A Worthy Complaint

The wind blows along the Borderland with the same ebb and flow of a tide. And in the midst of the holiday season, we count our blessings, savor the present and look to a new year filled with hope.

For some families, there is a void, a yearning for the past and a holiday spirit that can’t be ignited. Such is the case for a friend of mine. His son was killed less than a year ago, caught in the crossfire of a bloody war between drug cartels looking to take control of the lucrative drug corridor that is the area in and around Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua.

I sat with my friend in a restaurant earlier this week, days after a prominent Mexican human rights lawyer filed an official complaint with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands that charged Mexican President Felipe Calderon and billionaire drug lord Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman-Loera with crimes against humanity and human rights violations. According to The El Paso Times, it might have been the first time a complaint was directed towards a drug lord. The ICC has yet to decide whether it should launch an investigation.

Calderon announced that his government would crack down on drug cartels in 2006. Since then, more than 50,000 people have been killed, according to the Times story. Scores of people have disappeared, have been kidnapped and displaced – and Mexican citizens have long been fed up, especially in the state of Chihuahua, where it leads the country with the highest homicide rate. Calderon is accused of not doing enough to prosecute drug-related crimes. And there is a strong perception that he has been unable to stop the corruption within his own government to truly be effective in its crackdown on drug cartels.

In other words, what this complaint really says for the over 20,000 citizens who signed a petition that accompanied it, is that the government bit off more than it could chew when Calderon boldly declared war on drug cartels in 2006. At the same time, drug lords like Guzman didn’t even flinch, escalating the activities of his Sinaloan Drug Cartel, filling the Borderland with fear through unspeakable crimes.

“Calderon is the Mexican leader, so in a sense he’s like the head of a household,” my friend said. “He doesn’t have his house in order, and for that he is partly to blame for all of this.”

My friend chooses to remain anonymous for the sake of his safety. Drug leaders and their hit men have been known to target anybody who have spoken out against them, from journalists and politicians to well-known musicians.

Using his own rationale, my friend carries much guilt regarding the death of his son, and points the finger directly at himself.

“I, too, am the head of my household,” he said. “I could have done more to make sure this didn’t happen to him.”

I can almost see my reflection in my friend’s glossy eyes; he stares out the window to the pale sky as he fights off tears. This will be his first Christmas without his son. And the case file for his murder has been closed.

“The FBI conducted and closed their investigation,” he said. “The Mexican side, well, you know how that goes.”

In other words, my friend shares the widespread belief that there is no faith or trust in the Mexican government right now. This is why an ICC complaint is so important. According to Article 4 in the Rome Statute of the Criminal Court, the ICC “may exercise its functions and powers, as provided in this Statute, on the territory of any State Party and, by special agreement, on the territory of any other State.”

For people who have lost loved ones like my friend, an ICC investigation would be something they can hold onto, something that could provide them with one last glimmer of hope before the memories of their loved ones begin to fade.

Meanwhile, 7 more people were killed in Juarez yesterday, the first day of December. That’s life along the Mexican border these days, something that, so far, not even the cold winds of the changing season can blow away.

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