H/T to Small Bits for linking to this post by Dee Harlow about life under security-driven 'house arrest' in Mexico. And not merely in Mexico, but in Ciudad Juarez, the center of drug-trafficking related violence in Mexico.
Drug-trafficking related homicides in Mexico are highly concentrated geographically (see this), with 80% of them occurring in only seven percent of Mexico's municipalities, Ciudad Juarez foremost among them. According to Molly Molloy, a reference librarian at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces who tallied up the official Mexican Attorney General numbers for civilian homicides in Juarez during 2010, the total for 2010 was 3,096 homicides.
That was the count as of December 14, so the final total for the year might be perhaps 50 to 100 higher. Looking at the numbers, I see that in each month of 2010 about ten times as many men as women were killed. However, as the American expatriate community in Juarez knows all too well, the cartels certainly do not hesitate to kill women, and they are indifferent to the presence of children.
Raw numbers do not provide the context necessary to judge how extreme the Mexican borderland violence has become. To put it in perspective, consider this comparison. According to the Congressional Research Service (see this) the total number of civilians killed in Afghanistan during 2010 was 2,421. Six hundred more civilians were killed in one Mexican border city last year than were killed in all of Afghanistan during the same period. Putting those numbers on a per capita basis would make the comparison far worse, since the population of Afghanistan is 30 million to Ciudad Juarez's 1.3 million.
Those astounding statistics cannot be publicized too much. It seems to me there is a mental block that prevents an appreciation of the current situation in the Mexican borderlands from getting into the U.S. public mind. Maybe the problem arises from old habits of associating Mexico with spring break vacations. Maybe the problem is the very nearness and familiarity of the border, whereas we are accustomed to putting wars and insurrections into a mental box reserved for strange foreign places. Whatever it is, I hope posts like Dee Harlow's will get much more attention as a step toward raising public awareness.
Until the borderlands problem is solved, if it ever is, the USG will continue have a lot of employees and their family members living there under threat. I think it is possible to provide a reasonable level of security for them, and yet, a human toll is extracted from living under those security conditions. Constantly evaluating your vulnerability to attack before, during, and after making any sort of movement outside the house, or even before going to sleep at night, leaves a legacy of extreme precaution that persists long after a family has moved on to less dangerous places or back to the United States.