Saturday, July 9, 2011

People “Flee to Larger Cities” for Security

(Thanks to Russell1200 for the heads up)
Preparedness popular folklore says refugees will abandon the larger cities which will be burned to the ground, seeking shelter in the smaller, safer communities. While that’s what most people believe, it’s not always the case. The article below is yet another example of how fiction and wishful thinking clashes against the much more complex reality:

Deserted Villages Left to Become Ghost Towns

Photo by Michel Marizco
Story by Michel Marizco
Fronteras, NPR
A sparse crowd gathers for a festival in the Mexican town of Tubutama. Many residents have been driven away by that country’s drug war. Photo by Michel Marizco
In northern Mexico’s smallest towns, cartel violence has led to a diaspora as people flee to larger cities. Along the U.S.-Mexico border, villages in the Mexican states of Sonora, Chihuahua and Tamaulipas are emptying out, leaving lawless ghost towns.
In some of those towns in Sonora, residents say the government can no longer protect them.
The long ribbon of highway outside of town stretches for miles. Desert scrub grows out onto the cheaply paved road in the mountains of Northern Sonora. Locals warn don’t go too far up into the hills. Even the Sinaloa Cartel stays out. So does the Mexican Army. They circle them instead.
In the hills, their target is a narco-trafficker who has successfully fought both the Army and the cartels off for the past year. He goes by the name “El Gilo”. Mexican federal law enforcement sources identify him as Arnoldo del Cid Buelna; he’s a holdover of the Beltrán Leyva cartel and has been in the mountains south of Arizona for years.
In 2010, the Sinaloa Cartel, the most powerful cartel in the Western Hemisphere, moved against him, trying to roust him from the hills. He ambushed their convoy. Officially, he murdered 21 cartel gunmen. Unofficially, local reporters say there were so many dead that police used bread trucks to haul the bodies down. Since then, both the government and the cartel stay at a respectful distance.
The largest of the towns in these hills is Tubutama. A 300 year old mission town. Father Anastasio Franco Gómez gives the Mass on this day.
“The last census counted 1,750 people; right now, I doubt there are 500 left,” Gomez said in Spanish.
The town’s last local cop was shot dead in mid June. The police station, closed down. Companies stopped delivering goods to the local stores. School teachers have left; businesses locked up.
Empty roads, empty houses sit in the middle of town, their windows shattered out. Maria Luisa Galvach has been the mission’s keeper for 18 years.
“There are no medics. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing,” Galvach said. “The health clinic that served the region is closed down.”
Travel further into the hills and closer to the U.S. border in Arizona. The last Army checkpoint is miles behind now. Pull into the pueblo of Cerro Prieto. This is Gilo’s territory. The town is nearly deserted.
Leonardo, 11, is helping his dad work on a house. He grew up in Phoenix where they lived illegally before returning to Mexico. He hoses the sweat off on this hot day and goes to stand shyly behind his father. “They come with guns here. Like … people. Scary,” he said, quietly.
Like the other towns here, there is no gas station or large grocery store. For those, one must drive down into the cities. But people have been killed by the cartel for trying to bring fuel or food back up. The assumption is it will go to Gilo. The Mexican Army? It stands back and watches.
It leaves Leonardo’s father angry, frustrated. “They don’t allow us to bring provisions, fresh vegetables, nor gasoline,” he said in Spanish.
The boy Leonardo has clear instructions for when the gunmen come. “Just go to … like inside the house and stay there,” the boy said.
And then, Gilo comes.
“Who are you looking for? Gilo? I’m Gilo,” the man says as he approaches.
He’s a large man; huge. Blonde hair clipped short, wearing a black button-down and strings of bright yellow and orange plastic beads. He’s driving a beat-up maroon pickup truck with five men inside. Six men sit in the bed, staring like cats. Their hands grasp the rails of the truck as if they’re ready to leap out. His eyes are blue and he’s angry. At the government, he says.
“The government brought in mercenaries,” Gilo said in Spanish. “They’re arming a war.” He’s prepared, he says.
Back down the lawless road into the main town, the few children left are warming up for San Pablo Day: A historic festival that’s always drawn a crowd from both sides of the border. The crowd is supposed to spill out from the mission and onto the church square for the celebration.
This year, it barely filled the pews.
While cities and the greater amount of population that comes along with them present several inconveniences to deal with during troubled times, that doesn’t mean that during widespread violence small towns would be spared. As the article clearly explains, its people from these smaller, scattered towns with not enough law enforcement manpower that are leaving and moving to big cities for protection.
When violence is out of control across an entire nation, resources must be concentrated where they are the most productive. An X amount of resources (money, supplies, manpower, etc…) may be put to better use and benefit more people in a 50.000 population city, than spreading them in 5 smaller towns with 1000 inhabitants each.
The truth is that no nation (not even USA) has the ability to secure every town and city across the entire country from a generalized wave of crime. If that ever occurs, tough decisions such as the one I just exemplified will have to be made.
Join the forum discussion on this post


