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.

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