The Tragic Death of Maria Santos Gorrostieta

This post is a little different than my normal posts but when this news story was brought to my attention, I felt I had to write something about it. Sadly, it’s a news story – and indeed, a situation – that’s been largely ignored by the world press.

This is Maria Santos Gorrostieta. She was 36 years old, a wife and mother of three, one-time mayor in the drug-trafficking western state of Michoacan in Mexico and an outspoken opponent of the vicious drug cartels operating there. On Nov. 17, her body was found in a ditch having been stabbed, burned and battered. She was apparently kidnapped in broad daylight in front of her young daughter. She had already survived two previous attempts on her life. The Daily Mail says:

The first assassination attempt came in October 2009 when the car she was travelling in with her first husband Jose Sanchez came under fire from gunmen … The attack claimed his life but Gorrostieta lived. She battled back from her injuries in the face of overwhelming tragedy, but she was not destined to know peace.

The next attempt on her life was just three months later, when a masked group carrying assault rifles ambushed her on the road between Michoacan and Guerreo state. The van she was travelling in was peppered by 30 bullets. Three hit her. This time her wounds were more severe, leaving multiple scars and forcing her to wear a colostomy bag. She was left in constant pain.

But she refused to give up. In an interview she gave after the second attempt on her life, she said:

“I have had to bear losses that I would not wish on anyone, and have had to accept them with resignation and with the knowledge that it is our Lord’s will, and have gone on, even with a wounded soul. Despite that, and despite my own safety and that of my family, what occupies my mind is my responsibility towards my people: the children, the women, the elderly and the men who break their souls every day without rest to find a piece of bread for their children. I will get up however many times God allows me to, to keep on searching, scratching, negotiating plans, projects and actions for the benefit of all of society, but in particular, for the vulnerable ones. This is who I am.”

Sadly, her death is only one minor part of a much larger story, all of which is being largely ignored by the world’s media. Since the 1980s, most people in the West are familiar with the term “War on Drugs”. What many people are not aware of is the huge toll this war has taken on countless innocent people. Again, from the Daily Mail:

Mexico has been torn apart by murderous drug gangs since President Felipe Calderon launched his drug offensive in 2006. More than 50,000 people have been killed in clashes between rival drug cartels and security forces and about two dozen mayors have been murdered. The cartels have ruled the streets with fear for years, enforcing their authority with murders, bribery and torture.

From January to September last year, 12,903 people were killed in the country in drug-related crime, ranging from gang members, Mexican military and innocent victims caught up in gun battles.

The Mexican government claim they are winning the war on drugs, but few outside – or inside – the country believe that. So corrupt are their police that they are rarely employed in combating the cartels. Instead, the country relies on its army to tackle the gangs while it attempts to rebuild its police forces. Public support for the drug war continues to fall as the death toll rises and the cartels’ profits rise.

The U.S. Justice Department considers the cartels as America’s greatest organised crime threat, while conceding that it is U.S. dollars that fund the crime ravaging Mexico. In 2009 a military assessment predicted that if the drugs war continued for another 25 years, Mexico’s government was at serious risk of collapse and the conflict would spread into America.

Whatever your opinion on drugs – whether liberal or conservative – it has to be admitted, the “War on drugs” is definitely not winning.

(Image: Click on pic for credits)

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