The Reynosa Warning

The Mexican border town of Raynosa is the pride of the Gulf cartel. It’s estimated to be the most tightly controlled of all the border towns under cartel rule. Its system of surveillance rivals any in the U.S. Whoever enters day or night is watched and followed by scouts and sensors. It’s advisable not to do anything that offends.

The disadvantage of this supremacy is that Reynosa is envied by rival cartels who are in the habit of taking what they want. Recently, assorted discontents pulled up in a number of trucks and started firing randomly. Before they had finshed, twenty-three people were dead, most of them innocent bystanders. A grim reckoning but not that unusual in Mexico with one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Violence has become contagious and – to be frank – pleasurable as the cartels kill for control of the immensely profitable drug trade. In the process anybody can perish in or around the line of fire.

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Garcia Cabeza de Vaca, governor of the state of Tamaulipas in which Reynosa is located, said this kind of “reprehensible criminal behavior” will not be tolerated. We’ll have to take him at his word since he is currently charged with criminal activities involving the Gulf cartel. In city as in state, the cartels determine justice. Their word is the law.

A manager of a hotel across the border in McAllen, Texas, says she would like to visit her grandmother who lives in Reynosa, but’s a difficult trip. Arrangements must be made and money exchanged with a cartel intermediary who then assures safe passage. She says she doesn’t want to be trapped in a cartel financial web from which there’s no escape.

There are currently other visitors in Reynosa; namely, hundreds of migrants who have been returned to Mexico from the U.S. to await their fate. Most are seeking asylum from the unceasing violence that threatens their lives back home. Many are children, entrusted by their parents to the so-called coyotes to take them to the U.S. Once they’re paid – around ten thusand dollars per migrant – these cartel agents don’t really care what happens to their charges who are at the mercy of the cartels, as their scars and bruises testify.

There’s a tendency to ignore or underestimate the cartels. That’s Mexico for you, can’t happen here, we’re told. But some cartels may have dreams beyond avarice. Could they possibly conquer the U.S. which once conquered Mexico and took half  its territory? Are they on their way to that end with the poisonous drugs like fentanyl that are leading to increasing American deaths from overdose? Do the current riots in U.S. inner cities duplicate the ones in Mexico with drug rivalry a chief cause? If so, the cartels could be be prouid of a progeny copying their ways up north. Is Reynosa then a portent?

Biden Takes Charge

Who’s up, who’s down? Who hit whom? Who looked the best? That’s one way of viewing the Biden-Putin summit, the media way. An alternative way is to credit Biden with relieving tensions that have built up between the U.S.and Russia and proposing a practical way out that’s also relevant to the rest of the world. We must take the world as it is, he says, and do businss with it on that basis. High flown rhetoric and moralizing are not needed. We’re all in this together.

It was vintage Biden. As Vice President, he was about the only adviser who argued against President Obama’s dubious wars and drone attacks. As President, he has  been prone to fumble on domestic issues or not altogether understand them. With foreign affairs he is on familiar ground. After his meeting with Putin, he spoke clearly and decisively with words that reflected firm belief.

Photo by (Mikhail Metzel/Pool Photo via AP)

What he accomplished, of course, was to stop the panicky talk about war with Russia. War is hardly possible when the leaders of the two countries are so cozily and publicly communicating. For Biden the key issue, ignored in the clamor over minor matters, is the nuclear deadlock. He and Putin agreed on steps toward a Strategic Stability Dialogue to reduce the chances of a nuclear exchange beyond which all other issues pale.

He scoffed at the notion of trusting Putin to behave the way we want. He might have mentioned President Franklin Roosevelt’s fatal error in World War Two of earnestly trying to inspire trust in Soviet Dictator Stalin, who couldn’t have cared less. He relentlessly pursued his own self-interest, as all rulers do, says Biden. Let’s deal with what we’ve got.

Biden’s summit also stopped the mindless drive to push Russa and China together by denouncing and threatening both nuclear powers, even envisioning a two-front war, a danger understood and averted by Nixon and Kissinger in their Cold War opening to communist China. Biden didn’t mention Iran, a key link in the China-Russia chain. He wants to remove it by renewing the nuclear agreement rejected by President Trump. Iran is emotional politics in the U.S. because of its rivalry with Israel. To Biden it’s geopolitics.

Will Biden be able to implement his policy in view of the opposition to such  realism? It’s anathema to the war-minded neocons, in particular, who see no trace of their influence in what Biden proposes. They have basically run foreign policy under four Presidents with the eventual goal of removing the present Russian regime and replacing it with one of their own choosing or maybe even themselves, Bolshevik style.

This they accomplished in Russia’s neighbor Ukraine by supporting a timely revolution. With followers throughout the media, they have already gone on the offensive against Biden. He is vulnerable on some grounds like the over run Mexican Border and the White Supremacy fantasy. Foreign policy is his strong point. Stick with it.

Marathon Magic

The snowbirds in Florida are apprently not going back home to snow, cold, rain and remaining masks. They are staying in Florida not only bacause of sun, sea and beaches but also, they say, because the state is more open and better governed than others as it proved during the pandemic. Hotel managers report full occupancy during the uusually abandoned summer if only they could find enough help to handle it.

A must-see for newcomers is Marathon in the Florida Keys where two sets of impassioned staffers are working to reduce the mosquito population and rescue the ever endangered sea turtles. They require far different techniques that continue to evolve for the benefit of human health and the survival of creatures that share the planet.

