Killings Show Mexico’s Drug War Is Worsening

08 November, 2019

People in the Mexican town of La Mora are afraid that more violence is coming from drug traffickers who control the area.

La Mora has been holding funerals for and burying some of the nine women and children who were killed in an attack on Monday.

Some of the villagers are United States citizens. They spoke to The Associated Press about their fears.

Family and friends cry during the funeral for Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and her children Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 2, who died in an ambush, in La Mora, Mexico, on November 7, 2019. ( AP Photo / Christian Chavez)
Family and friends cry during the funeral for Dawna Ray Langford, 43, and her children Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 2, who died in an ambush, in La Mora, Mexico, on November 7, 2019. ( AP Photo / Christian Chavez)

"I do not feel safe here, and I won't, because the truth is we aren't safe here as a community," said David Langford. His wife, Dawna, and his two young sons were among the victims.

"We're here in the mountains, we have no access to (police), or very, very little," he said.

Langford and other village residents consider themselves Mormon, but they are not part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have both U.S. and Mexican citizenship.

Another group of Mormons live in the nearby community of Colonia LeBaron.

The burials took place late this week as Mexican soldiers stood guard. Army troops moved back and forth on the area's only paved road.

The women and children were traveling between the two villages in sports utility vehicles at the time of the attack. A few children escaped and walked out of the mountains to the nearest town for help.

There was no talk of revenge in the two communities, whose members are related, only justice.

"God will take care of the (evil)," Jay Ray, Dawna Langford's father, said.

Some people blame members of the Juarez drug cartel for the killings. They believe that the gunmen set up the attack as part of a fight with another group, the Sinaloa cartel, and the U.S. families drove into it.

Mexican officials said the attackers may have thought the vehicles belonged to a competing group.

But one man did not agree.

"They had to have known it was women and children," said Julian LeBaron. He said the eight children who survived reported that one mother got out of her car and raised her hands and was shot anyway.

To many, the violence seemed to demonstrate once more that the government has lost control over large parts of Mexico to drug cartels.

Some critics are questioning President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's "hugs, not bullets" policy. He wants to solve the Mexico's social problems instead of fighting drug traffickers with military force.

But the cartels appear to be getting even more violent. In the past, these groups had rules against killing children, families or foreigners, but not anymore.

Killing one person or killing nine, it's all the same," said Alejandro Hope, a security specialist. "They don't see any increased risk in committing these kinds of acts of extreme (violence)."

"The same goes for killing children, they don't see any line," said Hope. "And the reason they don't see it is that the government hasn't drawn it."

Mexico's militarized war on drug cartels began in 2006 under President Felipe Calderón. It was continued when Enrique Pena Nieto served as president.

López Obrador called off the war. He created a National Guard and says the way to fight Mexico's violent crime is with work programs and opportunities for young people.

Tuesday, he rejected calls for the old ways.

"We declared war, and it didn't work," Lopez Obrador said.

Former anti-drug prosecutor Samuel Gonzalez said that the government will have to change.

The cartels "have declared war on the government," Gonzalez said, adding that the government will have to answer with force.

For now, the violence continues.

In April, gunmen killed 14 people in the city of Minatitlan. In August, Jalisco cartel gunmen seized a nightclub in the city of Coatzacoalcos, blocked the doors and set a fire that killed 28 people. Earlier that month, the same cartel hung 19 bodies from a bridge in the Mexican city of Uruapan.

I'm Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

access – n. permission or an ability to do something

paved adj. of or involved a covered surface

revenge – n. the act of doing something to hurt someone because that person did something that hurt you

hugn. the act of pressing one's arms around someone else

opportunity – n. a good chance for success

prosecutor – n. a government lawyer