Anonymous said...

All things considered, I'll be far away from the cities. When it goes, it will be worse in the U.S. than has occurred in Argentina. a

Anonymous said...

I understand all that, but if one is prepared properly it won't matter where you are. Period.


Don Williams said...

1) Ferfal, London's Financial Times has an interesting article this weekend titled "The Middle-Class Trapdoor".

2) Author talks about visiting friends in Argentina in 2002 who had been middle-class, more prosperous than Europeans, who were starting to realize that they had fallen through a trapdoor into Third World poverty.

Some sad examples -- of once rich businessman working at age 71 as an exterminator. In another case, a woman lose her mother and later realized that her mother, a nurse, had diagnoised her illness, realized it was too expensive to treat, and quietly chose to die.

3) Author talks about how people struggle to realize that they have fallen into a world where there is no physical security and no social safety net. No government that will provide help in the event of misfortune.

Article is here:

4) Does this sound plausible? I would think the hardest part mentally would be getting over the intense anger -- getting over the craving urge to lynch some politicans and bankers.

D.Mitchell said...

In the US we would be expected to protect ourselves with our guns. It is true the police can not protect us, that is why we must do it ourselves. A man that holds an entire town hostage, should be shot from with in.

Anonymous said...

Then again, if you could put yourself into "El Gilo's" position, you'de seemingly be pretty damn safe in the country, no?

Anonymous said...

Some links (in spanish) to the Tubutama incidents :



More info on it on "El Blog del narco". Frightening to say the least.

Anonymous said...

How does this guy conduct business if he's been bottled up for the past year by the Army and the Sinaloa Cartel?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Don Williams. Interesting article. The tone was welcome: neither alarmist nor depressed. Perhaps neutral and realistic.

Anonymous said...

There is really no way to compare the situation in Mexico with what one would face in the US. Rural citizens in the US are heavily armed, most with military-style weapons, and very experienced at hunting and shooting, and these folks and their children have fought in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and other places throughout the World. It would be very difficult for drug gangs to gain control over large areas and intimidate the populace the way it has happened in Mexico. That's not to say it couldn't be done in places, I just don't think you can expect the same outcome. I'm pretty sure that we are soon to test the theory, so we will find out who is right.

J. Knight

Anonymous said...

This occured down here on the Mexican side of the Falcon Lake Resevoir a couple of months ago. Ciduad Mier became a ghost town, its townspeople told to 'get out or die' because the cartels were using the town to hide drug shipments, which were being prepared to be shipped across the Rio Grande River.

Here is a link to the border violence website with story:


Cartel violence happens every day down here, kidnappings / car jackings / drive-bys / extortions etc. Local TV station story told of cartels planting drugs on frequent border crossers, than finding them on THIS side with planted GPS unit. The story here, from KRGV-TV Weslaco.