By Edward V. Byrne for The Yucatan Times
September 7, 2011
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In the wake of the August 25 casino attack in Monterrey which left 52 dead, law enforcement officials in the neighboring Nuevo León community of García will soon begin training local residents who have a permit to carry a weapon.
The mayor of García, Jaime Rodíguez Calderón, told CNN Mexico in a report published today that “The purpose of this program is put an end to the crime here. Many people have approached me after their child or spouse was kidnapped and held for ransom, or after being robbed, or having their car stolen. They ask me, ‘Why don’t we have the right to defend ourselves’”? The mayor himself is no stranger to violence, says the report. Twice this year sicarios (hit men) have tried to assassinate him in broad daylight.
García is a Monterrey suburb of about 40,000 people. The firearms training is but one part of a multi-step “urban defense” program implemented by the city when Mayor Calderón took over. The entire state of Nuevo Leon has a well-earned reputation for danger, as evidenced by the casino attack in August. It lies directly on a major drug route which is being hotly disputed by two rival cartels, El Cartel del Golfo and Los Zetas. The U.S. border lies about 100 miles to the north.
So far about 3,000 people have signed up for firearms training, including engineers, university professors, retired military officers and yes, even housewives. The classes are free and are taught by police and military personnel using .22 caliber revolvers. A PRI deputy from Nuevo León has proposed that Mexico’s federal prohibition of .38 caliber and .9 millimeter weapons for nonmilitary personnel, as well as the ban on most rifles for private use, be modified. “I believe that Mexicans want to arm themselves,” he told CNN.
As of August 31, the official death count in the state of Nuevo León from drug related crime was 1,407, a 58% increase over 2010, according to the report.