Mexico’s famous tourist destination Acapulco has seen a disturbing trend in 2016: assassins using jet-skis to conduct mid-day murders on the beach, suggesting the city’s sky-high violence is increasingly affecting its tourism industry.
On January 29, an assassin swam to the beachfront of Acapulco Bay from his nearby jet-ski, 9mm pistol in hand, and shot a 46-year old beach vendor three times in the chest, reported Daily Mail. The murder, which occurred in broad daylight as sunbathing tourists looked on, is the fourth such “jet-ski assassination” in the tourist hotspot this year.
Following the shooting, the assassin swam back to his waiting jet-ski, which was being driven by an accomplice, and sped off down the coast. It took Mexican police an hour to respond to the attack, and over a month later the perpetrators have not been identified.
Extortion rings are known to operate in the area, demanding a 15 percent tax from the earnings of local businesses and street vendors, according to Daily Mail. While the motive for the killing is unclear, its brazen nature may have been a message to other businesses — pay up or die.
A local crime reporter told Daily Mail that 50 percent of murders in Acapulco are cartel related, and 30 percent are linked to extortion.
Previously, however, Acapulco’s criminal violence has been largely contained to the city’s periphery. But, as these “jet-ski assassinations” suggest, it is now increasingly affecting its traditionally safer tourist center.
According to the BBC, tourism has been estimated to form as much as 80 percent of Guerrero’s economy. If continued violence in Acapulco significantly affects the local tourism industry by dissuading visitors it could have disastrous effects on the region’s economy, robbing residents of legitimate livelihoods and potentially giving rise to even more violence.
Mexico, John M. Ackerman wrote recently for Foreign Policy, “is not a functional democracy.” Instead, it’s a “repressive and corrupt” oligarchy propped up by a “blank check” from Washington.
Since 2008, that blank check has come to over $2.5 billion appropriated in security aid through the Mérida Initiative, a drug war security assistance program funded by Washington. Negotiated behind closed doors in the last years of the Bush administration, the plan was originally proposed as a three-year program. Yet Hillary Clinton’s State Department pushed aggressively to extend it, overseeing a drastic increase of the initiative that continues today.
Much of this aid goes to U.S.-based security, information, and technology contracting firms, who make millions peddling everything from helicopter training to communications equipment to night-vision goggles, surveillance aircrafts, and satellites.
This aid comes in addition to the direct sales of arms and other equipment to Mexico authorized by the State Department, as Christy Thorton pointed out in a 2014 New York Timesop-ed. Those sales reached $1.2 billion in 2012 alone, the last full year of Clinton’s tenure. Indeed, as the Mérida Initiative has grown, Mexico has become one of the world’s biggestpurchasers of U.S. military arms and equipment.
But while sales have boomed for U.S.-based contractors, the situation in Mexico has badly deteriorated. The escalation of U.S. counter-drug assistance in the country has paralleled a drastic increase in violence, fueling a drug war that’s killed more than 100,000 people since 2006.
High-profile human rights cases — such as the kidnapping and disappearance of the 43 students from the teacher-training college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero in September 2014 — sparked renewed attention to the devastating effects of the U.S.-funded drug war in Mexico. Yet, they didn’t come out of nowhere.
Forced disappearances like these were ballooning even as Clinton was pushing Mérida Initiative programs forward, with official records reaching upwards of 3,000 to 4,000 people a year in 2011 and 2012. According to the United Nations, these widespread kidnappings and disappearances often involve state authorities, and the problem is worsened by the government’s failure to investigate.
U.S. laws explicitly prohibit the delivery of aid to foreign individuals and units implicated in systematic human rights violations. But files released by WikiLeaks revealed that Clinton’s State Department regularly received information on widespread “official corruption“ in Mexico, even as they were bolstering the flow of equipment, assistance, and training that ended up in the hands of abusive and compromised security forces.
Indeed, in 2009 and 2010 — the middle years of Clinton’s tenure at State — U.S. embassy cables boasted that intelligence and military cooperation between the two countries had never been better. Such cables, and the full archival orbit of declassified and leaked U.S. and Mexican records, demonstrate that Clinton’s State Department repeatedly cleared the delivery of U.S. assistance training and equipment to security forces implicated in corruption or abuse.
One document from June 2011 recorded a visit of U.S. officials to the northern state of Tamaulipas in May 2011 to assess training needs for state security forces. The visit came as Mexico’s federal authorities were trying to cover up the discovery of mass graves from the recent San Fernando massacres in the region. Even as U.S. officials were reporting on the Mexican government’s complicity and cover-up of the massacres, the U.S. embassy recommended further training for Tamaulipas security forces.
