The World Cup Reader

The World Cup is less than two weeks away and I’ve found myself neck-deep in compelling and insightful stories/articles about the event, the sport, and host nation Brazil.

I’m going to share my favorites in this post. Bookmark this link because I’ll be updating it with new stories as I come across them.

The Drug War’s Psychological Impact

Nearly every story about the drug war in Mexico begins with or eventually mentions statistics on the number of persons killed as a result of it. Far too little of them, however, consider the effects of the drug war on those who survive and continue to live through it.

Credit: (photographer unknown)

The issue is widespread across the entire country especially in areas such as Ciudad Juarez which have been wracked by violence, kidnappings, extortion, etc. more than most.

As Miriam Wells of Insight Crime points out:

One challenge that Mexico will likely face in the coming years is assessing the true extent of the psychological toll left by the drug war. Asides from enduring kidnappings, gun battles, and other very public displays of violence, many Mexicans must deal with the question of what happened to friends and relatives who have disappeared. The Attorney General’s Office has estimated that over 26,000 people were reported missing between 2006 and 2012.

A story in Al-Jazeera describes the mental toll on medical staff in hospitals and rehabilitation clinics in Juarez but also mentions how the drug war (a.k.a. narco war) has orphaned many children:

“Mental problems really started growing in Juarez three years ago,” says Pastor Jose Antonio Galvan, who runs a mental rehabilitation clinic on the city’s dusty outskirts.

He estimates that 300,000 people in Juarez are facing mental or spiritual illnesses.

“For every person who is executed here, 40 people, including friends and family members, are affected by the ripples,” says Galvan, describing the stress residents face.

Ten thousand orphans are victims of the narco war, he says. Ninety per cent find refuge with other family members, but the remainder become “the next generation of hit-men and criminal minds”.

Galvan explained the situation in Juarez in greater detail in a story in the Colorado Statesman:

In the last two years, there have been roughly 7,500 murders. That means that there are tens of thousands of survivors — family and friends — who are in mourning. In addition, thousands of orphans live on the streets or in tapias or abandoned houses. “They are children of sadness, of hate,” El Pastor says. Since they have no education, no work skills and no family support, they are easily recruited into the dozens of gangs that make Juárez so dangerous.

US News published a story on the mental effects the war, as well as poverty, and how it affects children in Juarez:

Researchers looked at the mental health of children and teens living in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in 2007 and again in 2010. All of the children were Mexican or Mexican-American and lived in homes below the poverty level. None had a history of diagnosed mental illness.

The psychosocial and behavioral scores of the children in El Paso did not change significantly between 2007 and 2010. However, the children in Ciudad Juarez showed significant increases in social problems, rule- breaking and aggression scores over the study period.

“There is cumulative harm to the mental health of children from the combination of collective violence attributed to organized crime and poverty,” study author Marie Leiner said in an AAP news release.

Ruben Villalpando of La Jornada published a story government research that discovered that 22,000 junior high/middle school students suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the drug war.

Adicionalmente, más de 22 mil estudiantes de secundaria sufren de estrés postraumático por el duelo de haber perdido a un familiar de forma violenta, presenciar una balacera, pasar por una escena del crimen o escuchar relatos similares.


Additionally, more than 22,000 junior high students suffer from post-traumatic stress caused by the pain of losing a loved one to violence, by witnessing a shootout, passing by the scene of a crime, or listening to stories of such events.

Studies into this topic are necessary not only to completely understand the effects of the war but also, and more importantly, how to better assist those hurt by it.

Take A Trip Through Hell On Earth With K. Mennem As Your Guide

Since I wrote about the drug war in Mexico last year (see here and here), I’ve discovered more independent journalists who devote their time to covering drug war-related events in Mexico. One of these journalists is K. Mennem, creator of the Hell On Earth blog. His blog provides analysis of headlines from the drug war plus delves into aspects of the drug war’s cartel culture not covered by other sites, such as his story about Nuevo Laredo’s Boy’s Town.

I swapped a few e-mails with Mennem to learn more about his work and blog. Below is a brief exchange we had about his work and blog.

Beneath this calm exterior...

Let’s talk about your journalism background. How long have you worked as a journalist? Where have you been published/are published? Why did you decide to become a journalist?

I do not come from a formal journalism background. My college degree is in business, but I traveled to Mexico frequently with international study groups during college. I started my blog in 2009. The original plan was to write about various global events that are not covered by main stream media. My whole intent was to help bring to light the horrible things that occur daily in our world, yet these are often ignored by the public. I write routinely for the San Diego Reader, my blog of course, and guest spots on various blogs and websites from time to time. I have recently had an increase of interest from universities and politicians on my work. Doing work for these type of groups is currently in the making. I decided to start into journalism after I finally realized how much time I was spending on reading, researching, traveling, and talking to people about these issues. In most ways it had already engulfed my life before I even realized it. I am also an insurance agent. I sell local and international policies to businesses and private customers. I am the marketing director and international sales agent for an agency my brother owns. The flexibility with this job has allowed me to make both of my careers work.

Tell me about Hell On Earth blog. Where/how did you come up with the title? What is your interest in following/investigating narcotrafficking/drug war in Mexico?

The title for my blog came from the original concept of the site. Writing about the “Hell on Earth” that is unknown to many. As the Mexican cartel wars raged on, my blog eventually became focused on issues there. The drug war across the Americas has always been my focal point, but I decided to completely focus on it for the time being. I have always had strong ties to Mexico. I still travel to Mexico when possible. My passion for the country and its people compelled me to write about events often ignored in the United States. The ugly truth is that the U.S. is causing this chain reaction of events by its huge appetite for narcotics. My interest into following these events were naturally drawn in because of my interest in Mexico. I have friends on both sides of the law, friends on both sides of the border, and have spent considerable time along the border. These things have helped me develop into what I do.

How can mainstream media outlets improve their coverage of the drug war in Mexico?

Mainstream media needs to elaborate more on events happening, and not just give short summaries. Almost everything happening is directly tied to the United States, but you can not tell that by reading one paragraph a week in the newspaper. National news stations pick up on stories whenever it is the hot thing to do, but most often it is only when a U.S. citizen is a victim of a crime in Mexico or on the border.