By: Daniel Nardini
The last of the Reyes family, the matriarch of the family, Sara Salazar de Reyes, left her native village in the Juarez Valley near Ciudad Juarez for exile in the United States. Having lived her entire life in Mexico, it was for her inconceivable to leave. But seven members of her family are dead—victims of the drug war—and all those still alive have fled to the United States. Her entire family have applied for refugee status. Whether the U.S. government will grant it remains to be seen. Until then, they join a growing number of other Mexicans fleeing the drug war in legal limbo. What makes this case more tragic is the fact that those member of Reyes’ family who were gunned down were not killed by the Mexican drug cartels but by members of the Mexican military.
The drug war has become a truly ugly affair with the military acting as brutally as the cartels they are fighting. The drug cartels are trying to empty the entire Juarez Valley of its inhabitants so that they can freely use the area for their drug networks. At the same time, the military has shot and killed residents within the valley “suspected” of working or being connected with the drug cartels. Or, as happened to the Reyes family, they just got in the way. As Amnesty International has reported, the Mexican military is just as guilty of atrocities against innocent Mexican civilians. These atrocities include torture, stealing and burning down people’s homes, raping women, and even wholesale murder of families. The military killed Sara Salazar de Reyes’ four children, two grandchildren, and her daughter-in-law. Before he was driven out, Reyes’ grandson, Ismael, was the last of her family to remain in Mexico. Members of the military burned down Reyes’ grandson’s home, stole his cars, and threatened to kill his ex-wife. Because of this, both Ismael and Sara fled for the United States.
They are not the only families who have fled for the United States—many other families from the Juarez Valley have also fled. They have had many of their family members murdered by either the drug cartels or by the military. When former Mexican President Felipe Calderon started his war against the drug cartels in 2006, an estimated 55,000 people have lost their lives. The number of dead may in fact be higher. The war has touched the lives of just about everyone in Mexico, and many want to see this war ended or somehow some solution found to bring back stability. No matter who may be made president of Mexico, for so many families who have fled Mexico, they may never be able to return again.