The same document also reports that Mexican immigration agents had been fired for kidnapping migrants. Yet the delivery of biometric data equipment to the same agency continued unimpeded.
In the southern state of Guerrero, meanwhile, records from 2009 to 2010 show that the U.S. embassy cleared local and federal police, military officials, and investigative agents for training and assistance from units implicated in human rights violations. Even then, the U.S. embassy — and not to mention reputable human rights groups — knew about the direct involvement of government officials in abuses there.
Human Rights Watch reported in 2011, for example, on widespread cases of torture in Guerrero going back to 1994. The group noted regular abuses by police and military forces, including “cases of homicide, torture, and extortion” overseen by the judicial police chief in the northern part of the state. The same report highlighted strong evidence of the involvement of military officials from Chilpancingo in cases of kidnapping and disappearances in 2010, as the U.S. embassy was clearing officials for training from the same military base.
After government security forces killed two students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training school during a protest in December 2011, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne sent a cable reporting that “the evidence of heavy-handed police tactics is strong and disconcerting.” It was the same school where, less than three years later, 43 students would be disappeared — and six others killed — after being attacked by local police forces.
The implementation and delivery of this equipment took place hand-in-hand with private contractors. Major players like General Electric, Honeywell, Motorola, Sharp, IBM, and Dell appear throughout records of these transactions, along with scores of others — including Science Applications International, Rapiscan, American Science and Engineering, RCA, and many more.
Several contractors benefited significantly from helicopter deliveries and services in particular. These played a prominent role in both the conduct and the promotion of the broader drug war effort.
Three Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, for example, were sent to Mexico’s federal police in November 2010. Just two weeks after their handover, they were deployed in the largest aerial operation conducted to date against the La Familia de Michoacán drug cartel. The U.S. embassy boasted in a secret cable that the operation — which reportedly led to the killing of drug kingpin Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, or “El Chayo” — was a “needed win“ for then-president Felipe Calderón in his increasingly unpopular war against the cartels.
El Chayo’s killing was the first clear evidence the State Department could highlight to show Congress that Calderón’s strategy — and the U.S. intelligence and security aid behind it — was leading to results. Yet the operation, which also caused large-scale civilian deaths, appeared to be in vain: The Mexican government reported that El Chayo was killed again, years later, in an operation carried out against the cartel in March 2014.
Nonetheless, the 2010 operation provided the justification to further ratchet up U.S. support. In May 2011, embassy staff accompanied Mexican federal police representatives to review an aircraft project in North Carolina and receive presentations from the AMCOM missile command and industry representatives. More aircrafts were subsequently delivered.
Sikorsky, along with other companies such as General Electric, continued to reap the benefits of the drug war in Mexico even after Clinton left the State Department. In March 2015, the department approved the sale of three Black Hawk helicopters to the Mexican military for $110 million. This followed a larger deal in April 2014 for 18 Black Hawks at $680 million.
Notably, several of the contractors that profited from U.S. security assistance in Mexico — such as General Electric, Lockheed Martin, and United Technologies Corporation, which owns Sikorsky — reportedly contributed to the Clinton Foundation. And according to the transparency group Open Secrets, Clinton currently tops the list of all 2016 presidential candidates in campaign contributions from the military contracting industry.
Back to Business as Usual
Naturally, Clinton herself was aware of how her department’s support for the Mexican drug war would look in light of the revelations about corruption and human rights abuses.
In January 2011, shortly after the release of a huge tranche of leaked diplomatic cables, Secretary Clinton apologized to her Mexican counterpart Patricia Espinosa for any “embarrassment” caused by the WikiLeaks documents, announcing her intention to get
“beyond WikiLeaks” and reaffirm the U.S.-Mexico relationship. Clinton expressed optimism that they could create a better “narrative” than the waste, fraud, and abuse revealed in the cables and regular media accounts and “explain to Congress why foreign assistance money under ‘Beyond Merida’ should continue.”
Getting beyond WikiLeaks, of course, meant getting back to business as usual — and back behind closed doors.
While thousands of Clinton’s own emails have since been released, the secrecy continues — with much of the important information still heavily redacted. For example, the emails contain potentially important documents, such as a memo to President Obama with a report on Clinton’s trip to Mexico City and Monterrey. This document, however, is completely redacted, except for one line.
