The grisly massacre of 52 people at a casino in late August has ended any lingering pretense of normalcy in Mexico. This became quite apparent when I was covering the murders here.
Upon hearing about the attack, I immediately went to Monterrey. I wanted to be there so that I could see for myself what was happening on the ground; so that no one could say that all I do is criticize my native Mexico from a distance.
Porfirio Patino, one of my fellow journalists at Univision, and I were en route to Monterrey’s Casino Royale with our driver when a Mexican soldier raised his machine gun, finger on the trigger, and aimed directly at our car, while another two soldiers, their weapons drawn, approached and ordered us to stop. After they confirmed we were journalists, the troops ordered us to turn back, without any explanation.
These jittery soldiers were part of a contingent of more than 3,000 troops and federal policemen who flooded Monterrey following the killings. On Aug. 25, several men had entered the casino, opened fire, and sent people inside scrambling to bathrooms and offices. The gunmen then set the gaming hall on fire.
After this brazen attack, the government could no longer hold to its official line that violence in Mexico was a matter of isolated cases of drug gangs.
People in Monterrey were outraged. They were incensed at the murderous criminal organizations terrorizing the nation, but they were also furious with President Felipe Calderon and those in his administration who had failed, once again, to protect them. I don’t believe that the massacre in Monterrey will mark a turning point for Mexico. I wish it did: People in Mexico want change, but Calderon is not going to change. Resigning ourselves to waiting doesn’t mean giving up the fight against the cartels. I am not proposing that Mexico’s next government strike a truce with the criminal organizations or offer any sort of amnesty: no one in his right mind should negotiate with these murderers. But Calderon’s military-led strategy against the drug cartels, in place since his election in 2006, is simply not working.))