[Rarely do Americans hear or read of the effects on Mexico and its citizens of the failed War on Drugs . I’ve just translated a recent article in Mexico’s leading political affairs publication, Proceso, to help you understand. Hope this helps…]
Northern Border, Student Exodus Due to Drug Violence
Laredo, Texas, 4 April 2015
Students and university administrators murdered or disappeared by organized crime, school authorities extorted, thousands of students that flee the country, collapse of enrollments and university campuses closed, are part of the “collateral effects” of the “war on drugs” that batters northeastern Mexico—Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and Coahuila—and is going on a decade now.
Such is the panorama that Mexican and United States academicians, business executives and even prosecutors describe to Proceso investigators.
Like, for example, Guadalupe Correa Contreras, an investigator at Texas University in Brownsville (UTB), explains in an interview: “The violence linked to organized crime has been extended until reaching the institutions of higher learning. In the northeast of the country we might well consider the case of two students from the Monterrey School of Technology that died in a gun-fight, and above all in the state of Tamaulipas this situation is clear.”
Since two years ago the organized crime that operates in Tamaulipas is “offering” to private universities and high schools a “protection service” in order that they not suffer attacks. The extortions provoked the University of Mexico Valley (UVM) in Reynosa to temporarily suspend operating, while the UVM in Nuevo Laredo closed permanently.
In addition, executives at the Chamber of Commerce and administrators of private schools denounced the closing of the private high schools and the threat of closing 18 more. They warn that the Zetas and the Gulf cartel called the schools “offering” to protect them in exchange for fees that run from 100,000 to 350,000 pesos monthly.
In regard to the Nuevo Laredo campus of UVM, it suffered a visit of thugs and buses of armed men were circulating in the same area, which obligated the administrators to suspend classes permanently since last February.
“Given the seriousness of the threats, that included direct attempts on the life of those who form a part of our community, we make the decision, first, to evacuate the facilities and to close the campus,” the official communication stressed. It added that the local authorities offered their support, but in September, when the Reynosa campus suffered threats, the military kept watch for a few days, and, upon leaving, the institution “suffered and assault, for which reason we consider that the risky situations will continue being repeated.”
State prosecutors indentify José Ismael Mendoza Falcón, “El Polimenso,” ex-policeman in the municipalities of Miguel Alemán and Mier, as “the person responsible for the threats received by the rector of the University of Mexico Valley, Reynosa campus.”
The violence also reached the faculty of the Independent University of Tamaulipas (UAT). The Zetas and the Gulf Cartel collects fees from teachers, and the students are obliged to buy lottery tickets whose prizes no one wins.
“In Tamaulipas we have observed in the last few years a direct attack on university buildings or on administrative authorities, including those at the highest levels. The murders of the director of Human Resources in 2012 and the coordinator of the Ethics Program at UAT in 2011 are highlighted,” comments Guadalupe Correa.
Moreover, “the disappearance of José Guadalupe Rivera Martínez, rector at the Reynosa campus of UAT last December [happened]. It is an unprecedented act, that shook the institutions of higher education,” the investigator at UTB added.
Correa underlined that the direct attacks to the educational institutions moved the students toward the US or other parts of the country, and closely analyzed statistics of the universities in Texas and in Nuevo León confirm a rise in the exodus of Tamaulipas university students.
Currently the Independent University of Tamaulipas (UAT) serves around 40,000 students in 26 academic units, facilities, schools and virtual classes.
Registries of Tamaulipas student associations show that some 15,000 alumni immigrated to other states and the US.
Alia Paroiatnikova, executive director of UTB, indicates to this reporter that “[they rely] on approximately 400 international students, 71% coming from Mexico.
“The registration of the Mexican students has risen in the last few years. We have many families that order their student sons and daughters study here in Brownsville,” she specified.
The enrollment of the students coming from Tamaulipas shows that they have left the cities most affected by the violence: Matamoros, Tampico, Ciudad Victoria, Valle Hermoso and San Fernando, among other places, Paroiatnikova explains.
Nevertheless, the Nuevo Laredo campus of Texas A&M University registers the biggest flow of migration. In their campus around 7,000 international students are registered, and more than 40% are or Mexican origin. Some even receive a Texas government subsidy so that they don’t pay a foreign student enrollment fee, rather like Texan residents, since the fee per semester is around 5,500 dollars.