In his piece for Foreign Policy, John Ackerman argued that Clinton’s defense of the status quo in Mexico is “grounded in a vicious cycle of complicities between economic and political elites on both sides of the border.” Indeed, the record available for public scrutiny shows that Clinton’s State Department — rather than addressing human rights concerns over the Mérida funding — focused on ensuring that security assistance continued in the face of abuse, cover-ups, and ongoing impunity.
Foreign Policy In Focus contributor Jesse Franzblau is a researcher and policy analyst. He’s worked on human rights documentation projects and assembled archival evidence for lawyers and judges working to advance transitional justice cases in Guatemala, at the Inter-American Human Rights Court, and in Spain. He’s written for The Nation, Al Jazeera, NACLA, The Intercept, Animal Político, and the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, among other publications.
El presidente municipal Evodio Velázquez Aguirre declaró que hechos como el asesinato de un hombre en la playa de la Condesa no afectarán “en lo absoluto” la próxima temporada vacacional de Semana Santa.
Para Evodio todo es miel sobre hojuelas, aunque Acapulco se desangre, porque lo único que le importa es salvar las vacaciones, los acapulqueños finalmente parece que son ciudadanos de segunda en su gobierno de reprimidos.
Estas declaraciones sugirieron a raíz de que un vendedor ambulante y otro hombre fueron atacados a balazos en un parián en la playa Condesa. Efectivos del Ejército, así como de la Gendarmería, ministeriales y turísticos llegaron al acceso a la playa que se ubica en la zona de La Condesa y en una palapa encontraron tirados a dos hombres con disparos en el cuerpo.
En la zona de La Condesa se ubican bares, discotecas, así como restaurantes en el área de playa y sobre la avenida Costera. La zona es regularmente patrullada por marinos y soldados.
Se informó que uno de los dos hombres atacados había sido levantado vivo y se lo llevaron sus familiares, mientras que la otra víctima quedó tendida en un pasillo del parián. El hecho fue visto por dos parejas de estadunidenses, quienes informaron a la autoridad.
De esta manera Evodio Velázquez minimizo los hechos y explico que el gobierno municipal trabaja fuerte para relanzar a Acapulco y “vamos al 80 por ciento de ocupación hotelera cada fin de semana (otra mentira mas por cierto de este mentiroso compulsivo) y eso genera derrama económica y no vamos a cesar, no vamos a dar ni un paso atrás, vamos hacia adelante y la estrategia funcionará y seguirá funcionando”.
Pobladores de la comunidad de Carrizal de Bravo, municipio de Leonardo Bravo en Guerrero, mantienen retenidos desde ayer al menos 150 elementos del Ejército Mexicano, quienes este jueves detuvieron y desarmaron a 60 policías de la Unión de Pueblos y Organizaciones del Estado (UPOEG).
De acuerdo a los primeros reportes, alrededor de las 10 de la mañana de este jueves, los policías ciudadanos adheridos a la UPOEG realizaron cateos a varias viviendas de la comunidad El Naranjo, generándose un enfrentamiento con un grupo criminal que opera en la zona que duró alrededor de cuatro horas, propiciando la intervención del Ejército con más de 150 elementos.
Los castrenses detuvieron y desarmaron a 60 de los integrantes de la UPOEG, pero 15 de los detenidos escaparon, por lo que habitantes de la sierra se organizaron y retuvieron a los uniformados.
Ante esto, el líder de la organización Bruno Plácido, informó que hay una versión no confirmada que indica que las 15 personas fueron emboscados y asesinados en la comunidad Ojo de Agua.
Los pobladores exigen que las autoridades rescaten los cuerpos de los 15 policías ciudadanos y advirtieron que mañana se concentrarán más personas en El Carrizal para realizar acciones de autodefensa.
(Con información de Radio Fórmula y El Sur Acapulco)
Mexico is launching a new security initiative in its most violent state, Guerrero, but doubts persist over its future success.
On October 27, Mexican Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong announced a new security plan to restore peace to the southwestern state of Guerrero, reported Excelsior.
The plan will bring a surge in federal security forces to the state and the creation of an anti-kidnapping unit in the city of Acapulco, as well as a new highway between the Costa Grande and Tierra Caliente regions intended to reduce insecurity by fostering development, according to Animal Politico.
Leading the security plan — which was announced by Osorio Chong after meeting with Guerrero’s new governor, Hector Astudillo Flores — will be General Alejandro Saavedra.
