Many people will spend today exchanging roses, chocolates, Hallmark cards and their fair share of saliva, as is tradition in our country. Others take a more apathetic approach toward the holiday, while a small minority will wallow in heartbreak, consumed in a state of proverbial obsolescence.
For the citizens of Ciudad Juárez and other cities in Mexico that have been ravaged by drug-related violence, this notion of heartbreak hits much closer to home. According to Mexican officials, 34,612 people have died in drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared a war against drug cartels in 2007. And in 2010 alone, these killings reached their highest level, with a total of 15,273 deaths. To put this in perspective, the Iraqi occupation caused 4,436 American troop casualties since 2003.
The recent surge in violence has undoubtedly been a byproduct of United States and Mexican drug laws, particularly the militaristic approach that has characterized enforcement of the latter. With drug prohibition, a black market is created in which individuals are unable to settle conflicts through the legal system. Thus, drug cartels resort to violence to settle disputes.
Mainstream news coverage and attention given to this atrocity by our federal government has been negligible. Between the two of them, President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz.) produced thousands of sound bites during the heated 2008 presidential election. Yet, they seldom mentioned the rampant violence that has overtaken the U.S.-Mexico border, let alone addressed the issue in detail. Rather than come to a stop, the violence associated with the Mexican Drug War has increased at an alarming rate.
Not only has the Mexican War on Drugs placed the security of our southern neighbor in jeopardy, violence associated with the illicit drug trade has spilled over into the U.S., especially around border cities. ABC News reported that Phoenix, Ariz. has become the new kidnapping capital of the United States.
In response to the egregious absence of news coverage by mainstream outlets regarding the increasing violence that is consuming Mexico, a coalition of University student groups has convened to enhance awareness about the atrocity taking place south of our border. Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the University’s chapter of College Libertarians, Latin@ Social Work Coalition, the University’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Through Education and Students Organizing for Labor & Economic Equality have named Feb. 14 as a day of awareness about the Mexican Drug War.
A daylong campaign will take place to reach out to the campus community, including distribution of informational flyers and an artistic exhibition of drug-related violence. These efforts will culminate at 6 p.m. at Rackham Amphitheatre, with three renowned speakers providing their insight on the drug-related violence in Mexico and offering solutions to this underreported tragedy. This event is free, and the campus community is encouraged to attend.
Emily Basham is the executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Alex Biles is the vice president of the College Libertarians.