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Organized Crime Watches Nuevo Laredo Inch By Inch: Tamaulipas

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“Char” for Borderland Beat 

This article was translated and reposted from EL FINANCIERO 

Forty percent of the merchandise traded between Mexico and the United States passes through Nuevo Laredo, but since 2003 the military has been in charge of security.

It is a lie that there are cities that belong to no one. In Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, every inch of land has an owner who claims every movement of a city that is trapped. An owner that no one names, but who makes murmurs the language in this city.



In this border city there is a paradox: it has a powerful economic activity, 40 percent of the merchandise exchanged between Mexico and the United States passes through it; 16 thousand cargo trucks cross it every day, and 24 percent of foreign trade operations in the whole country are concentrated there.

On the other hand, it is one of the cities where its inhabitants consider it unsafe to live. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) of June of this year, 73.4 percent of Nuevo Laredo’s population considers their city to be unsafe.

Nuevo Laredo has not had a municipal police force since 2003. The mando unico, composed of military and National Guard, is the body in charge of security. Mayor Carmen Lilia Canturosas accepts that the military presence has increased and will continue to do so because it is not yet time to recreate a municipal police force.

The Two Welcomes In Nuevo Laredo

There are two welcomes for visitors. The first, at the airport, by the National Guard, which incisively checks travelers’ documents for migrants.

The second comes from a hawk of a criminal group who, because of the foreign plates on the van in which journalists are transported to the railroad bridge operated by Canadian Pacific Kansas City, signals us to stop.

The hawk, a man no more than 30 years old, with a wispy mustache, short hair and a thick face, gets out of his beat-up white van, from where he watches that nothing and no one enters the city without his gaze examining it.

When the van stops, the hawk converses with the driver: they exchange a few sentences and, with a worried face, he approaches him to open the door. The man blurts out a couple of questions in his northern accent.

-Where are they coming from, what are they coming to, where are they from?

None of those present dared to speak. The words ‘journalists’ and ‘reporters’ were about to appear, but no one dared to let them escape from their mouths.

-From the railroad, from Kansas City,” says someone. And, in unison, we all nodded, with a “yes.”

-Are you sure they’re all from Kansas? -says the hawk.

-Yes, all from Kansas,” we reply with a little lag.

‘We want to highlight the goodness of the city.’

In doubt, the man begins to record the faces of the crew members with his cell phone and asks for IDs. Not having Kansas credentials, we show the INE one.

-Are they all Mexicans? -he asked.

-All of them, all of them,” we answered.

After verifying that none of the crew members is a migrant, the man launches a corollary to his challenge, which lasts only a few minutes.

-Were they disrespected, were their belongings taken from them? -he asks in a loud voice so that there is a record in his videotaped report.

We all said no and they let us go. We have only been in the city for five minutes and we know who owns Nuevo Laredo. There is no no man’s land.
Then, when Carmen Lilia is asked if she is concerned about insecurity, the mayor answers that the situations in that area are undeniable, but that the crime rate has decreased. However, she has no figures to back up the reality in which she lives.
“We want to highlight the goodness of the city, which is much more than all the bad things they say about Nuevo Laredo. I think you hear about Nuevo Laredo and you also get scared,” she says.
There is no no man’s land.


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