According to Animal Politico, Guerrero’s murder rate of 41.5 per 100,000 citizens is Mexico’s highest, and the official figure of 1,484 murders in the state through the first nine months of 2015 represents a 29 percent increase compared to the same period last year.
InSight Crime Analysis
Skepticism remains over the federal government’s new Guerrero initiative and promises by Osorio Chong and Astudillo Flores to improve the state’s security. Mexican authorities have launched a number of similar security initiatives in Guerrero over the past decade to little or no success.
Indeed, a recent report by the International Crisis Group found violence has continued in Guerrero despite previous deployments of federal forces. Instead of a lack of troops, the Crisis Group states Guerrero’s biggest security challenge is the public’s profound mistrust in the government as a result of impunity on human rights abuses and high levels of corruption. This has created a situation where horrific crimes like the 2014 disappearance of 43 students are no anomaly, but rather part of a pattern of violence that goes unpunished under the gaze of complicit or inept officials.
To break this cycle of violence in Guerrero, the Crisis Group recommends the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto give prosecution of unsolved disappearances and major human rights violations to an independent body backed by an international investigative commission.
Nonetheless, as the recent surge of federal forces in neighboring Michoacan state suggests, the Peña Nieto administration appears content recycling militarized security policies to combat violence in this part of the country. It’s unlikely, however, that Guerrero’s most recent security plan will obtain a new and lasting improvement.
CHILAPA, Guerrero — For nearly a week, gun-toting masked men loyal to a local drug gang overran this small city along a key smuggling route. Police officers and soldiers stood by as the gunmen patrolled the streets, searching for rivals and hauling off at least 14 men who have not been seen since.
“They’re fighting over the route through Chilapa,” said Virgilio Nava, whose 21-year-old son, a truck driver for the family construction supply business who had no apparent links to either gang, was one of the men seized in May. “But we’re the ones who are affected.”
For years, the United States has pushed countries battling powerful drug cartels, like Mexico, to decapitate the groups by killing or arresting their leaders. The pinnacle of that strategy was the capture of Mexico’s most powerful trafficker, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, better known as El Chapo, who escaped in spectacular fashion last month from a maximum-security prison.
And while the arrests of kingpins make for splashy headlines, the result has been a fragmenting of the cartels and spikes in violence in places like Chilapa, a city of about 31,000, as smaller groups fight for control. Like a hydra, it seems that each time the government cuts down a cartel, multiple other groups, sometimes even more vicious, spring up to take its place.
“In Mexico, this has been a copy of the American antiterrorism strategy of high-value targets,” said Raúl Benítez Manaut, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico who specializes in security issues. “What we have seen with the strategy of high-value targets is that Al Qaeda has been diminished, but a monster appeared called the Islamic State. With the cartels, it has been similar.”
While the large cartels are like monopolies involved in the production, transportation, distribution and sale of drugs, experts say, the smaller groups often lack international reach and only control a portion of the drug supply chain.
They also frequently resort to other criminal activities to boost their income, like kidnapping, car theft, protection rackets and human trafficking. And while the big cartels have the resources to buy off government officials at the national level, the smaller gangs generally focus on the local and state levels, often with disastrous consequences for communities.
That was abundantly clear in a case that stunned the nation last year, when 43 students disappeared in Iguala, a city a short distance from Chilapa.
Government investigators say that the mayor and the police in Iguala were allied with a local drug gang, which murdered the students and burned their bodies. Like here, the disappearances took place amid a fight over territory between local traffickers.
The fracturing of the cartels into smaller gangs requires a very different approach from what is being pursued at the national level, analysts say.
But even after the disappearance of the students made it obvious that fundamental changes were needed, the violence and abductions here in Chilapa have again laid bare the government’s inability or unwillingness to come up with an effective response.
“It’s as if nothing ever happened, as if there hadn’t been any precedent,” said José Reveles, an author of books on drug trafficking.
Successive governments have talked about a vast reform of the country’s police, but their efforts failed to weed out corruption and create professional security forces. President Enrique Peña Nieto proposed a series of changes last November, including centralizing control of the local police in each state, but that has not been carried out.
All these problems are on agonizing display here in Chilapa.
Residents and government officials say that Chilapa sits astride a route for smuggling marijuana and opium paste that is contested by two gangs. They ascended after the government succeeded in jailing or killing the leaders of the Beltrán Leyva cartel, which had previously dominated the region.
