New York Times Op-Ed: Cracking the Mexican Cartels


In July, Mexico will elect a new president to replace Felipe Calderón. Whoever wins will need to address the foremost challenge confronting the country today: the battle against the drug cartels. And despite all the negative headlines, the next president will find that the government under Calderón has made huge gains toward defeating them.

When Calderón took office five years ago, there were roughly half a dozen cartels, each a large criminal organization in its own right. These illegal enterprises — the Gulf, the Juárez, La Familia Michoacana, the Sinaloa and the Tijuana cartels — dominated large swaths of Mexican territory and operated abroad as well.

Once he assumed the presidency, Calderón realized that he could not rely on the federal police, the Agencia Federal de Investigación, to restore order or track down the cartel leaders. The A.F.I. was riddled with corruption. Over the years, the cartels had bribed not only regional comandantes but also top-level officials at the agency’s Mexico City headquarters. The state police were even more unreliable. Often on the payroll of the cartels in their respective regions, they not only failed to cooperate with the federal police but also regularly protected the cartels and their leaders.

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Delegation from Mante to Visit Boulder

A delegation from Mante will visit Boulder in early April, 2012, hopefully led Dr. David Rodriguez, a founder of the medical mission. Additionally, up to 10 teachers who have been part of the teacher exchange between our two communities will also visit. Highlights of events for the group follow:

  • Dairy Center for the Arts: It has been 11 years since the Mural painted by Florian Lopez was completed on the north face of the Dairy Center Building at Walnut and 26th Street. Today, many people are unaware that the purpose of the gift by the City of Mante to Boulder was to honor the medical teams that had visited Mante over a 20 year period. A committee made up of members from the Dairy Center and the Sister City committee are developing a plaque or signage which will tell visitors to the Dairy Center about the origins of the Mural. It is planned that a ceremony will occur on April 1 to mark this new addition to the north wall of the Dairy Center.
  • First Presbyterian Church: Dr. David Rodriguez has been invited to give a “temple talk” at the 9:30 a.m. service on at Boulder First Presbyterian church on April 1. He will present a plaque to express thanks for the close relationship between the church and citizens of Mante over the years.
  • Boulder Community Hospital: The delegation will bring a piece of art to donate to Boulder Community Hospital in appreciation for the medical campaign led by BCH over the years. At the time of the dedication on April 2, the Boulder Mante Sister City committee will present a plaque to Erick Diaz of Mante. Erick has been a faithful servant to coordinate all 20 medical campaigns and an indispensable liaison to foster Sister City relationships for the past twelve years.
  • City Council Proclamation: The Mante delegation will visit City Council at the beginning of its meeting on April 3. A Proclamation will be read declaring April 1-7, 2012 Boulder Mante Sister City week.
  • Additional visits: Specific meetings are being arranged for the delegation to meet with Boulder dentists who wish to continue dental missions in the Mante region, with Boulder Rescue Service which has emergency response items to donate to the Red Cross (Cruz Roja) in Mante and with teachers in various bi-lingual programs in Boulder Valley Schools.

Daily Camera: Delegation from Mexican sister city coming to Boulder

By Erica Meltzer Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 03/17/2012 12:01:25 PM MDT
Updated: 03/17/2012 12:02:41 PM MDT

Drug violence continues to make Mante too dangerous for Boulder volunteers to resume their annual medical mission to the small Mexican city, but later this month, a delegation from Mante will visit Boulder to reaffirm the 20-year relationship between the two communities.

The 15-member group, led by Dr. David Rodriguez, a founder of the medical mission, will be in Boulder from March 31 to April 5 and will meet with a variety of community groups, including Boulder Community Hospital officials.

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Daily Camera: Drug violence leads Boulder hospital to cancel Mante medical trip

By Erica Meltzer Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 11/30/2010 09:22:06 PM MST

The drug violence that has wracked Mexico in recent years has caused Boulder Community Hospital to cancel its annual medical mission to Mante.

This February will be the first time since 1990 that a team of volunteers, organized through Boulder Community Hospital, won’t visit the small Mexican city to provide medical care ranging from the repair of cleft palates to the distribution of eyeglasses.

