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Kidnapping Can Be a Family Affair in Mexico’s Drug War

May 14, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Since 2006, an estimated 50,000 people have died in drug- and gang-related violence in Mexico -- 49 of whom were found this weekend without heads, hands or feet outside Monterrey. Ray Suarez discusses the latest brutality with Alejandro Junco, owner of Grupo Reforma, one of the largest print media operations in Latin America.
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TRANSCRIPT

RAY SUAREZ: For more on all of this, we turn to Alejandro Junco, president and CEO of Grupo Reforma, which is one of the largest print media operations in Latin America, including newspapers in three of Mexico’s biggest cities. His office is in the hometown of Monterrey, site of the latest gruesome killings.

And, at this hour, Mr. Junco, do authorities have any more idea who the four dozen victims are and why they were killed?

ALEJANDRO JUNCO, President and CEO, Grupo Reforma: Well, I guess part of the strategy of dismembering the bodies has to do with making it difficult for the identification.

And they probably have succeeded, at least for the short term. So the identity, to this hour, it is not known, but it probably will over time.

RAY SUAREZ: Have these and other killings around Mexico touched Mexicans beyond those with a direct connection to the conflict? If you’re not in law enforcement or have relatives, if you’re not a journalist who has been targeted or threatened, if you don’t have family in politics or in indeed in the gangs, are you still being touched by this?

ALEJANDRO JUNCO: Well, there’s a shortsightedness to what we are seeing, how people behave and react, because the visible part of the drug cartel war is when two of the cartels are fighting over territorial control.

Now, once territorial control is established, then peace sets in. And now the cartel, the dominating cartel, can turn to the real business at hand, which is the profitable part of the business, which is selling protection, which is kidnappings, extortion, piracy, contrabands, sale of organs, prostitution rings. Anything that is illegal, they will turn to.

The profitability of the drug side of organized crime is actually quite low., compared to what the profitability is in those other areas.

RAY SUAREZ: You mentioned kidnapping. You’re headquartered in Monterrey. Do you still live there as the city has become ever more dangerous?

ALEJANDRO JUNCO: I live there. I work there. My family, I have moved away to a safe haven in Texas.

What I have to do is commute every workday, every workweek from Austin to Monterrey or Mexico City, Guadalajara, wherever the week takes me. And it’s a lot easier to protect one person than it is to protect a large family.

RAY SUAREZ: Have you seen Monterrey, which was one of Mexico’s wealthiest and most advanced cities, change as the government’s war on the cartels escalated?

ALEJANDRO JUNCO: Well, you must realize that 10, 11 years ago, we were on the cover of BusinessWeek and Time magazine as the next hot spot of the world to invest in — hot spot, indeed, but of a different nature nowadays.

We have had mass killings in casinos. We have discovered mass graves. We have had mass bodies thrown, as was — happened the day before yesterday. We have had inmates killed inside a jail with baseball bats, 44 the last uprising a few months ago. So there is a dysfunction that has set in to the city in terms of rule of law.

RAY SUAREZ: How do you explain this nightmarish level of violence spreading now through many Mexican regions, not just the northern states, coming so close to the United States, but not spilling over into it? How come this hasn’t involved the U.S. more?

ALEJANDRO JUNCO: Well, for one thing, there is a lot of armed forces on the border of different types, whether regional, local or federal. So there’s a lot of protection on the U.S. side of the border.

Now, the reason it has spread like wildfire is that we have probably something that’s closer to social insurrection than actually a drug war, per se. We have a lot of evidence of complete families involved in horrendous crimes, a mother doing the cooking with her daughter maintaining the captivity of a man that was kidnapped by the brother-in-law and that was transported by the father.

And, now, how can one complete family be involved in such a horrendous crime? And how is this connected to a dope user in California or a methamphetamine user in Manhattan? I believe it is not. And I believe there’s a wider social issue that is at stake here.

And it has to do with dysfunction. It has to do with people that are becoming too discouraged to continue on the path that they have for generations.

RAY SUAREZ: Has it been tougher to ask your journalists to go out into the field and cover this, when you know they’re taking their lives into their hands?

ALEJANDRO JUNCO: Well, I must tell you that I have a lot of respect and I have a lot of debt to a lot of journalists, a lot of men and women that pay the price, that run the risk.

And every day, they go out there and they know that, because we’re doing something that is important for our fragile democracy, you know, they continue to do it. But when you walk into the museum in Washington and you see the countries of the world there on a map, and you see our country, Mexico, in red, meaning that there is no freedom of expression, it breaks my heart.

And it’s painful to see that. But, on the other hand, I must agree because it has — the risk of publishing the truth, of going out there and reporting is getting higher.

There’s higher prices to be paid. There are more risks to be run, as we are seeing in the paper in the border in Nuevo Laredo. They simply stopped printing news that relate to organized crime.

RAY SUAREZ: Alejandro Junco, thanks for joining us.

ALEJANDRO JUNCO: Thank you, sir.