A group known as the Rojos, or Reds, now controls the city, residents and officials said. But the rural towns nearby are controlled by the Ardillos, whose name is derived from the word for squirrel. Residents have openly accused the mayor of ties to the Rojos, which he denies.
Violence between the groups has been accelerating for months. A candidate for mayor was assassinated in May, a few days after a candidate for governor was menaced by heavily armed men manning a roadblock.
It is common for bodies to be found, sometimes beheaded or with signs of torture. Last month, a beheaded body was left with a note: “Here’s your garbage, possums with tails.” Two days later, seven bodies were found. One was decapitated, with a message cut into the torso: “Sincerely, Rojos.”
Residents say that the gunmen who overran the town on May 9 were led by the Ardillos. The invaders disarmed the local police and began hauling men off.
“They said, ‘Bring us the mayor, bring us El Chaparro,’ ” said Matilde Abarca, 44, referring to the nickname of the head of the Rojos. Ms. Abarca’s 25-year-old son, a fruit seller, was grabbed by a group of masked gunmen, beaten and driven off in a pickup truck.
She said that the gunmen said they would return the abducted residents if the townspeople turned over the Rojos leader. At one point, some residents held a protest march, which was confronted by the gunmen in a tense standoff.
The occupation occurred even though soldiers and elite federal police officers were stationed in Chilapa because of the rising violence. But instead of forcing out the invaders, witnesses said the authorities simply stood by while the masked gunmen seized and intimidated residents, a contention supported by photographs and cellphone videos.
Some say that the authorities held back because the invaders claimed to be a community defense force, like those that have sprung up elsewhere to confront traffickers in the absence of government action.
The government has been criticized for repressing similar community defense groups, and the paralysis in Chilapa showed its lack of a coherent strategy for dealing with them. Other residents viewed the government’s passivity as outright complicity with the gangs.
“When they took the people away, there were police and soldiers there, and they did nothing,” said Victoria Salmerón, whose brother, a clothing seller, disappeared during the takeover. “It was as if they were on their side.”
Since the occupation ended on May 14, federal and state police have stayed on hand to keep order, and officials have pledged to investigate the disappearances. But there is virtually no sign of progress.
Aldy Esteban, the administrator for the municipal government, said that no leaders of either gang had been arrested since the May invasion.
“There’s clear evidence who took them, but we’ve had no answer” from the authorities, said Bernardo Carreto, a farmer who watched his three sons be taken away when they arrived in Chilapa to sell a calf. “They’re ignoring us. No one’s been arrested. Nothing has happened.”
The relatives of the 14 missing men meet daily in a restaurant near the tree-shaded town square. A government human rights official said that 10 more men may have disappeared during the takeover, but that the relatives are too scared to come forward.
Many of them cling to the hope that their loved ones may still be alive, perhaps forced to work on poppy or marijuana farms.
“They took them alive and they must return them alive,” said Mr. Carreto, echoing a slogan used by the relatives of the students who disappeared last year.
In that case, the National Human Rights Commission issued a report in July saying that the investigation into the students’ disappearance was deeply flawed and that vital leads were not pursued.
José Díaz, 52, a spokesman for the families here in Chilapa, said that about 100 people in the area have disappeared since the middle of last year, including his two brothers and a cousin.
He said his relatives had no connection to the gangs and were kidnapped simply because they were from Chilapa and entered Ardillo territory. Five headless bodies were later found, which he believes included those of his relatives, but he said that the government has not revealed results of DNA testing that could identify the corpses.
René Hernández, a spokesman for the Mexican attorney general’s office, said in an email that investigators have withheld some information from residents “to continue moving forward with the identification and location of the criminal groups in order to take definitive action without putting the residents at risk.”
Recent government data shows that the national murder rate has been steadily declining since its peak in 2011, which the government cites as evidence that its approach is working.
Despite the decline, many areas of the country continue to be shaken by violence as smaller groups of traffickers battle to fill the vacuum left by the deterioration of the large cartels.
Experts believe that even the powerful Sinaloa cartel, which is run by Mr. Guzmán, will eventually go the way of other large trafficking organizations and break into pieces, even with its leader once again at large.
“For Mexican organized crime, El Chapo is not the future,” said Alejandro Hope, a former Mexican intelligence official. “El Chapo is a remnant, a powerful remnant, but a remnant of the past all the same.”
Referring to the violence-convulsed state where Chilapa is, he added, “The future is Guerrero.”
