11 years since the government launched a crackdown on cartels, violence continues, rule of law is elusive and accusations of human rights abuses abound
Sofa, a medical assistant in Reynosa, a scruffy border city in northern Mexico, has a regular morning routine.
She wakes at 6am and readies her son for preschool; then she reviews her social media feeds for news of the latest murders.
Updates come via WhatsApp messages from friends and family: There was a gun battle on X street, They found a body in Y neighbourhood, Avoid Z.
In #Mexico today, choosing your route to work can be a matter of life or death, but Sofa compares the daily drill to checking the weather on the way out the door. It doesnt rain water here, she said. It rains lead.
It is 11 years since the then president Felipe Caldern launched a militarised crackdown on drug cartels deploying thousands of soldiers and promising an end to the violence and impunity. But the bloodletting continues, the rule of law remains elusive and accusations of human rights abuses by state security forces abound.
All the while, Mexico continues to race past a series a grim milestones: more than 200,000 dead and an estimated 30,000 missing, more than 850 clandestine graves unearthed. This year is set to be the countrys bloodiest since the government started releasing crime figures in 1997, with about 27,000 murders in the past 12 months.
Some of the worst violence in recent years has struck Reynosa and the surrounding state of Tamaulipas, which sits squeezed against the Gulf coast and the US border.
Once in a while, a particularly terrible incident here will make news around the world, such as the murder of Miriam Rodrguez, an activist for families of missing people, who was shot dead in her home on Mothers Day.
But mostcrimes are not even reported in the local papers: journalists censor themselves to stay alive and drug cartels dictate press coverage.
We dont publish cartel and crime news in order to protect our journalists, said one local news director, whose media outlet has been attacked by cartel gunmen. Eight journalists were murdered in Mexico in 2017, making it the most dangerous country for the press after Syria.
The information vacuum is filled by social media where bloody photographs of crime scenes and breaking news alerts on cartel shootouts are shared on anonymous accounts.
In Reynosa, violence has become a constant strand in everyday life. Morning commutes are held up by gun battles; movie theatres lock the doors if a shootout erupts during a screening. More than 90% of residents feel unsafe in the city, according to a September survey by the state statistics service.
Signs of the drug war are everywhere: trees and walls along the main boulevard are pockmarked with bullet holes. Drug dealers can be seen loafing on abandoned lots; every so often, rival convoys of gunmen battle on the streets.
Video cameras look down from rooftops; spies are all around. They have eyes everywhere, said one woman. It could be the government or the cartels.
The violence here first erupted around 2010 when the the Gulf cartels armed wing a group of former soldiers known as Los Zetas turned on their masters.
Since then, wave after wave of conflict has scorched through the state as rival factions emerge and collapse.
Fighting erupts over trafficking routes and the growing local drug markets, but state forces are also implicated: earlier this month, soldiers killed seven people, including two women, in what was described as a confrontation.
Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us