Mexico drug war casualty: Citizenry suffers post-traumatic stress
Outwardly, life seems normal; but as drug war kidnappings, extortion, and violence brush closer to the average citizen, experts say, the mental terrain looks like post-traumatic stress.
(Page 2 of 8)
But there is a growing sense – especially as violence spreads to new parts of the country like Veracruz – that there is another kind of victim. Most Mexicans are not direct targets – traffickers, public officials, police, journalists. They do not figure into any official violence tallies, but many feel that they are more than mere bystanders. They have been forced to change how they live: how they commute to work, how they travel, what they do in the evenings, how they dress, and how they socialize.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Veracruz, Mexico: Life under military protection
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Even if they are not directly affected, "people are experiencing terror from this world of death and violence," says Raúl Villamil Uriarte, a social psychologist and anthropologist at the Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico City. "The nation is suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from all this violence playing out."
The 'cockroach effect'
President Calderón's drug war strategy, which unleashed 45,000 military troops to loosen the grip of organized crime in the most-affected municipalities – such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, and more recently Acapulco and here in Veracruz – has had some formidable success. In July, the government boasted that its campaign had taken down 21 of the 37 most-wanted drug traffickers.
But violence has exploded. Drug-related homicides surged from 2,826 in 2007 to 15,273 last year, according to government data.
And while Mexico's homicide rate is lower than those of some countries in the region, like El Salvador and Honduras, it is the type of violence that sets this nation apart. It is decapitations and bodies dangling from bridges with warning notes, or the grenade thrown into a plaza in Michoacán's capital, Morelia, in September 2008. And it is massacres such as that of 13 Juárez high school students and two adults gunned down at a birthday party in January 2010; a car bomb that killed four and wounded more than a dozen in Juárez in July 2010; 72 bullet-riddled bodies of migrants found at a ranch in August 2010; a casino attack in the industrial city of Monterrey in broad daylight last August in which gunmen burst in and set fire to the building, killing 52 people.
The government maintains that its pressure on illicit groups has caused them to splinter, creating more havoc, a temporary but necessary byproduct of the fight.
It is true that most of the violence is contained: 80 percent of all homicides took place in 162 of Mexico's more than 2,400 municipalities, a national security spokesman said in August 2010. While urban violence abounds in Mexico City, the nation's capital, it is not the gang-on-gang gore that makes international headlines. And tourists can book hotels in Cancún and US retirees can nest in towns around Lake Chapala in Jalisco with little sense something is askew.