Interview with María Simón, coordinator of the MSF project in Acapulco
In Acapulco, there is no traditional armed conflict. However, this city on the coast of the Mexican state of Guerrero is considered to be the third most violent city in the world, after San Pedro Sula in Honduras and Caracas in Venezuela. In the first six months of 2015, five hundred and twenty-four violent deaths by homicide were recorded in the city and that is just the tip of the iceberg. High levels of violence affect most of its inhabitants, including those from the Colonia Jardín district where, in 2014, MSF launched a project together with Health District 07, the Municipal Department of Health and the Acapulco branch of Pastoral Social, offering psychological services and care for survivors of sexual violence. María Simón, the project coordinator, has just returned from Acapulco.
Could you tell us about the situation in Acapulco?
Acapulco, known as an international tourist destination in the 70s and 80s, is currently affected by the brutal dynamics of clashes between different organised crime groups that are vying for control of the city. The rise in violence has had devastating humanitarian consequences for the population – murders, injuries, forced disappearances, kidnappings, extortion, forced recruitment of minors, systematic threats to the population, forced displacement and a clear breakdown of the social fabric.
How would you describe the population?
The people living in the peripheral “colonias” (districts) are exposed to the dynamics linked to violence on a daily basis. Since the outbreak of violence in the city, they have had to adapt their habits at personal, family and community levels.
The 60,000 inhabitants of the Colonia Jardín district where MSF works, suffer a high level of exposure to potentially traumatic past and recent events. The suffering experienced by the relatives of murder victims and missing persons, victims of kidnapping and extortion and people displaced by threats and violence, has a strong impact on their mental health.
Violence also causes a breakdown in the social fabric, with increased rates of school dropout, family dysfunction and domestic violence, unemployment, suicide and a general lack of opportunities.
What is the medical care given to these people like?
In the area of mental health, the project has six points of care located in health centres and a parish church, where psychotherapeutic services are provided to individuals, families and groups. Our psychologists are verifying on a daily basis that the consequences of violence are devastating for this population – symptoms related to anxiety, depression and post-traumatic disorders are frequent. We provide care to people who, having suffered or witnessed extremely violent events, have serious difficulties when it comes to moving on with their lives; they isolate themselves from their surroundings, they relive what happened over and over again, they have trouble thinking clearly and they suffer sleeping and eating disorders.
With regard to sexual violence, the care offered to survivors is seriously deficient given that it does not guarantee victims receive appropriate emergency medical care. MSF provides comprehensive care for survivors and to do so it has a doctor who is strengthening the capacities of the public health system and its staff. This strengthening is done through providing training on Mexican legislation in this area, which does guarantee comprehensive and confidential medical care for survivors.
MSF information session in one of the health centers in Colonia Jardín district.
What is the aim of this intervention?
To reduce the suffering of and psychosocial impact on these victims of violence, through the integration of mental health services from the primary level of care (health centres). We also want to ensure that victims of sexual violence have access to high quality comprehensive care.
How do we reach districts where the level of insecurity is so high and what is the strategy for reaching people?
In 2013, we carried out a dengue fever project, through fumigation and awareness-raising in the intervention area, the Colonia Jardín district in Acapulco. Through this action, we were able to learn about the reality of this population. The community component was essential in both the dengue fever project and in the current one. Since 2014, we have been working with a local team made up of residents of the Colonia Jardín itself. They explain to the population who we are and what activities we carry out, and we offer psychosocial talks in different areas of the community.
Promoting and raising awareness of mental health and sexual violence issues among the population is essential for breaking down myths and barriers and getting the residents to gradually start coming to consultations for the services offered by the project. Thanks to this strategy, many people who have been severely affected by the violence are learning about the existence of our services and going to them for help.
About half of the patients who come to consultations are children who are suffering the consequences of violence. For example, we are treating children who have witnessed their relatives being killed. In cases of this kind, developmental disorders are common, such as problems controlling urine, or speech and behavioural disorders. In the absence of proper care, the problems tend to worsen and may have an irreversible impact on the lives of these children.
What are the challenges we face?
The challenges we face are many, but without a doubt the main ones are to finish establishing a strong community strategy based on acceptance that allows us to continue to get closer to the population and to develop security strategies that are adapted to contexts of urban violence which are not comparable to those MSF normally faces in armed conflict scenarios.
MSF has been carrying out projects in Mexico since 1985.Throughout 2014, the organisation treated around 21,200 people in its different projects and provided 2,000 mental health consultations.