The migration of students obliged the current Tamaulipas government to offer support to the students that study outside the state, with scholarships that run from 6,000 to 15,000 pesos per semester if they maintain grades higher than 9.0.
The 11th of April, 2013, Ceclila, Marlyn, Cintia and Carlos, 7th semester students, finished their activities early in the Accounting & Administration Building of the Monclova campus of the Coahuila University. That afternoon they decided to go to drink some beers. They got in a Stratus (car) and headed for kilometer 18 of highway 57, in the direction of Sabinas.
The four young people arrived at a bar in the zone known as “California.” They realized that they were in the wrong place when a caravan of buses of armed men arrived. Immediately they left the bar, got in the car and tried to get away as fast as they could.
Zeta hitmen observed the precipitous escape. They pursued them on the highway in the direction of Monclova… Scared, the young people accelerated, and when they heard the first shots, one of the students told his family via cell phone that they were pursuing them and that they were shooting at them. The next day four families came to the Attorney General of the state Justice to denounce the disappearance of their student son and daughters.
Days later the authorities reported that the Stratus was found burned up and with pockmarked with bullet holes. Five Zeta thugs that were detained confessed that after the attack they received the order, from their radios, to tow the car to the Estancias community, where the set it on fire.
In Tamaulipas, sources in the prosecutor’s office who asked to remain anonymous point out to Proceso that tens of “picked up” and disappeared students by the local cartels have been added.
In Nuevo León, that students that have been victims of violence reach about 20. The streak of violence against the students began on the 19th of March, 2010, when Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso and Javier Francisco Arredondo Verdugo, two postgraduate students with scholarships for excellence from the ITESM, were in the library of the Monterrey campus preparing their next exam.
Outside the library, on Eugenio Garza Sada avenue, gunmen on board an armored bus confronted Army soldiers.
Inside the library they didn’t hear the first shots. So when Jorge and Javier took a break in their studies to go to dinner, on walking they realized that the soldiers were inside the campus grounds firing large arms.
The young men were riddled with bullets by the crossfire. The gunfire that reached them also came from the guns of the military.
At the end of the skirmish, the military and the forces of the Justice Department of Nuevo León tried to make it appear that the students were hitmen. The drug them toward the outside of the institution, beating them various blows, removing their identification and planting two guns on them.
Hours later the attorney general’s office stole the videos from the security cameras of the campus and reported that two “delinquents” were killed by the Army.
“It is clear that they aren’t the first students of persons to disappear or be killed by the violence which our country lives. It is estimated that 22,000 persons disappeared in the last 6-year Presidential term. Many of them, accused correctly or incorrectly of being associated with organized crime,” comments the ex-director of the ITESM, Rafael Rangel, at the end of 5 years of crime.
“Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso and Javier Francisco Arredondo Verdugo were executed at one of the entrances to the Monterrey School of Technology. Also, just as the students of Ayotzinapa, they were disappeared and removed of their identification after being executed. They were accused of being part of organized crime,” he concluded.
After the crime, the School of Technology suffered a fall of 10% in its enrollment. In addition, the school had to trim by around 13% of their administrative personnel and had to modify their agreements with their professors. All agreements that paid by salary were eliminated and new agreements were drawn up paying by fees.
The violence and insecurity that rages in Coahuila and Nuevo León also obliged university authorities to trim evening schedules.
Obstacle to Progress
According to Guadalupe Correa, the violence against the universities represents a great limitation for economic development, for it accelerates the loss of human capital.
“Tamaulipas is one of the most important states in the country for the future investments in energy, and is losing a fundamental resource: its educated population and the human capital, which is vital for the growth of the sector and of the state in general,” he explained.
In turn, Carlos Flores, member of the Center of Investigations and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS), states that the attacks against said educational institutions are “a sign of extreme erosion of the elemental conditions for development of a society, not anymore do we talk of viabilities and hopes, which naturally are seen seriously threatened when such does not offer minimums of certainty for their young.”
Also he warned that prized demographic of Mexico, since its youth is the victim of violence, is being discriminated and marginalized of real options for development and, in addition, the state is incapable of providing minimum guarantees for their safety.
He emphasized that the closure of universities has grave consequences for the society, but that Tamaulipas authorities try to play