting business. Becoming a naturalized citizen a few years ago, Sylvio, his wife, son and daughter began living the American dream. As many immigrants have done for generations, this family of Mexican-Americans were communicating with relatives in their native country and hoping that one day their extended families would be able to join them.

As Joe, his wife (we'll call her Betty) and I were sitting in my den having a spirited conversation about how to join with other caring people to work at resolving the menacing situation along our southern border, Joe's iphone rang. He looked at the face of it and said, "Hey, it's my friend, Sylvio!" He put the device to his ear and began to talk joyously in fluent Spanish.

Suddenly, his smile vanished and he stood up in apparent shock. Betty and I looked at each other and shrugged as Joe began to utter short, inquisitive-sounding sentences that reflected the horror and pain on his face. Since we both have some understanding of the language, we could gather that Joe's friend had been involved in a tragedy.

The strain on Joe's face magnified and he soon broke into tears as it became evident that Sylvio's wife and son had been murdered. When he hung up the phone, he buried his face in his hands and sobbed for a few seconds. After a few deep breaths he told us that his friend's wife and son had been visiting relatives in Juarez when they got caught in crossfire on the street after exiting a supermarket. They were struck by stray bullets and killed.

Often referred to as "murder city," Juarez is one of the most violent cities in the world. In December 2006, Felipe Calderon was elected for a single six-year term as President of Mexico and immediately declared an official war against the drug cartels plaguing his country, unleashing the full power of the Mexican army. Nevertheless, in 2007, there were 307 murders in Juarez. In 2008, there were 1,600-plus. Last year, there were 2,600. What's happened simultaneously is the collapse of the city; 27 percent of the houses (16,000) have been abandoned. At least 100,000 jobs in the factories have disappeared because of the recession. Half of the adolescents in Juarez neither have a job nor attend school. Gun battles on the streets of the city have become a daily occurrence and dead bodies have become part of the landscape. What we're seeing in that God-forsaken city is what appears to be a total disintegration of a society, only a short walk from the United States.  

Even as I was writing this column, a "Breaking News" popup menu on my computer read as follows: "Gunmen burst into a bar called "Desesperados" in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and opened fire...  killing five people and wounding nine others, authorities said. Assailants also killed the state's prisons director and his son in a second attack in the area, which has turned into a deadly battleground for warring drug cartels."

Keep in mind that this bloody battle is happening just across the border from El Paso, Texas, one of the most heavily trafficked areas for smuggling of people and drugs into the US. Violence stemming from drug wars has included beheadings and mass graves to handle the aftermath of the carnage. Our own Justice Dept. said the Mexican drug cartels are the greatest organized crime threat to the US. If we don't recognize this threat and deal with it soon, what happened to Sylvio's family may be coming to a supermarket near us. 

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. E-mail Bob.