Well I just got a first hand reminder of why Mexico is so dangerous for journalist’s. A friend of mine called me this morning and told me
about the PEI (Policia Estatal Investigadora) or State Police presence in front of the local gift shop Sagitario this morning. So I went over there to check it out and Terry Perez explained to me why they were there. Your standard real estate dispute, no dead bodies or drug cartel shit going down today. Just the PEI cutting down a cyclone fence. Now did the PEI really need all those guys with machine guns for security just to cut down a fence? Well I suspect they did since they certainly must feel threatened every day of their lives. It is no secrete that drug cartel violence has spread to San Carlos and you never really know when someone might want to take a hit on a PEI officer while he is out in the open and exposed.
What truly amazed me of this incident is that the moment I identified myself as a journalist and wanted a simple picture of the cutting of the fence the information pretty much sent the guys into a rage. I was informed that I could not do it from where I was standing. I was standing with the owner of Sagitarios on her property. I then asked if I could take a picture from the side walk and I was told by the cop that he did not know if I could take a picture from the side walk and then they just cut to the chase and in no uncertain terms could I take any pictures of anything. I then countered that I have seen thousands of pictures on the internet of the PEI going about their normal routine and I didn’t see what the big deal was all about. It was about then the guy in charge with the dark ray ban sunglasses on uttered those dreaded words, “detenerlo!”. Detain him was the order. I was then commanded to write down my personal information on a piece of paper, they wanted my ID. I lied to them and told them I didn’t have it on me, they wanted my address, they even wanted my age. I objected to that last question jokingly commenting that my age was a bit to personal of information for me to give up. I almost got a smile out of the cop. I have to say thanks to Teri Perez cause she did stand by my side most of the time and insisted I was a friend of hers. After writing almost no info for them in their note book I walked over to my bike and decided to vamanos rapido before they decided to arrest
me on some bullshit trumped up charge. I stopped by the Bellas Artes Galleria to chat with Burk and Pilar Rutherford when Guillermo Iberri pulled up to ask what was going on. I figured that with his big black suv around I could snap a few pictures from behind it and they would not see. Not happy with the shots from behind his suv I walked over to the sidewalk and took some proper fotos. That is when the PEI guys got really pissed off and started walking vigorously in the direction of yours truly with their own cameras and that nasty glare that only a macho PEI agent can really get just right. It was obvious they were certainly going to take my picture and quite possibly arrest me for the hell of it so I ducked inside the art gallery (thanks Burk & Pilar) to see if they would have big enough cajones to really come after me for taking a few pictures from half a foot ball field away of absolutely nothing going on. They decided to not go into the art gallery but they did take a bunch of pictures of Burke. I guess in the end, thankfully, I just was not worth their time so they took their camera, their attitude and their menacing glare back to the scene over at Sagitarios.
What I find amazing it that it was clear that from the moment I told them that I was a local journalist they treated me as a perceived threat. They wanted all the info they could get on me and they wanted it immediately. I wonder if they will take my name off the beat up note book they were using for taking notes and put me into some kind of Mexican Big Brother data base. The way they treated me is most likely the way they treat everyone. The state police can treat you any way they like with complete impunity here. It is no wonder why the drug cartels have made great inroads with rural communities. When the police treat you like a piece of shit and the drug cartels offer you a job and a little bit of dignity that goes along with financial success it becomes glaringly obvious which side the people will choose.
Just yesterday I posted on the blog about Jose Maria Hernandez who was abducted by armed assailants last week. It was reported that after realizing they had the wrong guy the Kidnappers gave back Mr. Hernandez’s cell phone and essentially apologized for mistakenly picking him up. In Mexico there is almost no distinction between good guys & bad guys now, the lines are that blurred. In Guaymas that is certainly how many people feel. I was chatting with a buddy last week and he told me about the robbery at his place just after Christmas over at his house in Mira Mar. He is sure that the police chief in charge of the anti robbery division in Guaymas is actually in cahoots with several local burglary gangs. Let’s face it the police have been documented many times here burglarizing homes. No one knows better than the cops when you are out of town.
It was widely reported on the radio last week how an American women was extorted out of 1500 dollars by a local San Carlos police officer. Over the last 6 months I have heard of many stories of police stopping Mexicans and Americans alike for alleged offenses and then taking them straight to the bank machine to pay their fine.
Maybe it is time for Mexico to fire half of its police force and then double the salary of the ones left. Maybe just maybe if the cops got better pay they might be less corruptible.