Under a longstanding treaty, the Colorado River irrigates 3 million acres of farmland and supplies water to 30 million people in the United States and Mexico. Between population growth and a decade long drought, the Colorado is under such stress that Western states – desperate to maintain water supplies – want to purify agricultural runoff currently diverted into Mexico. But as The World’s Lorne Matalon reports, Mexico covets that water, because it has given birth to a productive wetland.
Columns of moist air hover above still water in the Cienega de Santa Clara, mirroring the desert sky. The wetland is an oasis in dry northern Mexico, a haven for birds and fish, some endangered.
“The Cienega is the most important wetland in the Colorado River delta.”
Flying over the village of San Lazaro, Sonora, Mexico
Just south of the US border, the Santa Cruz River is a dust bowl, a scarred ditch tapped dry by the booming twin cities of Nogales, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona. Not long ago, people waded in and held baptisms in the river. Today it looks like fire has destroyed the riverbed and the trees beside it. But it’s a very different story a couple of hours farther into Mexico. Lorne Matalon has the story.
San Lazaro, Mexico – population 600 – it’s on the floor of a remote valley crisscrossed by warrens of paths carved into the boundless Sonoran desert. It’s where the Santa Cruz starts wending its way north toward the U-S. And it’s where 20-year-old Arturo Alvarez leads a group of young people working on a restoration team. ‘We’re watching bird migration patterns,’ Alvarez says. The group is known as Los Halcones– the Hawks-and it’s also monitoring the river’s temperature, and the health of the vegetation lining its banks.
Less than a decade ago, little took root here. The protective underbrush and cottonwood and mesquite saplings had been trampled by cattle and horses. But Los Halcones have fenced off two miles of the river and saplings are now abundant.
People get around by horse-drawn wagon at the Mennonite village of El Sabinal, Chihuahua, Mexico.
The northern Mexican state of Chihuahua is one of Mexico’s most violent. Rising drug-related crime has taken a heavy toll on the state – just south of the border from New Mexico and Texas. But amidst the violence, a pacifist community thrives. Mennonites have been living in Chihuahua for decades. They’re considered a part of the state’s tapestry now – famous around Mexico for their cheese and other farm products. The World’s Lorne Matalon traveled there to meet some of Chihuahua’s Mennonites.
Matalon: The village of El Sabinal in the remote Chihuahuan desert of northern Mexico looks like something out of another era. The houses are simple one-floor structures, vintage hand-made farm tools are still in use – and most people here get around in horse-drawn carriages.
Matalon: El Sabinal is an orthodox Mennonite community – meaning its 600 people generally avoid modern contraptions like cars, electricity, modern music, and telephones. They also speak a German dialect to communicate with each other. But when it comes to speaking with outsiders — Spanish is the language of choice.
Mexico’s violent drug cartels didn’t simply pack up and go home when the H1N1flu arrived. In fact, they’re just as active as before. The World’s Lorne Matalon reports that the government has once again stepped up its attempts to beat back the cartels.
Mexico is experiencing a horrifying wave of violence. So it’s not surprising that the religious cult, Santa Muerte – or the Saint of Death – has gained a following. Narration and all photos by Lorne Matalon.
Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz; “I’m not thinking about the threats. I think about what needs to be done in my city and I do it.”
Juarez, Mexico, a stone’s throw from El Paso, Texas represents an important business center for the United States, supplying dozens of U.S. companies with auto parts, electronics and other manufactured goods. But the city is under siege, a fact acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which is crafting contingency plans to send the National Guard to the border if conditions deteriorate further.
Homeland Security’s Operations Director told Congress last week that National Guard troops will be sent to the border only as a “last resort” to combat threats from Mexico’s drug cartels. The cartels have publicly targeted politicians and police from the federal to the local level.
Take Juárez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz. He now travels in an armed convoy whenever he leaves City Hall.
Mexicans are watching the U.S. presidential race, with polls showing a split along socio-economic lines that mirrors that of Mexican society itself. But the vast majority of Mexicans surveyed recently say they support the Democratic Party, with many saying initially preferred Hillary Clinton as the nominee. But the same polls say Barack Obama now enjoys tremendous support in Mexico. The World’s Lorne Matalon reports from Mexico City.
Last year the United States deported a record number of undocumented Mexicans, but authorities along the U.S. -Mexico border say Mexicans seeking jobs continue to cross into the United States every day. As well, people from other countries including Russia, Bangladesh and South Africa have also been caught trying to get into the U.S. From south Texas, The World’s Lorne Matalon reports.
The border area between the United States and Mexico has become so violent that the State Department issued a travel alert last month. The warning says, “A war between criminal organizations for control of the lucrative narcotics trade continues along the border. Foreign visitors, including Americans, have been among the victims.” It’s one thing for visitors to avoid the border cities or at least to be alert to their surroundings. It’s another thing for the folks who live there. The World’s Lorne Matalon has our story.
