The headline of today’s AP article, “Violence no worse than usual in Ciudad Juarez” trivializes a ridiculous and unacceptably violent situation in the border town across from El Paso, Texas. The second paragraph in the article reads:

But violence did not appear to be worse than usual in Ciudad Juarez, home base of the powerful Juarez drug cartel and one of the hardest-hit cities in a surge of homicides across Mexico.

“Worse than usual?” Are readers of the AP and MSNBC expected to accept the following “as usual” for the citizens and residents of Juarez?

Security officials reported at least six homicides since Saturday, including two municipal police officers who were riddled with machine-gun fire as they were getting into a car. Several businesses were set on fire, but nobody was hurt. The weekend homicide figures were not especially alarming in a city where more than 200 people have been killed thus far this year. Eight people were killed on Friday alone, including five men whose bodies were dumped on a street corner wrapped in blankets. Two of the men had been decapitated.

“The weekend homicide figures were not especially alarming.” Who is this AP writer kidding?! Eight people were killed on Friday and two had their heads cut off… and that is not “alarming?” Goodness gracious.

Following my post and reflections on Friday (“Drug violence in Mexico is bad: VERY bad”) I wanted to check in today and see how the weekend went in Juarez. Despite this misleading AP headline, I would conclude the situation continues to be HORRIBLE in terms of out-of-control drug cartel related violence.

Today’s El Paso Times article, “25 slain during weekend in Juárez,” reports:

More than 33 people were killed this past week compared with 25 slayings the previous week.

If this is not a case of drug-related violence spinning out of control on the Mexico – U.S. border, what is?

According to the May 18, 2008 AP article, “Police chief resigns in Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez amid wave of killings,” of twenty-two public officials threatened by the drug cartels this month, only ONE remains in office today. The rest are dead, injured, or (like the police chief of Juarez) have resigned:

As police chief of Ciudad Juarez, Prieto served during a period in which drug cartels grew increasingly bold, advertising for drug couriers, shooting it out with rivals in the streets and issuing a hit list threatening 22 top city police officials. Of those 22, seven have been killed, three more have been wounded in assassination attempts and the remainder, save one, have left their posts.

From an educational standpoint, I realize many (if not most) students and teachers in midwest U.S. schools are either out for the semester or will be soon. This current event would be a good one to track in the remaining days of the school year, however, both on Google News (a simple keyword search for “Juarez” turns up plenty of articles) as well as Technorati. Surprisingly, there have not been any recent articles on Global Voices Online about drug cartel violence in Mexico. The latest article I find there is from Eduardo Avila in January 2008: “Mexico: Drug-Related Violence in Tijuana.” Are Mexican bloggers reticent to speak up about this wave of crime and drug-cartel related killings? They may be wise to take such a position. Apparently all the authorities are bowing to the violence and threats of violence.

Do we, in the United States, living as many of us do in protected pockets of relative peace and tranquility, realize the violent and harsh reality lived daily by many of our fellow North Americans living just south of our border? Drug-related violence is certainly a reality in the United States as well, but similar situations to that in Juarez where city and police officials are silenced and forced from office by the drug-cartels are not happening in the U.S. as far as I know. But what do I know? Relatively little, but at least Internet websites and new media publication sources permit access to a much greater set of voices than would have been possible even a few years ago. Today’s Ciudad Juarez news article, “Bad Moon Rising: The Crisis in Ciudad Juarez” reports:

“Juarez has been lost to us,” shrugged Arturo Dominguez, president of the city public safety commission. “The crime rate comes from not paying attention. All of us, citizens, functionaries and businessmen, lost control of the city watching was happening on the corner but saying nothing. It is regrettable there is no order, but if we’ve lost control, we shouldn’t at least lose hope.”

From a documentation standpoint, I’ll point out that I was unable to find this article on what I think is the original source’s website. Tracking news events like this with search tools like Technorati is MESSY and can lead to many important discussions about information, credibility, validity, and sources. Certainly it is much easier to simply teach out of the textbook and from previously utilized blackline masters, but in our digital information age it is ESSENTIAL for students and teachers alike to grow adept at filtering and verifying information sources about different topics. Who is the source? How can we verify what they said? Do they have an obvious agenda or bias? If others disagree with their point, what reasons can we provide for those disparities? These are all good questions, and the issues at stake in this case are NOT trivial.

New media information fluency skills are needed by ALL learners, not simply those enrolled in technology applications courses. How will our students formally learn and practice these skills in school, if our teachers are not provided with sustained professional development opportunities to learn and practice them? As David Warlick exhorts us, literacy is EVERYONE’S business. We should strive to make the most of every learning opportunity each day, and this horrific situation in Juarez certainly provides many options for exploring and learning about new literacies.

Larry Lessig, The Sunlight Foundation, and others are fighting to curb corruption in U.S. politics via the Change Congress campaign. Who is fighting to end not only drug-cartel sponsored violence in northern Mexico, but the endemic and institutionalized corruption which permits it to flower? I don’t know. That would be a great question for your students to tackle in the weeks ahead.

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  • Erin

    Check out what Charles Bowden writes about Juarez. Also, Scott Carrier on NPR and Hearing Voices. And, a native of Juarez, Julian Cardona. His photographs show what is going on and why.

    It is good that you’re asking questions.

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