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Council Member Rich Lopez Blogs on Decision to Cancel 2011 Medical Campaign

In a Boulder Daily Camera blog post, former Boulder City Council member and Boulder-Mante Sister City Project member Rich Lopez explains the Boulder Community Hospital’s decision to cancel the 2011 medical campaign. For almost 20 years, the annual campaign provided much-needed medical treatment to underserved communities in Mante and surrounding areas and served as the backbone of the relationship between the two cities. One can only hope that the recent spike in drug cartel related violence will subside so that the campaign can resume its good work. Here’s what Rich had to say:

A few weeks after the BCH Mante Medical Mission team returned home, two drug cartels moved into Mante. The peaceful streets of Mante became battlegrounds as these two cartels fought each other. Bodies were left in the streets. Citizens were forced to change their daily lives to avoid the dangers that were present. Streets were empty after 6 P.M.. The cartels had moved into town, occupying some of the wealthier homes.

In March, a group of teachers traveled from Mante to Boulder as part of the Teacher Exchange Program. At that time we first learned just how dangerous Mante had become. Imagine the Boulder Police Chief advising all citizens not to bother calling 911 after dark, because no officers will respond. The teachers reminded us that these strangers had invaded Mante. Once they leave, Mante will become peaceful once again.

Boulder Community Hospital began monitoring the situation in Mante in early March. Various team members continued to contact friends in Mante for updates. The violence between the two drug cartels continued and seemed to be concentrated in other cities such as Matamoros, Reynosa and Victoria, the state capital. We continued to plan for the 2011 medical mission, hoping that the violence would end.

Finally, on July 26, 2010, David Gehant BCH CEO decided to cancel the 2011 mission. He called Dr. David Rodriguez and explained that he needed to cancel the mission because there was no way to guarantee the safety of the 100 medical personnel that comprise our team. He told Dr. Rodriguez that we intend to return in 2012 or possibly late in 2011 if conditions improved. This was a difficult decision, because our team members voluntarily travel to Mante to provide much needed medical care for thousands of citizens who cannot afford medical care. We know that many of the team members would travel to Mante despite the violence, but sending a large team was too risky.

I don’t know what will happen to Ciudad Mante. A close friend recently emailed his description of life in Mante. “Our daily lives have been affected by all this violence; we don’t go out late at night, we don’t travel at night on highways, etc. We are getting use to the presence of soldiers in town and we learn of incidents now and then; although it was a lot more difficult in Mante about two-three months ago…..Thank you for your concern and blessings. Meanwhile, Dr. David Rodriguez continues to tend to the thousands of people who patiently wait for the return of the medical team.


By Jean Bedell
Read more posts by Jean

Our trip has ended. After waiting for 1-1/2 hours at the airport in Tampico for the fog to lift we had a safe, smooth flight Tampico-Houston-Denver. Oh, yes, there was one challenge. How does one convince an employee that one suitcase 3 lbs over 50 averages with one suitcase 3 lbs under 50 and there should be no extra charges? The last day is spent with final surgeries and patients and then (ugh) packing, and labeling, separating those things to bring back to Boulder, and those things to be stored securely in Mante. By 1:30, the last patient was seen, rooms emptied, doors locked, and trucks loaded. Continue reading “THE FULL MANTE Vol 12, No 8”


By Rich Lopez
Visit his blog on The Daily Camera


February 17, 2010: Miracles do happen.

Virginia is a 32 year-old woman with three children. She’s been deaf for her entire life. Over time she learned to read lips. However, the limits of reading lips meant she couldn’t hear her baby crying in another room. She spent her life finding ways to deal with her limitations. Fortunately, she had a husband who loved her unconditionally. Still, she always hoped that there might come a day when she could hear. That day was today. Continue reading “Milagros”

Una gota de agua

By Rich Lopez
Visit his blog on The Daily Camera

February 16, 2010: Yesterday was a dichotomy between treating patients is horrible conditions and the pomp of speeches and ceremonies. Both are important, but the day presented the Clinic team with many challenges. The temperature fell to the low 50’s and the blustery wind created a bone chilling environment. The Clinic patients sit in school chairs outside, usually under the shade of large tents to protect them from the sun or rain. Patients were ill-prepared for the cold and arrived with sweaters or light jackets at best. This is Mante remember. It is rarely cold, but yesterday was different. Patients shivered quietly waiting their turn to speak to a doctor. The triage team filled out the patient information forms, translating from Spanish to English. Elderly patients shivered uncontrollably. When it came time to take their blood pressure, they were asked to remove their jackets. Continue reading “Una gota de agua”