Matalon: I’m walking across a pedestrian bridge from El Paso, Texas into Juárez, Mexico. The two cities are for all intents and purposes one entity with separate governments sharing the same problems. Right now the overriding problem is the influence of the Mexican drug cartels, principally here the Juárez Cartel which is involved in a horrific fight between it, the Juárez Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel.
Matalon: Juárez today is a sprawling cauldron of chaos and violence one of the cartels’ preferred routes to “el otro lad,o” the other side, the U.S. The Mexican Army arrived 3 weeks ago after the latest spike in murders included the execution of a police commander who refused to protect the Juárez Cartel. At the same time, the editor of the daily ‘Norte de Ciudad de Juárez’ has pulled his reporters from further cartel investigations after 2 reporters were killed and others threatened. Alfredo Quijano says his paper now only publishes gov’t reports of arrests and deaths.
Mexican soldiers work in the mountains of Sinaloa burning this marijuana field, part of an eradication program supported by the United States. (photo: Lorne Matalon)
CULIACAN, Sinaloa–A top boss of the Arellano Felix drug-trafficking cartel is now behind bars in Mexico. The man is a U.S. citizen. He was arrested yesterday following a joint intelligence operation by Mexican and U.S. agencies. American officials are praising Mexico’s determination in going after the traffickers. Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon has made it a top national priority. He’s ordered the Mexican Army to spear-head the fight. That means soldiers are heading into drug cartel territory to track down traffickers and destroy illegal crops. The World’s Lorne Matalon was an embedded reporter on one such mission, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.
Matalon: It’s early morning at the Sinaloa military base. Special Forces soldiers are getting their orders.
Matalon: Their Commander says, “Starting at 11, the first group will begin the mission, the second and third will block the entrances and exits.” The Mexican Army’s Special Forces–their faces covered by black balaclavas–are preparing to head out onto the streets of Culiacan, in Sinaloa state, home of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel. Special Forces recently captured the group’s alleged money-launderer, while the son and brother of the cartel’s leader–Mexico’s most-wanted man–have just been sentenced to jail. The soldiers’ faces are covered because the Sinaloa cartel is killing soldiers, police and informants.
20-year-old Nicaraguan Josue Holguin Artica inside a safe house called
“Casa de Migrantes.” He’s been hiding out here for a month with other migrants from Guatemala.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon is in the United States this week. His trip comes at a delicate moment. U.S. presidential contenders are calibrating their positions on illegal immigration. Calderon accuses the candidates of using Mexican migrants as “symbolic hostages.” He condemns the persecution of Mexicans here. But some accuse Calderon of being hypocritical. They say the way Mexico treats Central American immigrants is nothing to be proud of either.
National Park Service biologist Sunny Bass tracks signals from a radio collar on one of the panthers.
One of the world’s largest wetlands, the Florida Everglades, is threatened by development. It provides South Florida’s water supply, and it’s also a refuge for numerous species of plants and animals. As part of an effort to restore the everglades, biologists have introduced mountain lions from Texas to a threatened population of Florida panthers, the apex predator in the Everglades terrestrial ecosystem. Biologists say the panthers’ health is a barometer of overall environmental health. Scientists say the news so far is encouraging.
Haitians line up outside a gov't building to get identification cards needed to cast ballots in an upcoming election.
As Haiti’s president-elect Rene Preval takes power, the man who must try to keep order during this transition is considered a reformer and rarely grants access to Western media. Mario Andresol is the recently appointed chief of the Haitian National Police.
Andresol has started a purge of the force. At considerable risk, he has arrested dozens of officers he says are involved in drug trafficking, organized kidnapping rings and politically motivated killings. His efforts to clean up the police force have made him a symbol of reform.
“The system is corrupted,” Andresol says. “The system is spoiled. You cannot have a new government in the same system as we have now. Unfortunately, everyone only thinks about elections and how to become president. And yet at the same time, our system that we have now, the establishment, is spoiled, and corrupt.”
It is a unique piece of biodiversity, a 60-mile-wide (100-kilometer- wide) emerald wilderness bordered by two oceans. It is the Darién Gap of Panama (see pictures), a landmass linking North and South America and straddling the Panama-Colombia border.
The Darién got its name because it is the only gap in the 16,000-mile (26,000-kilometer) Pan-American Highway, which stretches from Alaska to Patagonia.
But Colombia’s President, Alvaro Uribe, says he wants that gap closed and has requested that Panama pave a road through the Darién to complete the Pan-American Highway.
Sanjim, 64, has been a nomadic reindeer herder since childhood.
Carving a life out of the rugged Mongolian landscape was never easy. Now rich elements of a nomadic culture are in danger of disappearing. As part of the “Worlds of Difference” series on cultural change aired on NPR, Lorne Matalon visited with the Tsachin — nomads who herd reindeer. He learned that Mongolia’s domesticated reindeer population has fallen to fewer than 700 animals, maintained by 44 families who are trying to hold on to a centuries-old way of life.