An innocent 13-year-old boy from San Ysidro was murdered execution style in Tijuana, another collateral victim of Mexico’s brutal drug wars. Mexican authorities arrested three members of the vicious Sinaloa Cartel and charged them with the crime, but a Southwestern College philosophy professor said American drug users also have blood on their hands.
San Ysidro Middle School student Ulysses Daniel Castrejón Beltrán was shot in the back of the head along with four men at the party, according to the Baja California General Attorney’s office. Mexican law enforcement spokespersons said the murder was the result of house guest Daniel Alberto Cabrera Bengochea, who had an affiliation with the Sinaloa Cartel.
Three people have been arrested in Tijuana, including Martha Lizeth Osegueda Rodriguez, 24, the alleged instigator of the murders. A Baja California State Preventive Police spokesperson said the executions were retaliation for some drugs they had allegedly stolen from her.
Castrejon’s murder– one of the more than 15,000 in Mexico in the past year-and a-half is another chilling reminder that the beautiful hills, valleys and coastlines of Baja California Norte are a war zone of drug violence that often spills over the border into the South Bay.
Six miles from the border, Southwestern College feels the repercussions. Thousands cross la linea daily to attend classes, thousands more have family in Tijuana, Rosarito or Ensenada. On top of that tens of thousands of SWC students and other college-age people brave Tijuana’s mean streets to drink inexpensive beer in the city’s teaming club district. Some never return alive.
Former SWC student William Gignoux Blanco was murdered with two others in Rosarito last September. Police investigators in Mexico said he showed up at his marijuana supplier’s home at a bad time. Gignoux, his supplier and another person at the house were killed.
SWC students who live and travel in Baja are at risk, said SWC Professor of Philosophy Peter Bolland. Mexico drugs wars moved into Tijuana and Baja California Norte following the arrest and killings of the leaders of the Arellano-Felix Cartel. Its collapse led to a murderous and sadistic turf battle featuring state-of-the-art weaponry, beheadings and dismemberments, and indiscriminant mass murders that often include children and other innocent victims. Bolland said American drug use fuels the violence in Mexico.
“It seems like regular people just don’t matter, they just get in the way, so this young man from San Ysidro who was killed is just one little story,” he said. “We have a war right on our front porch that is directly linked to the insatiable American appetite to get high.”
Bolland said his students are affected since many live in Tijuana, have family there, shop or recreate there. Many of his students grew up in Tijuana or Rosarito, he said.
“Of course we are at risk, but it’s the nature of this drug war now,” said Bolland. “Really you are not safe in San Diego either. There are kidnappings here, other operative middle managers and smugglers who live around Eastlake and all around us. This is going to continue to be one of the most active trafficking corridors on the planet. We live in one of the main narcotic arteries on the earth.”
Raul Garzon, 22, a communication major, said he travels to Tijuana often and heard about the murder of Castrejón. He said gang violence does not routinely occur throughout the entire city, at least not in the western half of Tijuana.
“I am not saying this event is not significant, but it is not what is happening all over the city,” said Garzon. “I go to Tijuana every weekend to visit and I have noticed improvement. You can see it on Avenida Revolucion. Three years ago it was isolated, but now new small businesses are thriving. You can see it.”
Garzon said most cartel violence is targeted and takes place at private residencies, not in public.
Jose Campos, 18, computer engineering, said he frequently visits relatives and friends in Tijuana. Campos said he prefers crowded places with protection and security.
“Because I don’t know if I might be safe or not, I need to be cautious every time I go to Tijuana,” he said.
Campos said he does not like to attend exclusive gatherings in homes.
“I think private parties are extremely dangerous because people can see where you live, or your friends live, and you are putting yourself at risk,” he said.
Campos said those traveling to Tijuana to party should go with several friends and beware of taxi cabs. Text the cab’s number or license to others, he advised, so that if anything happens others will know which cab number you were in.
These crimes affect tourism said Bolland, which is unfortunate for the Americans as well as Mexicans.
“It’s a disaster for legitimate business on both sides of the border,” he said. “A lot of Americans just don’t bother to travel down there anymore, and a lot of Mexicans who want to shop and do business have to go throughout T.J. and that’s tricky.”
Bolland said is heartbreaking to see the good people on either side suffer because of the chaos and fear these cartels bring to the region. He said he sympathizes with the families who are trying to earn a decent living in the tourism industry.
“Those who have hotels, wineries, who are chefs and who run museums and all the beautiful cultural exchange that should be happening here is being crippled by the terror of this organization who sells poison that destroy lives,” said Bolland. “In my opinion more attention should be paid to the consumption side. Why do Americans love getting high and why do they spend so many billions of dollars on drugs so that they can be high?”
Tijuana’s reputation as a dangerous place will haunt the city for many years to come Bolland predicted.
“Most people down there do not get hurt,” he said. “These violent stories are still unusual but it’s a perception thing. People start perceiving these stories as if every street right now is just a dangerous gun battle and that’s not true. There are millions of people living perfectly normal lives down there. So no, I don’t tell people not to travel there, but if they choose not to I can certainly understand why.”
Bolland said Mexican drug related-violence is an American problem, too. Americans are the world’s largest consumers of drugs from Mexico and spend billions on drugs. If Americans would sober up, Mexico’s drug culture would end.
“If you are a drug user, if you smoke marijuana, or take crystal methamphetamine, or if you buy cocaine or heroin, you have blood on your hands. You are personally funding the slaughter of innocent people,” he said. “You have to understand that if you are a drug buyer, if you are a user, that you are the cause of this war. Hopefully people begin to realize that consuming drugs is not a victimless crime. The victim is this case is a dead 13-year-old kid who was murdered for no reason.”