Justice in Mexico was joined this month by National Public Radio’s Mexico City-based correspondent Carrie Kahn as part of its La Tertulia Speaker Series. On February 6, Kahn sat down with University of San Diego students, professors, and local journalists to discuss her work as a reporter and her insight into the security situation in Mexico.
Kahn began by sharing her recent story on the drug tunnels found along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the individuals who are allegedly forced by drug trafficking organizations into building them. The story focuses on one such worker who was arrested along with 16 others, all of whom have now been held in a Tijuana prison for over a year as the case against them unfolds. Kahn discussed the challenges in compiling the story, which took over five months to come together largely because of the difficulties in both tracking down the necessary information and the inaccessibility of talking with the prisoners. While drug tunnels are widely covered in the media, Kahn was curious as to who exactly is behind the building of these tunnels. Commenting on tunnels leading into San Diego, she expressed that “It’s amazing this is happening right here, 12 miles away.”
The conversation then shifted to the public security issues challenging Mexico, specifically the ongoing battle in the state of Michoacán between criminal organizations, self-defense groups, and the federal government. After listening to Kahn’s story on Michoacán released in January, she offered her own insight and understanding into the matter, acknowledging that Michoacán’s long history of rebellion and revolution is likely playing into that state’s uprising against criminal activity. She added that Michoacán’s rural landscape makes it difficult for the federal government to utilize its highly technical and advanced equipment to track drug traffickers and trafficking through the mountains. Rather the government is almost forced to rely on the personal, on-the-ground connections that self-defense groups have to maneuver in the terrain. These dynamics add to the already tense and uncertain security situation in Michoacán, though Kahn acknowledged that a number of other places throughout Mexico, most notably Guerrero, are also dealing with confrontations between self-defense and organized crime groups.
The discussion ended with Kahn talking about the economic disparities in Mexico where more than half the country lives in poverty, yet is home to the world’s second wealthiest man, Carlos Slim. Nevertheless, after sharing her recent story on Mexico’s popular skier in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Kahn concluded, “There’s never a dull a moment in Mexico.”