Mexico’s new president Enrique Peña Nieto has adopted a policy of not talking about the violence plaguing his country.
Gone are the press conferences touting the deployment of more troops or the capture of yet another drug kingpin. Despite the new president’s silence, little has changed regarding the drug war’s death toll since former President Felipe Calderon fled to Harvard in December. In the first 100 days of Peña Nieto’s presidency the daily drug-related murder rate has slightly risen and a fresh round of attacks have been leveled against media outlets and reporters.
In short, life hasn’t gotten any better for Mexicans living in the most violence-plagued parts of the country. Last year, I wrote about the devastation of the small farming communities in the Juarez Valley just outside of Juarez. An estimated 70 percent of the population was killed, disappeared or forced to flee. Many went into exile in the United States. The Reyes Salazar family, well known community activists from the small farming town of Guadalupe, fought to save their town with terrible consequences. Six of their family members were murdered. To date, the authorities have never investigated or pursued the family’s killers.
After the murders, at least thirty-two members of the family were forced to seek asylum in the United States. Saul Reyes Salazar, the patriarch of the family, won asylum for his immediate family in January 2012. Last month Saul’s sister Claudia and six other family members were also granted asylum with the help of the UT School of Law Immigration Clinic run by attorneys Barbara Hines and Denise Gilman.
“I’m thrilled that they won asylum,” says Hines, the lead attorney on the case. “They suffered extraordinary persecution in Mexico and deserved protection in the United States.”
For me, the good news that Claudia Reyes Salazar and other members of her family were granted asylum is overshadowed by the realization that they may never be able to go home. Recently, more members of the Reyes Salazar family were forced to flee Mexico. They are also asking for asylum. And from Enrique Peña Nieto’s government? Only silence.
Daniel Peña is not sparing in his assessment of Texas, where farmworkers are poisoned by fertilizer and pesticide, and Mexico, where guessing who will be next to die in the drug wars has become a lottery game.