Ciudad Juarez, which shares a border with El Paso, in Texas, is the most violent city on earth. But you will not see smoking buildings or blown-up cars. What you notice is the deathly indifference in people’s eyes.
Since President Felipe Calderón launched his offensive against the drug cartels in late 2006, more than 50,000 people have been murdered in Mexico. Juarez, located in the northern state of Chihuahua, has hurt most in the drug wars, with 10,000 executions in the last four years.
Calderón’s crackdown has failed. In Juarez, where he ordered in the army and the federales to take over from corrupt police, all that has happened is they have brought one cartel, La Linea, to its knees, while permitting another, Sinaloa, to take its place.
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Picture this. You’re out on the town and walking the streets, tired and hungry. Maybe also a little bit tipsy. But instead of hitting up the local McDonalds or greasy kebab store, you just get out your phone, head to Twitter or Facebook and get the location of your nearest food truck.
If that means nothing to you, then don’t worry, it soon will. Food trucks are basically mobile restaurants, full of versatile quality food, at cheap prices. They’ve achieved cult-like status in cities like New York and Los Angeles, where they’re praised as the best alternative to eating out, and one of the only businesses thriving in their post GFC climate. They’re also about to hit a city near you.
Starting here in Sydney, where City of Sydney Council will be rolling out ten trucks within metro areas from the first weekend of May. But if you love authentic South Mexican food, then look no further than Al Carbón (literal Mexican translation: “the coal”) and the masterful hand of Atilla Yilmaz, an ex-cop who says the food truck craze will also make Sydney a safer place to hang out at night.
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Some people really know how to land on both feet. Such as the three blokes who host the absurdly popular TV show Top Gear, who are paid a whole shed-load of money to remain in a state of arrested mental development and live out an extended midlife crisis on television, while taking the piss out of people of other races whom they find stupid.
It’s assumed that men everywhere adore this program, hence the preponderance of Top Gear DVDs taking pride of place next to the socks and hankies every Fathers Day. It’s also said that women like the show too, that there’s something of a raffish, knockabout quality to host Jeremy Clarkson and his crew which the ladies find endearing or even irresistible. I know a few blokes who enjoy (or enjoyed) the show, but I’ve never met a woman who claims to like it, and suspect the latter assertion is made by men who simply want their wives or girlfriends to endure their seven-hour-a-week Top Gear habit.
Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond will be heading our way soon on one of their “Down Under” tours. It’s a pity that they didn’t choose instead to take their show on the road to another southern nation, namely Mexico, which was recently the subject of one of their zany gags, and whose excellent citizens would probably love the chance to see these blokes in the flesh.
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Just over 12 months ago, when the death toll from the drug war in Mexico was about to hit 10,000, I wrote a column for our website quietly commending Australia’s casual coke-users for playing their own small role in contributing to the violence.
It was a simple bit of supply and demand economics and one which was met with scorn by some readers, who disputed any link between their decision to rack up at a Sydney nightclub and the fact that Mexicans are living (and dying) in servitude and terror at the hands of cartels.
It’s unclear how they came to be such authorities on the provenance of their drugs, but these readers asserted that the cocaine you get in Australia has got nothing to do with the cartels which have gone close to destroying Mexico.
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Welcome to Friday @ The Punch
On this day in 1968 a peaceful demonstration in Mexico City erupts into what is now called the Tlatelolco massacre. Hundreds of protestors were gunned down by government police and army forces.
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On the current, sickening trends, the number of Mexicans killed in the drug-related bloodshed which has paralysed the country since January 2007 will hit 10,000 within the next few weeks, or possibly even days.
To put that in perspective, an estimated 3500 people died in the 30-year period of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It also eclipses the number of American troops killed in the War in Iraq, which at the latest count stands at 4333.
Australia’s sizeable cokehead community - even the casual users who had a discreet line in the loo last night at some groovy Sydney wine bar - should give themselves a quiet pat on the back for the role they’ve played in the deaths of these people.
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I woke up to a different Mexico on April 23, 2009. I was returning from covering a story in Hong Kong. And this was a really different Mexico: people on the street wearing blue masks, the media and internet in complete madness, collective panic.
And us Mexicans, who are always so warm in our daily dealings, sharing food with others, kissing and hugging each other hello every time we meet - these beautiful customs were suddely gone amid the fear of contagion of a “new virus”.
Where had this virus come from? Pigs are not reared side to side with birds in Mexico. It was so absurd. We had never even had a case of dangerous flu.
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Two Fridays ago we were all blissfully unaware of the impending doom about to be unleashed by those damn Mexicans and their unusual domestic arrangements with pigs. By Monday April 27 we were in the brace position – suspiciously eyeing anyone who appeared to be of Latin origin – and being warned not to cause a run on the national supply of Tamiflu.
By midnight that night all pilots in charge of flights coming from affected countries were ordered to report any passengers with flu-like symptoms, while TV news bulletins led with the installation of thermal imaging scanners at the airports. The NSW Government rushed through emergency powers to detain people with suspected cases in their homes. But swine flu jokes were already rampant as the death toll from suspected cases in Mexico climbed to the low hundreds.
Then the unthinkable happened – a 23-month-old became the first person to die of suspected H1N1 in the United States. The UNITED STATES!
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DEATH is often depicted in Mexico as an ever-present and humanised force, in the form of a skeletal woman with nicknames such as The Bald One, The Skinny One, The Weeping Woman and, creepiest of all, The Fancy Lady.
The country’s pre-Colombian traditions and its bloody modern history provide a good foundation for a death cult. The Mexican Revolution claimed at least 1.4 million lives between 1910 and 1917. The official toll from the 1985 Mexico City earthquake is 10,000; Mexicans say it’s more than 30,000. Since January last year, the number of drug-related murders stands at 7337 - not all murders, just drug murders.
A lot of them aren’t routine shootings. One guy nicknamed El Pozolero, The Stew-Maker, was arrested last year for boiling down the bodies of more than 100 rival cartel members in vats of acid.
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