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Violence in Mexico spirals out control

Mexico's daily cycle of violence has turned the country into a shadow of itself.
Last modified: 14 Aug 2012 20:40

The day Felipe Calderon became president of Mexico, July 2, 2006, was the same day I picked up a camera for the first time.

Since then, 64 journalists have been reported murdered in my country.  

Now, as the Calderon presidency is nearing its end, we travel to Monterrey, one of the cities that is bearing the brunt of Calderon's confrontational policies against drug cartels.

Three gangs are fighting for control of the town. Like many places in Mexico, it is dangerous for journalists to be here and the only way to stay safe is to keep a low profile.

This is not easy when you're holding a camera. 

We enter one of the few bars still open in the centre of the city and although the owner has given us permission to film, he becomes nervous the moment we speak.

The atmosphere is tense. Maybe we are being watched; bars are the principle centres for drug distribution here.

I call out to Victor, our local fixer, that it is time to leave and we get going as soon as possible.

Mexico has become another country, and I feel like a stranger here; frightened and exposed.

Cycle of violence 

Throughout the trip I listen to colleagues talking about their day-to-day reports: murders, shootings, disappearances.

Photographers and camera people chat about the decapited, mutilated and burned bodies they film every day.

I cannot imagine ever getting used to this. But worse than watching these scenes is to witness the consequences.

We go to film a family who lost their 19-year-old son at the hands of a criminal organisation. As I begin to shoot a close-up of the Gerado Peña, the victim's father, his whole body reveals the strain and state of shock that has followed the death of his son.

A few days later we obtain shocking police footage of the discovery of the body, and I wonder if Peña had seen these pictures of his son.

At night I keep remembering the sequence that I edited, and all the footage that I watched. Crime scenes filled with blood and lights from police and ambulance cars. I ask the local fixer if he is scared to go to the shootings, to which he replies "sometimes you feel that you are in a full-out war, but when it's over you realise that you are not."

I fly back to the relatively security of Mexico City. Victor drives home to tuck his two daughters into bed. Two days after we left, a group of armed men attacked a bar less than a kilometre away to the one we went to, killing eight people.