Marathon Turtle Hospital Photo: Bonnie Gross

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is not on view. Despite striped legs, he’s not very photogenic. But he can cause a world of trouble; that is, she can. Her bite can be poisonous while the male is harmless. To deal with this distinction, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is releasing tens of thousands of genetically modified males who will mate with unsuspectng females. The result: when their eggs hatch, only males willl survive to the benefit of human health.

This species accounts for four per cent of the mosquito population but is responsible for most of the disease. Dengue fever, which is highly debilitating but infequently fatal, has been increasing around the world with up to 100 million cases a year and some 20 thousand deaths. It’s rare in the U.S., though there was an outbreak of 70 cases recently in Key Largo. Whereever water is left around – flower pots, trash cans, drainage ditches – mosquitos thrive.

(Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim, published under the GNU free documentation license)

Genetically engineered crops are commonplace today, while similarly modified insects are new on the scene. Pesticides remain essential. Skeptics note that mosquitos are ingeniously elusive in avoiding peril. We will have to wait to see, but the Marathon modifiers are confident.

Sea turtles are much on view at their hospital. They come in various sizes, species and ages as they float in various pools for repair from injury largely inflicted by human behavior. They get entangled in fishing nets that may cost them a flipper. They devour the waste plastics that litter the sea and get trapped in their stomachs. Boats are a special hazard with propellers that easily slice through a shell. Turtle ambulances are kept busy picking up the injured when they’re spotted. People are alerted to look out for them.

The surgeons at the hospital operate with human care as they cut away bulbous tumors caused by a special turtle virus. Cures are routine. But if nothing can be done, a permanently disabled turtle can retire to a 100,000 gallon salt water pool that formerly served as a swimming pool for human guests at a motel now converted to the hospital.  

Considered living dinosaurs headed to extinction, the turtles have been given a reprieve by the hosptal. Its proudest moment comes when the turtles, now restored and fit, can be returned to the sea where of course they belong.

Let’s Make a Monster

In 1818 Karl Marx was born and Mary Shelley wrote her novel “Frankenstein.” This was no coincidence, writes Russian-American scholar Vadislav (George) Krasnov in his collected essays “From the East To the West.” It was fate.

The pair helped usher in and embodied the romantic era that assumed all possibilities in an uncertain world. Just listen to your inner voice and follow its dictates to the paradise awaiting you. Appropriately, both were aspiring poets of some invention, but their voices led them in unexpected directions, a romantic reverse.

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The wife of major romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary at 19 decided to write a ghost story about a Dr. Frankenstein who succeeded in bringing a dead body to life – monstrous life, as it turned out and despite his best intentions, enourmously destructive. That is how he has come down through the generations, the epitome of evil in contrast to the uplifting verse of Percy .

The young Marx revered Percy and imitated him. We don’t know if he read Frankenstein, but an early poem is suggestive:

“With disdain I will throw my gauntlet
Full in the face of the world
And see the collapse of this pigmy giant
Whose fall will not stifle my ardour.
Then I will wander godlike and victorious
Through the ruins of the world,
And giving my words an active force
I will be equal to the creator.”

Ten tears later, Marx produced the Communist Manifesto, which came close to remaking the world. Marx had found his calling and it wasn’t poetry. But would it have been possible without the poetry? Krasnov writes: “Unlke Frankenstein, Marx went in the direction of not animating a single human corpse but aiming at the creation of a totally new mankind.”

Dr. Frankenstein was appalled at the monster he had created and tried unsuccessfully to make him lifeless again. Krasnov thinks Marx, too, would have been revulsed by the monster Communism created in his name in Russia. And it couldn’t be undone, at least not for seventy-five years.

Krasnov writes admiringly of the great Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn whose life of grim hardship under Stalinist rule was the opposite of romantic. Yet through his writings about the suffering of millions in Soviet labor camps he was able to contribute significantly to the removal of that beast. It can be done.

Elections Under Fire

It’s dangerous just to live in Mexico these days. It’s more dangerous to run for political office in Mexico and still more dangerous to criticize the drug cartels while campaigning. This is what Alma Barragan discovered when she was a candidate for mayor of the small town of Moroleon in the central state of Guanajuato.

Photo – Alma Barragan Facebook

Open and winsome, she had just posted a notice on Facebook when a group of armed thugs appeared and gunned her down. She became the estimated 86th candidate for local elections on June 6 to be murdered by the drug cartels that rule Mexico. Understandably, more than eighty candidates for mayor have withdrawn from the race. Others have made their accommodation with the gangsters, and some have hired one gang to offset another.

It would seem surprising that the cartels would take an interest in a town as small as Moroleon. But no part of Mexico escapes their watchful eye. Any sign of dissent is quickly, ruthlessly suppressed. They are equal opportunity killers. No discrimination based on race, gender, age, religion or whatever is practiced. Just obey or die.

What is also suprising is that Mexicans still have the courage to defy the cartels. There are more murders than ever in Mexico, and they show no sign of slowing. The cartels are financed by Americans who buy their drugs in ever increasing number with deaths by overdose also rising in the U.S. The current uproar over border crossings from Mexico disguises the drugs that continue to pour across.


One Mexican congressional candidate has clearly campaigned on the issue. On a bridge connecting Juarez (‘Murder Capital of the World”) with El Paso, Carlos Mayorga appears in an open coffin followed by aides bearing flowers. Unlike other Mexicans, he is not permanently confined there – at least not yet.